Friends of Eastport United Methodist,
As a number of folks have inquired about some local churches that are choosing to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church, I wanted to take this opportunity to address the issue. First, Eastport UMC will remain a United Methodist Church in the Baltimore-Washington Conference. This has been unanimous in church council discussions. By remaining part of the United Methodist connection, we will continue to contribute to the greater mission, and ministry, and more specifically−the inclusive witness of the church.
Second, we have found a lot of confusion and misinformation surrounding the topic of disaffiliation. At our last regional gathering in June, we approved the disaffiliation of 22 local churches in our Baltimore-Washington Conference. These are congregations who have followed our conference’s disaffiliation protocol; while it was heart-breaking we gave thanks for and blessed them. However a small number have decided to litigate their exit, refusing the path for a graceful separation (payment of only 50% of their property value, 12 months of mission shares, and a pro rata share of the unfunded pension obligation). There are local churches who are hopeful their case will be tried in court.
Across the country, cases are being dismissed as courts show disinterest with intervening in matters already decided by church law. Congregations who have chosen to sue our regional governing body over disaffiliation may find themselves disappointed when their cases are dismissed. Additionally, by choosing a path of litigation instead of the disaffiliation path provided, local churches are then disqualified from the graceful exit as they would not be able to be approved by the BWC in a timely manner. This holds the possibility of being incredibly disappointing and confusing for those who choose this path and find the legal dead end.
Finally, we remain United Methodist because we value the Christ-centered sense of identity, shared values, and supportive connection it provides. That being the case, we pray for our Christian kinfolk in churches going through this process, the district superintendents, the Bishop, and those now searching and longing to root themselves in an inclusive church.
At Eastport United Methodist we plan to continue moving forward filled with the Spirit and keeping our eyes on Jesus. So come and take another step into this beautiful, life-giving movement of God’s people.
Grace and peace,