UMC Update & Admin Council (July 2021)

paumcNews

Admin Council Meeting (July 2021)

[July 13, 2021]

At an Administrative Council meeting, Reverend Jimmy Towson takes time to give an update on what's currently happening in the UMC and the steps Park Avenue is taking to address concerns in our denomination.

A transcript of the video from the recorded portion of the meeting is below.


Introduction

Rev. Jimmy Towson

Thanks to all of you for coming out tonight, to be here on this important occasion, but also I want to thank our leadership. You all elected an amazing group of leaders once again for the church. And they have worked really hard, sacrificially even, meeting and meeting and meeting, just so that we could all be informed and know what's going on. So I'm grateful for all of our leaders and grateful for you placing your trust and our trust in them.

A number of things Richard [Cowart] has said have happened in the Methodist Church since we last had a long talk about it, which was back in March. And I want to share some of those things with you. Richard mentioned them.

Happenings with our Bishop & the UMC

One of the things that has happened, you may know this, we have a new bishop who will take office in September of this year. We dodged a major bullet there, because we did not receive North Georgia Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson. Instead, we have Bishop David Graves, who is the bishop over the Alabama-West Florida Conference. My understanding from the contacts that I have and the folks I've talked to, he is a Traditionalist in heart, he is an institutionalist also in heart. So his intention is to remain with the United Methodist Church, should the split come.

But he is in favor of those who have a Traditionalist view. In fact, he has been very supportive of the WCA chapter for the Alabama-West Florida Conference. And I'm hearing really good things from those folks in Alabama and West Florida. So that's a good thing. I think we're going to like him.

He's going to be in our district, November the 10th and 11th, so we'll get a chance to meet him. I'm excited for that opportunity.

But the other things that have been happening that are really troubling, is the way that some of our Traditionalists are being treated, clergy persons are being treated in the Annual Conferences. Richard mentioned this.

A lot of you may already know this, but just briefly, I want you to remember that today... Well, I see it came out yesterday, didn't it? That in North Georgia, Bishop Sue has led the trustees of the North Georgia Conference to "take control" of Mt. Bethel Church. And they have "seized" their assets. I've got some good friends in North Georgia, been reading text and studying today from all of them.

Here's the reality, it's a lot of posturing for the lawsuit that's going to happen, the court appearances that are going to happen. Contact with Jody Ray today said that Jody reported, that they have not seized any of their assets, and a big, emphatic no. And that this was posturing for the court case that's coming. But they have pulled, what we say, we would call the nuclear lever, or they push the nuclear button.

The North Georgia Bishop and Cabinet and Trustees have said that there are "exigent circumstances", which is a provision in the discipline that allows the bishop and cabinet to seize control of a church. The ironic thing, as you know, is that she personally, and other Bishops have violated The Book of Discipline. But now they're turning to The Book of Discipline to try to seize control of Mt. Bethel. I said, "I wish I could be in the courtroom when they have this case." And it's going to happen in the next week or so, as I understand it. That's just one example.

You may not know this, but the president of the WCA chapter in Florida, Florida has two conferences like we do. There's the Florida Conference and there's the Alabama-West Florida Conference. And the Florida Conference, Jay Therrell, who is the president of the WCA, the same position I hold in South Georgia, was a District Superintendent, but was placed on leave of absence because he was pushing the idea of having a Traditional Methodist Church in the Florida Conference. After that happened, he took on a full-time role as the chapter president, and began to share options that are available in the event there is a split.

Well, the Cabinet and the Bishop have called him to give the names of the churches and the individuals who have come to his sessions to the Cabinet, so that they will know who's been involved. And he refused to do it. And because of that, they in essence forced him to give up his credentials as an ordained Elder, like I am, in the Methodist Church. And I wish you could read his explanation of why he had to do that. And it's a beautiful, heartfelt, holy explanation, and deep sympathy having to surrender his credentials. But he also says that they're holding traditionalists to account in Florida, that are other clergy. And the same thing is happening.

What the Bishops and some of the Cabinets are doing, is they are using their position, especially when it comes to appointments, to try to, I guess, reign in Traditionalists who don't agree with their progressive theology. That's what happened with Mt. Bethel, that's what's happened in Florida.

It happened in New Jersey with Bishop Schol, who took a pastor who had been pastor of a church for some 20 years, if I remember right, close to it.

In a Korean church, and just arbitrarily moved him because he was a Traditionalist, and part of the WCA organization there. It also happened in California. Well, it's the Cal Pacific, California Pacific Annual Conference. The bishop there moved three pastors arbitrarily, without notice, simply because they are taking a Traditionalist view of scripture and the authority of it, and supporting a Traditional Methodist Church. So it's happening all around us. But it's not only that.

The Progressive movement within the United Methodist Church, is finding its way into all sorts of places. Just recently, in case you missed it, the GCFA, which is our General Commission on Finance and Administration, decided that they would add a category to the membership information when it came to your gender. So now, based on their vote, without anybody having any input in it, they have changed the form for membership, so that it will now say male, female, or non-binary. And that's a concern for a lot of us.

The progressives continue, a lot of them around our United States continue to violate The Book of Discipline, and push their progressive theology, including Bishop Sue in North Georgia. I could give you information on how she's done that. So I'm grateful that that's not happening as extreme in South Georgia, as it is in other places, but it's all around us, and it's concerning.

I wanted to say this, Brad, if I can say this. Brad Folsom posted something on Facebook. And he basically was asking if other folks in the Methodist world are aware of what's going on, and if there are discussions that are happening, that sort of thing. And there were a couple of comments that you received, that I thought were telling. And it was from people that were former United Methodists, who are simply fed up with all of this and have decided they're going somewhere else. I could count for you examples upon examples of people that I know, that have taken that step. They're just tired of it.

So that is happening at the same time all of these other things are happening. People are leaving the United Methodist Church, just because they're tired of all of this kind of thing.

Park Avenue's Status

So I just want to emphasize too what Richard said, no decisions have been made. And I've told you before, "Jimmy doesn't get to make the decision," it will be made, if we ever get to that point, by a church council, which is basically those who are members can show up and whoever shows up gets a vote. And if that happens, it'll happen down the road.

Now, I want to say this, even though we're having these discussions, and even though no decisions have been made, I think one of the worst things that could happen would be for the word to get out on the street, that Park Avenue is taking steps to leave, or something to that effect. It could have ramifications beyond our local church. So I want to encourage us to say, "All we're doing right now is gathering information, and making sure that we are in the right position, should something happen and we need to make a decision." And that's where we are right now.

Going to talk about a survey in a little bit, that's coming, so that we can give you and others that are part of the church, a chance to let their voice be heard on these issues.

Summary

So I wanted to just do a little summary tonight. I'm not going to go through the long version of this, but I want to do just a little summary, so that you'll know what's involved should something happen. So this is the update.

We want to start with this. As Richard said, there's no question, except that there's going to be a split. I mean, we know that's going to happen. I would say 99.99% sure that it's going to happen. When it does happen, the question is how's it going to split?

There's going to be a Progressive, they call it the "Post-Separation United Methodist Church". There's going to be a Traditionalist. The proposal right now is that it be known as the Global Methodist Church, you've heard me talk about that before. So it's going to split, maybe a third one, we're not really hearing much about that at all. But the question is when and how is it going to split? How's it going to come about?

So I want to give you the first option as we see it in the future right now, that's when is it going to happen? Richard mentioned, the next General Conference, which is the postponed 2020 General Conference, is supposed to be next year in end of August and first of September. Currently I'm one of the alternate delegates to General Conference, so I will be there if it does occur, along with others from South Georgia that were elected to be delegates. So it is possible that the split could happen then, that we could pass legislation that would make the split happen. And that's called the Protocol for Reconciliation and Grace through Separation. You've heard me talk about that before. But I want to give you just the highlights of it.

This proposal, if passed, would allow a number of things to happen. The first is, an Annual Conference such as the South Georgia Annual Conference, or a local church, such as Park Avenue, could leave the United Methodist Church. We could decide to do that. Either go as a group, as the South Georgia Annual Conference, or as an individual church.

Here's the second thing it does. It allows us to leave and still have control of our property. We don't actually physically move anywhere, we just remove our membership in the United Methodist Church, and we get to keep our property. That's a big factor as you know. It means that the Trust Clause, which keeps churches bound to the United Methodist Church and the Annual Conference right now, that trust clause that's part of our deeds, would be waived. And we could have the property to stay with the church. It means that if you're going to go under the Protocol, if it's passed and you want to leave, then you have to join either a Progressive, a Traditional, or some other Methodist denomination.

Which means that we couldn't, under the Protocol, if we just said, "Hey, I'm tired of all this denominational stuff. We just want to be Park Avenue Church, and we want to be independent." We couldn't do that under the Protocol as it's written right now. So that's just a brief summary of the Protocol.

So the first option is General Conference meets next year. There are a lot of people who believe we will meet. There's also a lot of people who believe we will not meet. So only the good Lord knows right now.

So what's the second option? The second option is this, if the General Conference does not meet, what do we do, and what happens then?

Or, if the general conference does meet and the Protocol is not passed, or it's amended, or it's challenged constitutionally and held unconstitutional, which is a possibility; if either of those two things happen, I believe the split's going to occur anyway. The question then is, well, how?

If we don't have the Protocol that allows us to leave, how do you leave the United Methodist Church then? And here is the answer. It's what's known as a Disaffiliation Policy, it was passed when we were at General Conference in St. Louis in 2019. It's a paragraph of our Book of Discipline currently. You've heard me talk about that before, but let me just give you the highlights of it. It means that you can leave with your property, that the Trust Clause would be waived under the Disaffiliation Policy. But there's a penalty that we would have to pay at that point.

Bill Hatcher is our number one elected, he's the head lay delegate to General Conference. Some of you know him, he was the mayor of Statesboro for a long time. Great man. And we were in a delegation meeting last week, and somebody said, "Bill, what do you call that penalty that we're supposed to pay?" He says, "I call it a ransom." So there's a penalty that goes along with this Disaffiliation Policy. You've heard me talk about that before.

Let me let make it clear to you on what's involved there. The first thing is, you'd have to pay an amount for apportionments and pension liability. And this is what we're looking at if we followed a disaffiliation policy at some point down the road. The apportionments that we pay right now are about $210,000 a year. And under the Disaffiliation Policy, you have to pay the balance of your current year. [Correction: the Disaffiliation Policy states that apportionments must be paid for the last 12 months from the month a church disaffiliates, not the current year.] So if we were to disaffiliate this year, we would have to pay the rest of 2021, plus an additional year, $210,000 for 2022. Okay? So that's the apportionments part of it. It's just basically a penalty, but the idea is that it's not fair to leave the conference with a gap in income so quickly, but it's in there.

The other thing that we would have to pay is the pension liability for pastor's retirement. And there's a formula for figuring up what that future liability would be down the road for pastors. It's a complicated thing, but the Conference office tells us, Derek McAleer tells us, the last time we got it, Terry, that it was $440,000 to pay for that. And the problem with that is that number is a fluid number. It depends on the market and what happens in the market. If the market goes down, if inflation hits hard, then that number's probably going up. But that's the number they gave us if we were to do that. A lot of churches are asking for that number, and they gladly gave it to us.

So that means that under this Disaffiliation Policy, as it currently stands, that it would take somewhere in the neighborhood of $650,000 for us to write them a check and say, "We're done with the United Methodist Church." If we want to join the Global Methodist Church, we can. If we want to be an independent Methodist Church or join the Free Methodist or some other group we could. And they would say, "Go with our grace." We hope they would say that.

So what happens to Park Avenue under these two options? I want to make this point to you. Under the protocol, are you with me? We're assuming now that the Protocol passes next year, here's what can happen. The South Georgia Annual Conference can vote to leave as a whole. There is energy around that possibility. We've had discussions with the delegation, we've had discussions with the Bishop about that. There is a sense that the South Georgia Annual Conference would leave as a whole. There are only about probably three conferences that are thinking along those terms. One of them is Alabama-West Florida. Another one potentially is Mississippi, the Mississippi Conference. And I'm hearing that Kentucky might also be a possibility, but right now those are the main ones that would probably vote to leave as an Annual Conference. So the anticipation is, based on what we know about South Georgia, we think that South Georgia Conference would leave and join the Traditional denomination. It would be the Global Methodist Church, as we understand it right now.

So what about Park Avenue? If that potential happens, if South Georgia says, "We're leaving." Then here's what Park Avenue must do. We would have to decide whether to go with the South George Annual Conference and the Traditional church denomination, or to go with what's going to be left of the United Methodist Church, once the Protocol passes. That's called the Post-Separation UMC, it's a progressive, without question they're going to change the discipline and allow same-sex marriages and ordination of LGBTQ+ persons. That's one of their first items on the agenda, as we understand it at that point. Park Avenue would have to decide.

Now, if we decide that we wanted to go with the South Georgia Annual Conference, we really wouldn't have to do anything, but we would want to make sure that that's what this congregation wants to do, if that's the decision. So under the protocol, that's the option.

Under the protocol, now let's take the second scenario. This is if South Georgia Annual Conference votes to remain in the Post-Separation, progressive side of this issue, which I don't think is a possibility, I really don't think it is- but want to make you aware of all the options- if that's the case, then we would have to vote whether to stay with them and become part of the Progressive church, or leave and become part of the Traditional church, the denomination at that point. Are you with me? Everybody clear on that? All right.

So what happens if the protocol doesn't pass? Then here are the options there. South Georgia could still vote to leave the United Methodist Church and join the Traditional denomination.

Now, there are some people who say that we could legally do that, constitutionally do that under the current structure of the United Methodist Church.

There's some people who say, "No, that's a violation of the constitution, an Annual Conference can't just pull up and leave." That might be litigated at some point. The consensus in the circles that I'm in, is that we don't think that would be litigated, but we need to be aware that's a possibility. That would be a decision that the South Georgia Annual Conference would have to make.

The delegation, those of us elected that are part of the delegation, lay and clergy, when we met last week we decided that we would recommend to our Annual Conference, that this be an option for us as an Annual Conference. And we would recommend that the Annual Conference vote to leave and become part of the Traditional denomination. So I should probably put one little side note in here.

If the Protocol does not pass, or if the General Conference does not happen in August, September of next year, I am confident, and so are those that I'm in circles with, are confident that the Global Methodist Church is going to launch. And it's going to go ahead and become a legal entity that churches can join. So that's going to be there in 2022, one way or the other. Either it's going to happen if the Protocol passes, or it's going to happen if the Protocol doesn't pass. But I'm confident the Global Methodist Church, Traditional church, is going to be created next year at some point during the year.

So the South Georgia Annual Conference could vote. If the Protocol doesn't pass, they could vote, we just want to be part of the Traditional denomination Global Methodist Church. At that point, same options. We always have these options. Do we want to be part of that, or do we want to disaffiliate to be part of a Progressive denomination? These are all the options. Want to make sure we see them all.

Here's the other one. If the protocol does not pass, and the South Georgia Annual Conference just stays put where they are right now, then this would be our option. Park Avenue would have to vote to leave the United Methodist Church, and they would have to do so by taking the Disaffiliation route that I talked about a minute ago, that paragraph under the Discipline, where we had to pay the money. So wherever you see the Disaffiliation in green, you know that's money. Okay? Try to make it pretty simple. [Jimmy references a slide in his presentation.]

Key Dates

So there's some key dates that I think we need to be aware of. And the Executive Team, the Protocol Study Group is aware of these dates. You might just pencil them in your brain as well.

The first one is this, February and March, probably the end of February, first of March of next year, the Commission on General Conference, that's the group that decides will we have general conference? Where will they meet? What's going to be on the agenda? They will meet, like they did this year. You remember we were potentially going to have it this year, in 2021, but they postponed it. So they gave us that information around the first of March. They'll do the same thing for next year, to decide whether we're going to meet in Minneapolis on August and September of next year. So that's an important date. Why is it important?

Because if they say we're not going to meet, and the reason they would say that is because the virus is not contained in other countries, especially third-world countries, the vaccines are not out there yet. So we can't risk. How are you going to bring those folks here? How do you do it virtually? Personally, I think we could do it, I think we could do it virtually. We meet virtually now. But the question is, what will the Commission on General Conference say about that? If they say, "No general conference in 2022." Then this is what the anticipation is, they'll kick the can down the road until the next regular General Conference, which would be scheduled in 2024. Here's the difficulty with that, if we kick the can down the road again, then we have to reelect delegates for the General Conference 2024. And it's anticipated that every time we elect delegates now, there are more and more progressives who are being elected in other Annual Conferences. So it makes it harder to pass the Protocol or traditional models of theology and practice. So that's a key date. We'll know then.

Here's the other key date for next year: June of 2022, our South Georgia Annual Conference will meet. And as I said, the delegation is talking about and recommending that the Annual Conference be prepared on that date to vote to leave, if we need to. These dates are going to come up really quickly. And that's what we're proposing.

The next date that's significant that I've asked, and the executive team has asked that we consider, is that the first of November, and we've actually penciled in, I think Brad, November the 1st, didn't we? 2022 as the date where we need to be in a position to make a decision, to actually vote on whether we want to stay part of the United Methodist Church or not. And there's a reason for that, because under the Disaffiliation Policy, there are some timelines that will slip up on us real quick if we don't stay on top of them. And one of those timelines is April the 1st of 2023. That is the very last day that we have under the Disaffiliation Policy, to notify our Annual Conference that we intend to disaffiliate. In order to disaffiliate, once you give the notice to the Annual Conference, to our DS and to the Annual Conference, then it doesn't become effective until the Annual Conference, which meets in June, approves the disaffiliation.

The last two years, the first year we disaffiliated seven churches, this year we disaffiliated nine churches in Georgia. So that's what? Sixteen churches in the last two years who paid the money and have already left. And the Mississippi conference, 23 churches disaffiliated this year.

In North Georgia, in addition to Mt. Bethel, there are three others that have already filed the papers and intend to disaffiliate. There are disaffiliations happening in virtually all of our Annual Conferences that allow disaffiliation. North Georgia refused to allow it, until recently. And now they have to allow it.

So the absolute deadline is April 1, 2023. The problem with that is, if we wait until then, there's not enough time between that date and the next Annual Conference to complete everything that needs to be completed. So we wouldn't be in a position to be voted by the annual conference to disaffiliate in June of 2023. So that's why we back the date up to November 1, 2022. Does that make sense to you? We want to make sure we don't miss that if that becomes the only option that we have.

The last date that's a key date, is December the 31st of 2023. And that is the date that the Disaffiliation Policy expires on its own terms. Which is interesting because at that point, it actually says that it can no longer be used in the future. And I suppose the General Conference could change that, but that's what it says on its face right now. So it will not be an option to disaffiliate in June of 2024, because the Disaffiliation Policy will no longer be effective. So those are key dates.

And that's pretty much what I wanted to share with you tonight.

Survey

And in order to make sure that we understand that everyone has a voice and everybody gets to weigh in on the discussions, one of the things that the Executive Team and the Protocol Study Group suggested that we might do, is have a survey of our congregation, to see where we are on these issues. So in exploring how we could do that, we're able to engage a company that has already drafted an online survey that addresses these questions, really in just 10 questions that we would have a chance to answer.

So one of the recommendations tonight is that you approve us engaging them and using that survey to see where we as a congregation are, and to give folks a voice in the discussion. And if you approve that tonight, then that survey will be online for two weeks, starting August the 19th. And it'll run until September 2nd. We'll give you the links in advance. Everybody should have access to it. If you don't operate a computer or not really good at doing those kind of things, we'll have hardcopies in the office. And then the company will compile the results, and they'll give us a sense of where our congregation is on the struggle that we're all dealing with.

Click here for a summary of the Crossroads Survey Results.

Team Members

That's a lot of information. And if you have questions about it, you need to see me or see anyone who is a part of the team, let me introduce those to you. The Executive Team, let's see. Everybody that's on the Executive Team, will you just stand and let's just identify everybody. Let's with Richard. Richard's the Administrative Council Chair. Brad is Lay Leader. Terry's on there. Carl is head of Finance. Matt is Head of Trustees. Mark is head of SPRC. Walter is a Lay Delegate to Annual Conference. And Jamie Bone is on there, as I'm on there as well. So that's the Executive Team.

We expanded that to include others to form the Protocol Study Group. And they're here as well. I think some of them are. Some of them are out of town. But if you're on that Protocol Study team, Paula's here, Julie's here. If you'll stand up so folks can see you. Who else? Debbie's here. Who am I missing? I know Anne Rickert's out of town. And Hilary's out of town. But you've got the list of those folks here.

If you have questions about any of this, if it is not clear or if it's as clear as mud, see us and we'll do our best to help you and help all of us understand it. So I think that's where we are, Richard.

Questions

[Due to sound quality and the nature of conversation, this section has been edited for clarity and brevity.]

Rev. Jimmy Towson


If anybody has any posing questions right now, you got to ask a question, I'll do my best to answer it, or I'll hang around afterwards to answer it. Yeah. Yes, Ralph.

Question 1:

$210,000 we pay the conference. If we don't get out next year, we're going to owe another $200,000, right? ... Are those accumulative if we don't pay them? Can they go back to make us pay them to get us out? So in three years we'll be done paying them $600,000. ... And if I'm the other side, I'm not going to let you go without paying me some money. I mean, they're not going to do that. So if we don't get out, we're going to have to pay that $210,000 until we get out.

Rev. Jimmy Towson:


That's correct. That's right. Yup. Now, what we're doing, just so you'll know, the Finance Team and Executive Team decided some time ago that we would withhold some of the apportionments to the General church, that have to do with the areas that impact the progressive ideology.

[Congregant makes a comment on past apportionments due.]

Rev. Jimmy Towson:

Well, I'm not sure that we are under the Disaffiliation Policy, because it just says you have to pay the balance of the current year's apportionments, and an additional year, doesn't say that you got to clean up your role in the past and pay what you haven't paid in the past. If that were the case, there are a lot of churches who don't pay their apportionments or all of it. They would never be able to disaffiliate.

Question 2:

Let's say we go through the disaffiliation policies and paid the penalties, does that mean the property reverts to us?

Rev. Jimmy Towson:

That's correct. That's correct. Under both the Disaffiliation Policy and under the protocol. And the key factor is, one of our DS said at the delegation meeting the other day, your disaffiliation isn't effective until you turn your check in. So once you turn your check in, the property is given over to the church, the Trust Clause is removed. I guess we'd have to redraft the deeds or something to take it out of there. But you're exactly right.

[A comment was made about adding more senior citizens to the Protocol Team.]

Question 3:

Do you need a motion on the survey?

Rev. Jimmy Towson:

We need a motion. Let's see.

Richard Cowart:

Need two motions.

Rev. Jimmy Towson:

Two motions. Richard, do you want to come do those? Did I miss any other hands? Is that it for everybody?

Additional Comments & Vote

Richard Cowart

If it'll make you feel any better, I listen to, and I know some of y'all probably do, Alistair Begg on the radio. I love his voice. I think he's from Scotland, plus he's a good preacher. But I was listening to him yesterday. I end up listening to him in the car all the time. And he was saying that the Archbishop Canterbury has just recently come out with a letter, who I think the Archbishop Canterbury is the head of the Anglican Church in England, I think. That right, Mac? Anyway, his letter says that we don't know God's gender. So it's exclusive to address God as Father. So this is happening everywhere. The only thing I thought about that, I was listening to that and I thought, the problem with that theory is that there's this little prayer. And I think maybe Jesus taught us. I don't even know where they're coming up with this stuff. But anyway, I just thought maybe it make you feel better, it's not to just the Methodist. All right.

We have got two motions that come in the form of motions, recommendations. One from the Committee on Finance, one from the Board of Trustees. We don't need a second, because it's coming out of those committees. We'll take them one at a time. But they're recommendations for approval out of the Committee on Finance, recommends the creation of the Protocol Study fund in the amount of $50,000. That's taking money we've already got and just put it in that area, not amend the budget. To use for cost and fees associated with review preparation and action related to the proposed protocol and related matters. So that comes to you as a recommendation and a motion that's already been passed by the Finance Committee, that would have to be approved by the administrative council. So that comes before you tonight.

And there's also a motion recommendation that comes out of the Board of Trustees, it's really related to it. Recommending the purchase of the survey materials, so we can proceed with that survey. And I think the survey is like, what is it, Terry? $500. It's not a lot of my money, but we have to have the money to do it, and your approval to do it. And then the engagement, and has the law firm on here of Dalton & Tomich. We've talked about some other law firms. We don't want to spend the church's money that we don't have to spend, but we need a budget for this if we're going to move forward with necessary finance, and to evaluate church assets and recommend any changes or anything that we might need to do.

Congregant:

I want to point out that you earlier said that we need to hire someone who knows what they're doing

Richard Cowart:

Yeah, I agree with that. Don't you, Mac? And that's not me. And it's not Mac.

We can take these separately or we can take them together, whatever your pleasure is on that. And I'm going to ask for a show of hands. These are really related, so I think we'll just take them together. If you're in favor of these motions and recommendations coming out of the committee on finance and the Board of Trustees, if you would raise your hand. Thank you.

Any opposed? Looks like the motions pass.

All right. Thank you very much. Any other questions that we need to address?

And like Jimmy says, we've been dealing with this thing for months, so if want to talk to one of us, we might can give you a little more information.

Question 4:

My only question is, is there going to be something on there that has to do with ... as far as the timing how far and how long do we need to wait? Are we willing to wait if we're going to end up having to spend that money anyway?

Richard Cowart:

Rhonda, the idea would be to get out without paying any money. But I don't know that that's going happen. But like Ralph pointed out, we're paying this money anyway, the apportionment money, we're paying. So really you're looking at it to get out. I mean, we got to pay an extra year, I guess. But the other thing is to pay our pensions. But I think we want Jimmy, and V.L., and Willie, and David... we like them to keep getting their pension. And it's only fair that we pay in. Nope? You want to speak to that David?

But Rhonda, we're very aware of the timelines, and that's why we're trying to get out ahead of this thing, because we can't just wait. I mean, we really just can't wait.

Closing Comments

Rev. Jimmy Towson:

Yeah. I'm confident that we're going to know something in 2022. We're going to be in a position to do something. So here's maybe, what do you pray? Right? I mean, what should we be praying as a church right now?

And as we're talking about a way forward, I would say that we should pray that we have a General Conference in 2022, and that we pass the Protocol. That's our best way forward.

And people on all sides of this issue, claimed that they support the Protocol. We were in the delegation meeting the other day, we have one very liberal delegate clergy person on our delegation. And we were interested to ask her, "Hey, where do you stand on the Protocol? And what do you think your colleagues, how they feel about it?" And she said, "We want to get out just as bad as you all do."

So if that's the case and there is energy behind the idea of actually resolving this issue, then we need to have General Conference 2022. And that should be our first prayer, I suppose. That Lord, if you're going to resolve this thing, then let's have General Conference in 2022, and let's pass the Protocol. So I'd ask you to pray for that.

I would also ask you to pray for our friends in other Annual Conferences, that are suffering greatly because of the persecution that they're receiving, simply because, listen to this, because they stand up for what the Bible says, but also for what our denomination has voted to be our way for the last 40 years. And for some reason they're being horribly... it's in The Book of Discipline, they are being horribly mistreated, simply because they stand for what we as a United Methodist denomination, have voted to be our policy, our polity, and our theology. So pray for them. Yes.

Congregant:

And I recall the vote has been in the neighborhood of 70% to 80%, every time it's been voted on.

Rev. Jimmy Towson:

That's correct. It's been very strongly approved every time.

So those are good things to pray for. Pray for our church.

Because here's the last thing, then I'll pray for us and we'll go, is that we must make sure that everybody understands that we love everybody, everybody, LGBTQ+, it doesn't matter. We love everybody. If we don't, then we fall in that category that some people like to shout about that says, "Well, you hate people." And that's not the case. If that's us, then listen, you remember me talking about "nominal Christians" on Sunday, that's what we would be at best. So we got to love everybody, and we have to demonstrate that. You can't just say it. So I feel like we do that as a congregation, but just that reminder that we need to do that, and make sure that people understand that. Are you ready to go? Would you stand? And let's pray.

Closing Prayer

I suppose, Jesus, that in some small measure, we are beginning to appreciate a little bit of what those early followers experienced when people began to oppose them, and different ideas of theology began to try to infiltrate their early church. So in some ways we can almost say thank you that we've been able to experience that to some extent. And I think about those martyrs over the years that were told that if you'll just recant your faith, or if you'll just bow down, then you can live. And they chose not to do that. They said, "I will not recant my faith. I stand firm on the rock, who is Jesus Christ. And no matter what you do to me, nothing's going to change that." So Lord, we want to be like them. Not in a hateful or mean way, but in a loving way, but also true to who you are.

So help us to do that, in whatever form it may look like. Thank you for this congregation and for the leadership, and for everyone whose heart is for you and for others. And because of it, we're able to help build the kingdom here on earth. So send us out tonight full of, not despair, but of hope in who you are and what you have in store for us as a church and as your children. And we'll be grateful, Lord. Thank you for this time together. May you be glorified by it all. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.