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UMC Disaffiliation

Important information from your church leaders

A Message from Pastor Jorge Acevedo:

Dear Partners,

For decades, our denomination, The United Methodist Church, has been struggling with our official policies surrounding many issues connected to human sexuality, including the nature of marriage, the ordination of non-celibate gay persons, and the performing of same-sex weddings in our churches. Sadly, things have gotten to a place of irreconcilable difference, and to date, more than 2000 United Methodist Churches have disaffiliated (left) the denomination.

Our lay leadership teams have been in discussions about these matters for many years and have made a motion for Grace Church to disaffiliate with the United Methodist Church. Below are two videos that I am asking you to watch prayerfully. In the first video, I explain how we made this sad but necessary decision. The second video is from our District Superintendent, the Rev. Debbie Allen, explaining the continuing United Methodist Church.

Church Conference February 5 at 3pm

To be ratified requires a Church Conference of Grace Church partners (our word for “members”) to vote on this motion from our lay leaders. It will require a 2/3rd majority vote of partners in attendance in person at the Church Conference for this motion to disaffiliate to pass.

On Sunday, February 5th, at 3:00 pm in the Sanctuary of the Cape Coral campus of Grace Church (13 Se 21st Place, Cape Coral, FL 33990), all partners will be invited to a Church Conference. At this Church Conference, partners will be invited to vote on our disaffiliation from the United Methodist Church. Only partners have a “voice and vote” at this meeting. Please come early because we have to confirm your partnership status with Grace Church. Partners are those persons who have gone through our partnership processes in the past. For reference, Grace Church at all three campuses has 1186 partners. If you do not know whether you are a partner at Grace Church, you can email Sherri Nisbet at for inquiries.

I also know that these videos have not been able to cover all the details of this important subject. There is an FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) section below that covers as many of the particulars as possible. If you have more questions, please feel free to send those questions to and we will respond as quickly as possible. You can of course reach out to one of your pastors for a meeting.

Please be in prayer for this important decision. I love being one of your pastors.

Jorge Acevedo
Lead Pastor

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the organizational structure of the United Methodist Church?

The United Methodist Church (UMC) is the largest denomination within the wider Methodist movement of approximately 80 million people across the world. There are United Methodist Churches in the United States, Africa, Asia, and Europe with approximately twelve million members. In the United States, the UMC ranks as the second-largest Protestant Church. 

Our UMC structure is similar to the three branches of the United States government. The dispersed authority of the United Methodist Church is divided among three “branches”; an executive branch, a legislative branch, and a judicial branch. These are outlined in The United Methodist Constitution, the fundamental constituting and legal document of The United Methodist Church. The Constitution was approved as part of the Plan of Union for the merger of The Evangelical United Brethren Church and The Methodist Church in 1968, 54 years ago. It establishes the basic outline for the organization of the denomination. There are checks and balances for each with individual responsibilities outlined in The Book of Discipline.

General Conference

The legislative branch and responsibilities belong to the General Conference. Our polity organizes our church into “conferences.” The highest and most authoritative level is called the General Conference. The General Conference serves as the primary legislative body, and is the only entity with the authority to speak on behalf of the entire United Methodist Church. 

The General Conference meets every four years to consider the business and mission of the church. As a legislative body, it is made up of an equal number of lay and clergy delegates representing our churches around the globe. A formula is used to determine appropriate representation from across the denomination. The number of delegates can vary based on this formula. The total number of delegates is between 1,000 and 600. General Conference 2016 had 864 delegates. The 2020 was postponed because of Covid and the 2024 session will have 862 delegates.

The work and decisions of the General Conference are published in The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church. These are our shared “rules” and detailed procedures that form our covenant together. This Book of Discipline establishes procedures for virtually every aspect of the church’s life. It also communicates the denomination’s official position on a variety of issues and cultural challenges. These procedures and positions are organized by paragraph numbers within The Book of Discipline. The equivalent of our General Conference would be our U.S. Congress.

The work of the General Conference informs the work of the “Annual Conferences,” that are made up of geographical areas. Currently, there are 129 Annual Conferences globally. Each conference connects local churches, sets ministry priorities and budget, approves ordination candidates, holds clergy membership, and votes on constitutional amendments under the direction of the General Conference. Annual Conferences also elect clergy and laity delegates who will represent them at General Conference. Annual Conferences are made up of “Districts” in a geographic area.

For reference, Grace Church is part of The Florida Annual Conference and is in the South West District.

Council of Bishops

The Council of Bishops is the executive branch of the UMC and includes all current and retired UMC Bishops. They provide oversight and vision for the church. Active Bishops are assigned one or more Annual Conferences or “episcopal areas,” to oversee and annually appoint all clergy to lead local churches in the conference. Bishops are elected at another sub-division of the organization called Jurisdictional Conferences and serve within that region for four-year terms. The U.S. equivalent to the Council of Bishops is the Presidency.

Grace Church is part of the Southeastern Jurisdiction Conference. The Florida Annual Conference was led by Bishop Ken Carter until December 31, 2022, and Bishop Tom Berlin became our new Bishop on January 1, 2023. Our South West District Superintendent is Rev. Deborah Allen.

At Grace Church, Pastor Arlene Jackson, Pastor Shari Lacey, Pastor Wes Olds, and Pastor Jorge Acevedo all serve under the appointment of the Bishop.

Judicial Council

The Judicial Council is the judicial branch of the UMC. This nine-member body determines the constitutionally of the actions of the General Conference, reviews all Bishop decisions, and serves as the final court of appeal in the church’s judicial system. When you think of the Judicial Council, think of the Supreme Court of the U.S.

What has been the history of the debate within the United Methodist Church regarding human sexuality?

The UMC has been in a protracted struggle focused on differing understandings of Jesus’ intentions and teachings surrounding human sexuality for many years. Before discussing the implications of this debate, it is important for us to understand that followers of Jesus do not all agree on whether or not the practice of homosexuality is inherently sinful, and what is the extent of LGBTQ inclusion in the church.  But let us be clear, no matter where we stand, this struggle is not about an “issue.” This struggle is about people of sacred worth.

The UMC was established in 1968 in Dallas, Texas with the joining of the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church. Since the first General Conference of 1972, just four years later, the UMC has been engaged in debates on the issue of homosexuality and the extent of LGBTQ inclusion.

The current official position of the UMC as determined by the General Conference as it relates to “the practice of homosexuality” is below:

¶ 161 The Nurturing Community

F) Human Sexuality—We affirm that sexuality is God’s good gift to all persons. We call everyone to responsible stewardship of this sacred gift. Although all persons are sexual beings whether or not they are married, sexual relations are affirmed only with the covenant of monogamous, heterosexual marriage.

We affirm that all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God. All persons need the ministry of the Church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship that enables reconciling relationships with God, with others, and with self. The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching. We affirm that God’s grace is available to all. We will seek to live together in Christian community, welcoming, forgiving, and loving one another, as Christ has loved and accepted us. We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.[1]

Furthermore, The Book of Discipline also prohibits United Methodist clergy from officiating at same-sex weddings, citing such as a chargeable offense against the polity and practice of the Church:

¶ 2702  A bishop, clergy member of an annual conference [or other clergy classifications] may be tried when charged…with one or more of the following offenses:  (a) immorality including but not limited to, not being celibate in singleness or not faithful in a heterosexual marriage; (b) practices declared by The United Methodist Church to be incompatible with Christian teachings; including but not limited to:  being a self-avowed practicing homosexual; or conducting ceremonies which celebrate homosexual unions; or performing same-sex wedding ceremonies; (c) crime; (d) disobedience to the order and discipline of The United Methodist Church; (e) dissemination of doctrines contrary to the established standards of doctrine of The United Methodist Church; (f) relationships and/or behavior that undermines the ministry of another pastor; (g) child abuse; (h) sexual abuse; (i) sexual misconduct or (j) harassment, including, but not limited to racial and/or sexual harassment; or (k) racial or gender discrimination.[2]

From the denominational perspective, since 1972 the debate on the floor of General Conference has, at times, turned into demonstrations by LGBTQ persons and allies that have stalled and even stopped the legislative process of General Conference. The struggle has not remained on the floor of General Conference but has also spilled out into the broader life of our church. Again, it is important to note that the people who have spearheaded these demonstrations are also followers of Jesus for whom full inclusion of LGBTQ persons is of grave spiritual and social justice concern.

Following General Conference 2012, retired Bishop Melvin Talbert issued an appeal for pastors to openly disobey The Book of Discipline, which he deemed to be wrong, and to begin performing weddings for same-sex couples which he himself did. In addition, groups of progressive pastors in several Annual Conferences including in our own Florida Annual Conference have openly stated their willingness to perform such ceremonies and have done so. There have been a growing number of same-sex wedding performed by UMC clergy across the UMC.

Other acts of disobedience to The Book of Discipline have occurred throughout the UMC. In July 2016, the Western Jurisdiction of the UMC elected Karen Oliveto, a married lesbian, as bishop, in defiance of The Book of Discipline. The UMC Judicial Council ruled her election out of order and referred the matter back to the Western Jurisdiction for resolution as our Book of Discipline requires. However, the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops has refused to take any action allowing her to remain the Bishop of the Mountain Sky Area.

Earlier at the General Conference in May 2016, the Council of Bishops acted to attempt to reconcile the differences between the differing camps by creating The Commission on the Way Forward (COWF). This 32-member commission was comprised of representatives from various constituencies within United Methodism and charged with creating and presenting options for the Church to definitively move beyond the current impasse on the extent of inclusion for LGBTQ persons. Pastor Jorge was asked and agreed to serve on the COWF giving 17 months and more than 1000 hours to this important assignment. In February 2019, three potential options were presented and heatedly debated at a special called session of the General Conference in St. Louis. The three plans were:

  1. The One Church Plan which would allow for differences in practice within our denomination around performing same sex marriages and LGBTQ ordination based on contextuality.
  2. The Connectional Conference Plan which was a complicated plan that would create at least three non-geographical branches based on ideology around human sexuality.
  3. The Traditional Plan which affirmed our current position and increased the amount of accountability for compliance around our position.

After four days of worship and prayer, as well as painful deliberation, the 864 delegates from the United States, Europe, the Philippines, and Africa voted to affirm the Traditional Plan. As you can imagine, not everyone was pleased with the results. It should be noted that the more conservative African, Filipino, Eastern European votes coupled with the smaller traditionalist American vote led to the result. As the American UMC has shrunken over the decades and as many of these global UMC’s have grown over the same period, the vote at General Conference regarding our denominational policy about the extent of LGBTQ inclusion has remained as it currently is.

Since General Conference 2019, many Annual Conference Boards of Ordained Ministry, the group charged with ordaining clergy, have promised to ordain self-avowed, practicing LGBTQ persons and have done so regardless of the General Conference’s adoption of the Traditional Plan. Whole Annual Conferences including our own Florida Annual Conference, have passed resolutions “condemning” the passing of the Traditional Plan at the 2019 General Conference in St. Louis and many vowing to disobey The Book of Discipline around clergy performing same-sex weddings and the ordaining of non-celibate gay persons.

As a result of these debates, many UMC churches began to discuss whether they could in all good faith and conscience remain in the UMC struggle any longer.  These included both churches that were more traditional and more progressive than the current UMC reality. These discussions led to a closer look at Paragraph 2553 in the Book of Discipline.

[1] The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, 2012, 2016.
[2] The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, 2012, 2016.

What is paragraph 2553 in The Book of Discipline?

At the 2019 Special Called General Conference, a new paragraph was approved and inserted into The Book of Discipline that allows churches to leave the UMC because of “issues related to human sexuality.” Below is the lengthy paragraph:

¶ 2553. Disaffiliation of a Local Church Over Issues Related to Human Sexuality—

  1. Basis-- Because of the current deep conflict within The United Methodist Church around issues of human sexuality, a local church shall have a limited right, under the provisions of this paragraph, to disaffiliate from the denomination for reasons of conscience regarding a change in the requirements and provisions of the Book of Discipline related to the practice of homosexuality or the ordination or marriage of self-avowed practicing homosexuals as resolved and adopted by the 2019 General Conference, or the actions or inactions of its annual conference related to these issues which follow.
  2. Time Limits--The choice by a local church to disaffiliate with The United Methodist Church under this paragraph shall be made in sufficient time for the process for exiting the denomination to be complete prior to December 31, 2023. The provisions of ¶ 2553 expire on December 31, 2023 and shall not be used after that date.
  3. Decision Making Process--The church conference shall be conducted in accordance with ¶ 248 and shall be held within one hundred twenty (120) days after the district superintendent calls for the church conference. In addition to the provisions of ¶ 246.8, special attention shall be made to give broad notice to the full professing membership of the local church regarding the time and place of a church conference called for this purpose and to use all means necessary, including electronic communication where possible, to communicate. The decision to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church must be approved by a two-thirds (2/3) majority vote of the professing members of the local church present at the church conference.
  4. Process Following Decision to Disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church--If the church conference votes to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church, the terms and conditions for that disaffiliation shall be established by the board of trustees of the applicable annual conference, with the advice of the cabinet, the annual conference treasurer, the annual conference benefits officer, the director of connectional ministries, and the annual conference chancellor. The terms and conditions, including the effective date of disaffiliation, shall be memorialized in a binding Disaffiliation Agreement between the annual conference and the trustees of the local church, acting on behalf of the members. That agreement must be consistent with the following provisions:

a) Standard Terms of the Disaffiliation Agreement. The General Council on Finance and Administration shall develop a standard form for Disaffiliation Agreements under this paragraph to protect The United Methodist Church as set forth in ¶ 807.9. The agreement shall include a recognition of the validity and applicability of ¶ 2501, notwithstanding the release of property therefrom. Annual conferences may develop additional standard terms that are not inconsistent with the standard form of this paragraph.

b) Apportionments. The local church shall pay any unpaid apportionments for the 12 months prior to disaffiliation, as well as an additional 12 months of apportionments.

c) Property. A disaffiliating local church shall have the right to retain its real and personal, tangible and intangible property. All transfers of property shall be made prior to disaffiliation. All costs for transfer of title or other legal work shall be borne by the disaffiliating local church.

d) Pension Liabilities. The local church shall contribute withdrawal liability in an amount equal to its pro rata share of any aggregate unfunded pension obligations to the annual conference. The General Board of Pension and Health Benefits shall determine the aggregate funding obligations of the annual conference using market factors similar to a commercial annuity provider, from which the annual conference will determine the local church’s share.

e) Other Liabilities. The local church shall satisfy all other debts, loans, and liabilities, or assign and transfer them to its new entity, prior to disaffiliation.

f) Payment Terms. Payment shall occur prior to the effective date of departure.

g) Disaffiliating Churches Continuing as Plan Sponsors of the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits Plans. The United Methodist Church believes that a local church disaffiliating under ¶ 2553 shall continue to share common religious bonds and convictions with The United Methodist Church based on shared Wesleyan theology and tradition and Methodist roots, unless the local church expressly resolves to the contrary. As such, a local church disaffiliating under ¶ 2553 shall continue to be eligible to sponsor voluntary employee benefit plans through the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits under ¶ 1504.2, subject to the applicable terms and conditions of the plans.

h) Once the disaffiliating local church has reimbursed the applicable annual conference for all funds due under the agreement, and provided that there are no other outstanding liabilities or claims against The United Methodist Church as a result of the disaffiliation, in consideration of the provisions of this paragraph, the applicable annual conference shall release any claims that it may have under ¶ 2501 and other paragraphs of The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church commonly referred to as the trust clause, or under the agreement.

 A few things should be noted about paragraph 2553.

First, there is a time limit on when local churches can leave. This paragraph “times out” on December 31, 2023. Second, a called Church Conference must be held with advance notice given to all members (our word is “partners”) with a 2/3rd majority vote. Third, the “fee” for disaffiliation includes payment of the current year's and next year's apportionments as well as full payment of the local church's fair share of the unfunded liability. As a denomination, there are pension liabilities for clergy who served prior to our denomination's robust and healthy pension program was instituted. The Florida Annual Conference has given us a “fee” of $610,000. All properties would be owned by Grace Church following disaffiliation. At the 2021 Session of the Florida Annual Conference, 17 churches left under paragraph 2553.

What is the “Trust Clause?"

The reason paragraph 2553 is so important is that upon completion, churches are released from what is known in The Book of Discipline as “The Trust Clause.”[1] This unique feature of UMC polity mandates that all UMC properties are held in trust in the name of the denomination. They are not owned by the local congregation.

[1] The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church – 2016; ¶ 2501. “Requirement of Trust Clause for All Property”

Why was the 2020 General Conference canceled?

The 2020 General Conference that would discuss and decide the above issues had to be postponed due to the global COVID pandemic. It was rescheduled for the Fall of 2022. An unofficial group of progressive, centrist and traditionalists began meeting during the delay and formulated a plan for amicable separation called “The Protocol for Grace Through Separation.” This plan was widely endorsed by leaders from across the theological spectrum. Many believed that the 2022 rescheduled session of General Conference had the potential to pass this widely agreed upon plan. This plan would have provided an opportunity for churches to leave the denomination without facing punitive action or large payouts to re-purchase property. The draft of this plan also included a time of “abeyance.” This meant that all charges for clergy currently violating The Book of Discipline would not be acted upon. The agreement was that since Traditional Churches would be able to leave in the near future, no complaints would be acted on for violations. In anticipation of the 2022 General Conference, a new term began to emerge across the UMC: “In the spirit of the Protocol.” This served as a temporary peace-treaty between progressive and traditionalist groups. 

In March, 2022, however, citing long wait times for visas, The Commission on General Conference (the group charged with planning General Conferences) announced that The United Methodist Church’s top lawmaking assembly must wait until 2024. This decision was criticized by many traditionalists as unnecessary and a move by “institutionalists” to protect the denomination from splitting.

This decision triggered the launch of a new denomination, The Global Methodist Church (GMC). This denomination emerged out of The Wesley Covenant Association, an advocacy group founded in 2016 committed to “upholding scriptural authority and the Lordship of Jesus Christ.” Churches throughout the connection, including in Florida, began making plans to align with this new denomination.[1]

[1] https://wesleyancovenant.org/about/

What happened at the 2022 Florida Annual Conference?

Since the launch of the GMC, as was stated above, 17 Florida United Methodist Churches began making plans to exit the UMC and join the GMC under paragraph 2553. Also, 106 additional churches filed a lawsuit against Bishop Carter and The Florida Annual Conference Cabinet and Trustees seeking to invalidate the Trust Clause and leave with no financial penalty.[1] These actions were already in process as The Florida Annual Conference convened in Lakeland for our first in-person gathering since 2019 on June 9-11, 2022. At that gathering, further controversy emerged.

At the opening 2022 Clergy Session of the Florida Annual Conference (also called “Executive Session), 16 “provisional candidates” were presented for approval as pastors in the Florida Conference. It was widely known among those attending the clergy session that two or perhaps three persons in the group were non-celibate gays persons. Debate was held whether to vote on the candidates individually or the 16 as a group. After a long debate, the body voted to consider the group as a whole, and not vote on the candidates individually. A 75% approval was needed for commissioning of the candidates based on our rules. The vote was held on the group of 16 provisional candidates and they were not approved as the vote garnered 72% approval. A reconsideration of the vote was immediately considered and this failed as well. None of the sixteen were allowed to proceed. This action created great anxiety across the whole Annual Conference gathering.

In a later session, Florida Annual Conference delegates approved a resolution apologizing to these 16 candidates and urging the Bishop to allow the candidates to proceed in their credentialing. Bishop Carter stated: “I do want to say to those who would have been commissioned, each of you, that I would have gladly appointed you and gladly commissioned you.”[2]

The leaders of the Florida Annual Conference invited clergy and lay delegates at our meeting in Lakeland to take time to discern the future they feel called to embrace. Bishop Carter announced his intention of having a “called” session of the Annual Conference this winter to allow churches who want to exit under paragraph 2553 to do so. Immediately after that, he indicated he would hold another vote for the 16 candidates in hopes that they will pass if enough pastors who voted “no” leave the denomination. As stated above, Bishop Carter pledged to commission the entire class in violation of The Book of Discipline.

[1] https://www.umnews.org/-/media/UMC%20Media/2022/07/18/14/54/lawsuit-by-106-churches-against-florida-conference-july-2022
[2] https://www.umnews.org/en/news/clergy-session-vote-highlights-lgbtq-divide

How has all of this impacted Grace Church?

The pastors of Grace Church have been having conversations about the divisions and shifts taking place in the United Methodist Church and The Florida Annual Conference for many, many years. These conversations are built on decades of covenant and trust with one another. In recent months, we have prayed, shared our perspectives, sorrows, and even pain with what is taking place around us. Similar to what we are seeing in our political landscape, clear lines are being drawn on two sides of an increasing number of issues.

While certainly important and at times painful, the debate about human sexuality has been something that has not significantly distracted our day-to-day ministry at Grace Church. While “traditionalists” and “progressives” have fought at denominational gatherings, we have stayed in alignment around the current language in The Book of Discipline and gone on with mission of making more and mature disciples by reaching, connecting, forming, and sending people. There were no new decisions or changes that impacted Grace Church’s ministry.

However, as the debate becomes more contentious on every side, splits are occurring at a greater rate than before. This is a time for great discernment as we watch and pray, determining what, if any, movement must be made on the part of Grace Church as the divide widens on each side.

As we navigate this divide, your pastors are observing that there are three areas that we want you to know about. As a reminder, the four appointed pastors are not members of Grace Church. We are members of the Florida Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. In short, your pastors don’t have a vote!

So, as your shepherds, we want to make you aware of three issues:

The first is regarding the battle around the extent of LGBTQ inclusion. This is by far the largest and currently most contentious and divisive. The Florida Annual Conference leadership has clearly stated that they will continue to work for and where possible seek full-inclusion of persons who identify as LGBTQ regardless of their personal lifestyle practices. For many advocates and allies, this simply comes down to a justice issue. Grace Church has historically held to and taught a historic Judeo-Christian understanding of celibacy in singleness and fidelity in marriage between one man and one woman which is presently affirmed in the Book of Discipline. It seems that this first issue has become the prevailing issue but has opened the floodgates and fueled the next two.

The second issue we want you to be aware of is a shift in Florida Annual Conference in particular and the UMC at large toward addressing issues of public life like racism from a political position rather than addressing them as disciples of Jesus. For example, five years ago, our District and Conference leaders were emphasizing accountability and holding pastors responsible for metrics around professions of faith, small groups, and service. Presenters at Annual Conference awarded churches for evangelism efforts and pastors attended workshops on preaching, Wesleyan-style small groups, and other personal discipleship issues. Today, the focus of our Annual Conference has shifted to efforts such as voter registration and efforts to influence public policy. For example, The Florida Annual Conference has established a Public Policy Task Force. This group has most recently campaigned against Florida legislation HB7 commonly referred to as “The Stop Woke Act.”[1] The Task Force has taken action against potential voter suppression, and calls for all clergy in the Florida Conference to sign an anti-racist pledge. Over the years, The Annual Conference has many times veered off the course of disciple-making into the realm of social, justice or political issues. However in the past 3 years, the focus has shifted more than ever before.

The third area we want to inform you of are the blatant violations of our covenant as outlined in The Book of Discipline. The most recent actions of the Florida Annual Conference Board of Ordained ministry to commission 3 non-celibate gay persons is the most obvious disregard of The Book of Discipline. Some Judicial Council rulings are also being ignored. For example, while Judicial Council decision #886 on May 9, 2020, states that “annual conferences may not legally negate, ignore, or violate provisions of the Discipline with which they disagree,” in practice Annual Conferences, including the Florida Conference, are finding creative paths forward.[2] Other indifference to our covenant has occurred around the recent Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade at the denominational level with The United Methodist Council of Bishops, United Methodist General Board of Church and Society, the United Methodist women’s group, and General Commission on Women in Society, and General Board of Global Ministries all condemned the court ruling, many using the term “reproductive justice.” This is despite the General Conference’s decision that revoked United Methodism’s official support for Roe v. Wade in 2016.

[1] https://www.flumc.org/public-policy-witness-team
[2] https://www.resourceumc.org/en/churchwide/judicial-council/judicial-council-decision-home/judicial-decisions/declaratory-decision-regarding-authority-of-an-annual-conference-to-take-ac

What have the elected leaders of Grace Church done in response to all of this?

The elected leaders of Grace Church (the Grace Leadership Council and the 2 campus Guide Teams), Cape Coral, Fort Myers Shores and Fort Myers Central campuses have discerned a desire to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church under the provisions of Paragraph 2553 of The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church. On Tuesday, September 6, 2022, they met for two and a half hours of prayer and discussion and the vote was unanimous. they identified three primary reasons for pursuing disaffiliation.

The first reason is regarding the ongoing struggle around the extent of LGBTQ inclusion. The Florida Annual Conference leadership has clearly stated that they will continue to work for and where possible seek full-inclusion of persons who identify as LGBTQ regardless of their personal lifestyle practices. Grace Church has historically held to the position in our current Book of Discipline and taught a historic Judeo-Christian understanding of celibacy in singleness and fidelity in marriage between one man and one woman.

The second reason is a shift in Florida Annual Conference in particular and the United Methodist Church at large toward addressing issues of public life from a political position rather than addressing them as disciples of Jesus.

The third reason are the violations of our covenant as outlined in The Book of Discipline. The most recent actions of the Florida Annual Conference Board of Ordained ministry to commission 3 non-celibate gay persons is the most obvious disregard of The Book of Discipline.

Grace Church has sought to be a servant to our church and does not make this decision lightly. We have loved our relationship with our denomination and her leaders, but the culture of our Conference in these days distracts us from our primary mission to make more and maturing disciples. We will continue to pray for the continuing United Methodist Church.

Will Grace Church join another denomination following disaffiliation?

Your pastors are recommending that Grace Church remain an independent church and join a network of like-minded Wesleyan churches. This yet-to-be named group is a relational network of local churches and their leaders in the Wesleyan heritage who are passionately committed to and living in accountability for the making of more and maturing passionate spiritual disciples of Jesus, led by passionate spiritual leaders who grow passionate spiritual teams that lead vital and multiplying local churches.

Pastor Jorge and Pastor Wes have been 2 of the founders of a group of pastors called the Sanctification Project. They are pastors of dynamically growing churches, brimming with passion for Jesus, reaching new people, and impacting the communities around us and the world. The pre-pandemic metrics of attendance and church budgets were their friends – up and to the right.

Then the pandemic of 2020 exposed us. Cracks in our armor that we didn’t know were there led to the wounds and regret that come from seeing how we missed the mark. For months we were grasping at straws, and trying to get the masses back to Egypt.

Finally, we confessed. We repented. We were filling up rooms with people, and we had all the programs to offer, but...

  • Were we really seeking and saving the lost?
  • Were we fully developing more and maturing disciples of Jesus?
  • Were we developing passionate spiritual leaders in a generative movement of disciple-making?

Based on this holy discontent, a group of pastoral leaders in the United Methodist Church banded together, seeking God’s direction for something new. We share a similar passion for a renewal of disciple-making in the Wesleyan tradition. We long to be a part of a new Methodist/Wesleyan movement that recovers our focus on church planting and multiplication through a deep emphasis on disciple-making which leads people to fully sanctified lives.

We engaged in an intentional process of loving, learning, and leading together with a coach from Spiritual Leadership, Inc. (SLI). We hoped to model a generative leadership that would become healthy, holy, and diverse. By the grace of God, we have been blessed to experience growth and vitality in our local churches, regardless of the malaise and decline experienced by the United Methodist Church in general. However, we all realized how much we needed to learn, grow, and change to make more and maturing disciples as we head into an uncharted future for the local churches in the culture of North America.

We have been guided by the two cornerstones of Wesleyan theology and practice: Evangelism and Discipleship. These cornerstones gave the Church its original heartbeat and fueled radical growth and impact: Evangelism. A return to Jesus’ self-proclaimed mission to seek and save the lost (evangelism) and his commission to teach baptized converts to obey all that he commanded (discipleship) will fan the flames of smoldering churches barely warmed by the embers of faith.

A church unified around reaching people for Christ and teaching them to obey Christ’s commands will recapture the zeal and dynamism of the early Methodist movement. It will be found in a relentless pursuit of those who do not yet know Jesus and a focused energy to grow passionate spiritual disciples.

We’ve all been hearing from a large chorus of voices who are longing for this renewal and revitalization of disciple-making in the Wesleyan way. But before we launched anything external, we all sensed a need for each of us to become more mature, surrendered, and humble disciples ourselves. Therefore, this shared journey has been called The Sanctification Project – we are individual projects of sanctification in God’s hands. At our 2022 Fall Retreat in West Palm Beach, we sensed the Holy Spirit’s leading to officially launch a network of independent but not isolated Wesleyan churches.

What if I want to stay in a United Methodist Church?

We absolutely understand that there will be some for whom they feel the need to stay in the United Methodist Church for a variety of reasons. We would remind you of the simple truth that God owns all the sheep. The Body of Christ is not captured by any one denomination or local church. We know some people will leave Grace Church and will be sad. However, we want to share the following paragraph from a church in Ohio:

There are many ways in which God calls His children out of one spiritual family into another. Physical moving, leading to a new mission and disagreement are all ways in which He moves His children. All these may happen without sin and with a full and righteous leading of the Spirit…We pray and ask the members of Cross City to be prayerful, honest and communicate concerns, offenses, hopes, ideas and convictions in an early fashion, rather than allowing them to fester in isolation and cause division, hurt, or other ungodly effects within God’s family. (New Member Packet of Cross City Church in Columbus, Ohio)

We would gladly share with you the names of United Methodist churches in Southwest Florida.

"I'm an LGBTQ person or ally. Am I still welcome here?"

Yes! At Grace Church we believe that everyone is a child of God and a person of worth. Everyone is welcome here. We do believe that the scriptures teach the practice of celibacy in singleness and fidelity in marriage between one man and one woman. However, we do not question your salvation or your relationship with Jesus as an LGBTQ person or ally. We also believe that it is possible for us to disagree on this issue while remaining in the same church family.

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