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Discernment Team Information Meeting Questions & Answers

Discernment Team Information Meeting Questions & Answers

by on February 20, 2023

Full list of questions-FINAL


  • Please note that all questions the Discernment Team received through either the information meetings or the website are listed in exactly the wording in which they were received.
  • Duplicate/Similar questions are grouped together with an answer posted underneath.



  1. What percentage of offerings currently go to UMC and what stay here locally?

This answer presumes that the question is about what amount, or percentage, of the amounts received from members and tithes and offerings goes to apportionments to the United Methodist Church, which would include our Alabama-West Conference. The total budget for 2022 was $2,351,382. Of that amount, the conference apportionments were $111,919 and district apportionments were $17,157, so the total of apportionments in 2022 was $129,076. This is approximately 5.5 % of the total budget. In 2023, the church budget is $2,360,683; conference apportionments are $115,181 and district apportionments are $17,859, for a total of apportionments of $133,050. This would be approximately 5.6% of the overall church budget. So approximately 95% of the money received from church members is controlled directly by the finance team of the church in support of the ministries adopted by the church.

  1. If we disaffiliate, do we have to buy the church property from the General Conference trust?

Technically the answer is no. A church could disaffiliate, and the entire congregation move to another property, or join one or more other churches. Presumably, this question is whether FUMC can disaffiliate and keep all of its property without paying the amounts required under paragraph 2553 of the Book of Discipline. The short answer is no. FUMC has buildings and land valued at $13 Million. If the church disaffiliated, the amount the church would have to pay would be somewhere between $800,000 and $1,100,000 based on information presently available to us. 

  1. What name is on the deed to the property?

Our understanding is, like all churches when they joined the United Methodist Church, the title on the deed is to the United Methodist Church as required by the Trust Clause in the Book of Discipline.

  1. What are the financial implications if 2549 is used in the future? Post 2024 Conference?

  2. If a decision is delayed until after the General Conference in 2024, what options are available then?

  3. What repercussions will the church face if they hold off the vote until 2024 and then
    decide to withdraw or separate from the conference? (If we separate by 2023 vs. 2024.)

We will not know for certain until a vote by the Annual Conference in June 2023 that paragraph 2549 of the Book of Discipline will be approved for disaffiliation as proposed by the Bishop and Board of Trustees. However, under paragraph 2549 of the Book of Discipline, the Alabama-West Florida Conference intends to offer any disaffiliating church in the Conference to leave on the same terms and conditions as provided under paragraph 2553. The process to be followed would be the same. There are two possible uncertainties: the amount of apportionments for the future year could change, either higher or lower, and the amount of the unfunded pension and unfunded medical expenses es could be higher or lower. The unfunded expenses depend on the strength of the economy and available interest rates. As those rates have recently risen, the amounts due for unfunded pensions and medical expenses have gone down.


  1. Can you please clarify that the unfunded pension liability and medical costs are for all AL West FL UM clergy, not just expenses directly tied to Darren and Laura? (Those costs come from the conference trustees.)

It was clarified in the second and third informational meetings that the costs were not solely related to Darren and Laura but to all clergy within our conference.

  1. Where is the “packet” that Phil Webb referred to? It seemed like he was assuming we had it.

Mr. Webb was speaking about information from the packet related to disaffiliation. He did not intend to refer to a packet that was to be distributed at the meetings.

  1. Why was the FAQ sheet distributed when you all didn't agree with it? It's full of fabrications and opinion opinions. Not facts! 2.Specifically, why was it not made clear in the video that whichever side gets the church itself, will owe the 1.3 million mortgage plus the 1.1 million? The doc says the 1.1 could be paid off in 5 years. The difference between the $140,000 apportionment and the $25,000 is only $115,000. 115 X 5 is only 750. Also, the church mortgage was recently refinanced at a rate lower than the current rates. All members need the real numbers to make and educated vote.

The current mortgage indebtedness on church property is approximately $1,5 Million dollars. The mortgage has a 2.75% interest rate, which is considerably below currently available rates. The exact number that Fairhope UMC would have to pay for apportionments and unfunded pension and medical expenses has not been determined. The original number given was approximately $1.1 million, but more recent information places the number closer to $800,000. When attempting to calculate how any savings in apportionments could satisfy a new debt to pay the disaffiliation fees, one factor that will add to the cost is the amount of interest charged on the debt. The exact amount of interest will depend on the market rates available at the time the debt is incurred, but presumably would be above at least 4%. Additionally, the difference in what is paid now in apportionments and what might be paid to the Global Methodist Church is not entirely clear since the Global Methodist Church is still in the formation stages, and has not yet held its first general conference. Whether the suggested $25,000 in annual apportionments is a realistic number may depend on how many churches ultimately decide to join the GMC, and what the administrative costs of running the GMC turn out to be. A factor also to be considered about apportionments is that a portion of what is paid to the conference supports ministries that members of FUMC support and wish to see continued, such as support for Blue Lake, support for Huntingdon College, the Wesley Foundation at college campuses. These items could be added to the overall church budget, but realistically those amounts also take away from what is perceived as savings from what is paid in apportionments.


  1. With concerns about other violations of the Book of Discipline requirements, doesn’t FUMC need to acknowledge and rectify its own violations? Specifically, the discipline requires an annual audit with an evaluation of the church’s internal controls for a church of our size; more than $2 million in annual income, but internal controls haven’t been audited in years at FUMC. Will an evaluation of internal controls in an audit of 2022 by an outside CPA firm be completed & provided to our congregation?

Our last Financial Statement Audit was performed in 2020 and covered the 2019 Year End Financial Statements. We received the results in 2022 due to what we were told were Covid related delays. There were no material discrepancies identified by the accounting firm.

We have our next Financial Audit scheduled to begin on April 4th of this year. It will be focused on “Financial Process Controls” and will be conducted by Gatekeeper Audit Services out of Woodbine Georgia. Gatekeeper focuses exclusively on church related financial audits. This audit is designed to confirm that we have and utilize the required Financial Policies and Procedures to ensure proper segregation of duties, adherence to the Book of Discipline and overall integrity in how we capture and report out church’s finances. A secondary objective of this audit is to help us build an internal audit process that can be performed each year, with supplemental qualified external audits to validate the results of our own review. This will allow us the opportunity to redeploy the cost of an external audit toward the Mission and Ministry of the church. 


  1. If 12/31/23 is deadline for disassociation, how can we wait to make decision after annual conference in April 2024?

As Noah Funderburg presented in his video portion of the presentation, paragraph 2549 of the Book of Discipline provides a pathway for disaffiliation irrespective of the deadline imposed in paragraph 2553. The Alabama-West Florida Conference will confirm in June 2023 that the financial terms of Paragraph 2549 will be the same as Paragraph 2553 allowing churches to disaffiliate after the General Conference in 2024.  

  1. Why was the December 2023 deadline set before the 2024 conference?

This deadline was originally proposed in 2019, but the Covid pandemic prevented the General Conference planned for 2022. This resulted in the awkward timeline.

  1. Would like more meetings where the congregation gets to talk. Why are you afraid to let the congregation speak out and ask questions?
  2. Why aren’t we having open forum discussions so that the laity can ask their questions? It is much more important for people to be present for this than watching a video.

Providing accurate factual information was the goal for our first meetings. We have had positive feedback and suggestions after the sessions. At our next Discernment Team meeting, we will be discussing our next steps. An open forum, question and answer, type meeting will be discussed, and we will take our direction from the Board of Stewards.

  1. Does FUMC discernment team plan to communicate the potential issues of what a Post Split UMC/Post Annual Conference 2024 could look like given the traditional congregation departures in 2022 and 2023?

The Discernment Team is committed to providing factual, accurate information. However, pertaining to this topic, please understand we are in uncharted waters, and we are unable to provide many definite answers in this area. We will continue to provide information as this situation continues to develop and evolve.

  1. I notice on the agenda that there will be reasons given for staying in UMC. Why is there not an agenda item for leaving the UMC? I hope this discernment will cover both sides equally. If it doesn't it isn't worth attending There are major concerns about the direction the church administration is heading, that's why we are in this mess.

  2. Would like to know, also, the reasons why Fairhope UMC should disaffiliate. Thank you.

  3. The agenda for the Discernment Information Meetings states in part, "Three reasons Fairhope UMC should stay in the UMC." Another says, "Why are congregations considering disaffiliation from the UMC?" Another says, "Why do we have to decide anything?" I have heard repeatedly that nothing has to be decided right now and that FUMC should take a wait and see approach. The way the information meeting agenda is presented would imply that the person who drafted the talking points is in favor of staying UMC. Does this not defeat the purpose of the whole meeting? Should not the meeting be to determine what is best for the local congregation and not UMC as a whole?

  4. It is with a most grateful heart that I say thank you to all those helping to make the information known with clarity! I attended the meeting Sunday evening and the presentations were very helpful in gaining a clearer understanding of the decisions ahead. For those unable to attend a meeting or who desire to hear certain parts again, I wonder if the presentations will be made available to rewatch through the church’s website. Thank you again, and continued prayers for discernment for FUMC and UMC as a whole.

  5. Why are the video presentations made at the Discernment Meetings not available on the website? I think it would be very helpful if we could review what was said to refresh our memories and help us with understanding. The handouts by McGilberry and Chason were very helpful to understand that position. Thank you.

  6. Is the Discernment Team committed to submit an honest, open perspective for all concerned church members to fully understand what the UMC will most likely transition to in coming years, what other alternative Methodist or Independent churches might look like, allowing all to decide which alternative is the best fit for them. Will all questions be answered and by who? What is the purpose of the Tom Berlin pro-UMC video video? Is the intention of the survey to show most church members fall into the Progressive Compliant or Traditional Compliant buckets and say there is no reason for a vote? Is this something the Board of Stewards are focused on and will use to determine if there is a vote or not?

  7. You have 3 reasons why the Fairhope UMC should stay a United Methodist. Why don't you have 3 reasons why Fairhope UMC should Disaffiliate

The Discernment team was charged with gathering factual and accurate information and prayerfully presenting the information to the Congregation and the Board of Stewards. The information was presented to the congregation in the form of 3 identical sessions on February 1st, 5th, and 9th. The Discernment Team will present a report to the Board of Stewards meeting scheduled for February 16th and ask for further direction at that time. There is still much work to be done and much prayer to be offered for God’s guidance for the way forward for Fairhope UMC. The decision for a vote will rest solely with the Board of Stewards at the appropriate time. The Discernment Team as well as our pastors feel that it is important that the concerns of the congregation need to be heard and addressed. We encourage you to watch the video of the Information Meetings that is posted on the Discernment Team portion of the church website. Fairhope UMC Discernment Team Information Sessions - YouTube

  1. Why should we honor #2553? The Methodists are ignoring rules in the discipline. Why not ignore the rules we want?

Bishop Graves has stated that in the Alabama West Florida Conference that we will follow the Book of Discipline as it is written.

  1. Why is a small group of people getting to decide whether the congregation gets to vote on disaffiliation?

This decision-making method is in accordance with our organizational polity as United Methodists. As stated in the 2016 Book of Discipline,

Paragraph 252.1 The church council shall provide for planning and implementing a program of nurture, outreach, witness, and resources in the local church. It shall also provide for the administration of its organization and temporal life. It shall envision, plan, implement, and annually evaluate the mission and ministry of the church. The church council shall be amenable to and function as the administrative agency of the charge conference (¶ 244).

Paragraph 252.5 The charge conference will determine the size of the church council. Members of the church council shall be involved in the mission and ministry of the congregation as defined in ¶ 252.2. The membership of the council may consist of as few as eleven persons or as many as the charge conference deems appropriate. The council shall include persons who represent the program ministries of the church as outlined in ¶ 243.

  1. Is there a way to bypass the board of stewards to force a vote if they refuse to do so?

No, not that we are aware of, though it has been tried in other churches within the

Alabama-West Florida Conference. In the recent case of Auburn UMC, for example, an effort was made to force a vote with the use of paragraph 248, which relates to the option of generating a petition with 10% of the membership in support of calling a church conference.

The effort was ruled out of order by the District Superintendent, Dr. Jeff Wilson, as it reflected an erroneous understanding of the paragraph (248). 

As stated in Dr. Wilson’s decision: 

Paragraph 248 outlines the process that may be taken for a charge conference to be convened as a church conference. According to paragraph 248, a duly called charge conference may, in fact, be convened as a church conference at the discretion of the district superintendent, or via a written request from the pastor, church council, or 10 percent of the professing membership. However, paragraph 246.7 clearly states that special sessions of the charge conference are to be called only by the district superintendent after consultation with the pastor or by the pastor with the written consent of the district superintendent. Paragraph 246.7 also states that “any such special session may be convened as a church conference in accordance with paragraph 248.” While a petition like yours would be in order in requesting that a previously called special session of the charge conference be convened as a church conference, paragraph 248 does not allow such a petition to serve as the initial call for a special session of the charge/church conference.

  1. How will the board of stewards decide if the congregation gets a vote and when will it occur? Why is there a time limit on disaffiliation? 

Once a motion has been made to the Board of Stewards with a request for or against a vote on disaffiliation, the decision will be made at the next Board of Stewards meeting. This is in keeping with a Standing Rule of the Fairhope UMC Board of Stewards, which states, 

Any motion from the floor that is offered during the meeting that was not part of the Board of Stewards packet sent out in advance, if seconded and becomes an active motion, will be added to the agenda for the next regularly scheduled board meeting for discussion and vote (adopted by the BOS on May 20, 2018). 

The Board of Stewards meets at least quarterly. The chairperson or pastor may call special meetings as needed (BOD Paragraph 252.3a). Following our meeting on February 16, it is reasonable to expect our next meeting before May 1. 

Generally speaking, there is no time limit on disaffiliation. The time limit is related to the use of disaffiliation under the parameters of Paragraph 2553 (12/31/23).


  1. Why wouldn’t we have a vote? It is the Christian, democratic, and kind thing to do to
    allow the whole congregation to vote.

  2. As a member of the church, why would any member not be allowed to vote?

  3. Why not have a vote to disaffiliate? It is the fair and right thing to do for both liberals and conservatives.

  4. This decision is far too important for the congregation not vote. You have members leaving before they are able to vote . it is not right. VOTE IS NEEEDED.

  5. When is the church wide vote?

  6. Will we be allowed to vote on this matter as a congregation? If not, why not?

  7. Why not a vote!

  8. Since this issue being discussed today has been ongoing for 50 years and everyone interested in this issue has had sufficient time to decide their view. Why do we need more time? Why shouldn't church members be allowed to vote now?

  9. Why wait to vote? Homosexuality pro or con is not going to change.

The decision to deny or allow a vote by our entire congregation for or against disaffiliation from the UMC continues to be examined by our BOS/CC. Following our Information Sessions, we will prayerfully prepare a report for our February 16th BOS/CC meeting providing some of the information necessary to decide the next step or steps. Of course, opportunities will be given to other spoken ideas, written petitions, resolutions, motions, etc. Any member of the congregation may attend the meeting. We expect a motion to execute a corporate prayer and fasting plan to be offered during the Lenten season. Collaboration of the BOS with the pastors will come next discerning a faithful and responsible way forward for the health of the body of FUMC. The vote continues to be very much an option. After our prayerful Lenten opportunities possibly reveal God's will, which will then allow the BOS/CC to inform our congregation as to the full scope of their decision with absolute faith and transparency in this matter; the DT will continue to be at the congregation's service. 

  1. Why are we continuing to evaluate whether a vote is needed when our Bishop has asked us to table the matter? Nothing has changed in the discipline and most likely nothing will change. If you are happy with being a Methodist then be happy we have the structure in place within the Methodist Church that we do where a small group of people can't push an agenda through a church causing a rift. BOS and Trustees still get a voice at FUMC even if something does change in the discipline. Also, haven't the surveys conducted so far show the majority of the congregation is ok with waiting to decide on if we need a vote.

Whether a vote will be taken, and the possible timing of a vote, is a sensitive matter for many members. Some members believe that a vote will resolve the question on human sexuality for our church once and for all. Other members are waiting to see what happens up to and including the General Conference of 2024. Members likely will disagree on what may happen in the future once some churches disaffiliate. At present, the Board of Stewards is considering all possibilities, including gathering more information, to help inform members on the wise course to take.

  1. Why are there people in the church that are ok with creating a such drain on church resources and moral just to be able to say "We won". What happens if we vote and you still "don't win"? What have we accomplished.

Members’ have strong feelings on the manner in which the UMC has or might in the future handle questions of human sexuality. There is no “winning” in any decision that divides the church membership where some members are likely to leave Fairhope UMC. No one underestimates the sincerity of differing beliefs on how the UMC should handle human sexuality issues. Although this often gets lost in the discussions, there is only one right answer, and that is what God wants. Scripture does contain instances of prohibition and condemnation, but it also is filled with the most incredible gift of grace given freely for all. Forgiving sin belongs to all of us; judging sin belongs only to God. 


  1. If we do nothing, what is the belief on homosexuality?

The Book of Discipline has not changed. Homosexual persons are welcome to join and become members of a United Methodist Church, as has been the case for decades. Practicing homosexuals are not eligible to be ordained as pastors. UMC pastors are not allowed to perform marriages between persons of the same gender. The General Conference of the UMC next meets in April-May of 2024. It is possible that language could be changed in the Discipline at that meeting, or some future meeting. It would be pure speculation at this time to suggest what, if any, changes would be made.

  1. Did you ever think the UMC is losing people because they are not following the Bible?

The factors contributing to the decline in membership of the UMC are as varied and complex as interpretations of scripture. Some would say that the UMC is following the Bible in that the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ is preached every Sunday from thousands of pulpits across the globe. Some would say the UMC is not following the Bible – people who consider themselves progressive as well as those who identify more as traditional. A more in-depth explanation of this can be found in the video The Four Types of Methodists https://revtomberlin.com/talking-about-lgbtq-inclusion-in-the-umc/

  1. Why didn’t this meeting answer the question—do we really want LGBT to serve this church as a leader/pastor? Do we really believe in sex practice that is not of God? The 3 This meeting and the discussion is not about the love and acceptance of LGBT in our churches, but do we want that person to lead our church.

  2. The three speakers talking about staying with the UMC talked about all the things that have built the UMC as a whole that FUMC has been a part of. Why did they not mention about the possibilities of having a future pastor that is married to the same sex or is transgender?

  3. What power does the FUMC stewards have to not allow a LBGTQ to be our pastor if the conference appoints one?

The Discernment Team was not charged with answering such a specific question about the acceptance of an appointment of an openly gay pastor. However, understanding your concern, we will try to provide facts that help answer the question. First, there are no known self-avowed practicing homosexual pastors in our conference. Second, our Bishop and Cabinet have always followed the Book of Discipline and have not accepted as a candidate nor ordained a person who was disqualified on the basis of being a self-avowed practicing homosexual (or LGBTQ+). Third, churches always are a part of the process in who is selected as pastor, through the Staff Pastor Parish Committee, and the goal of the Bishop and the SPRC is to ensure any appointed pastor has a chance to successfully lead the church to which he/she is appointed. The SPRC makes known to the Bishop and Cabinet the needs and desires of the church. If the SPRC explicitly stated they did not want a gay pastor, it is unlikely that a LGBTQ+ pastor would be offered as pastor of FUMC. However, the final decision of which pastors are appointed rests with the Bishop and Cabinet. If, at some time in the future rules were changed and a LGBTQ+ person was eligible to be appointed, it then would be the province of the SPRC to gauge the attitude of the church membership regarding such an appointment. It would be premature to speculate about how that might be accomplished given that such an appointment remains merely hypothetical. 

  1. Understanding that Bible was not originally written in English, it had to be translated, knowing how faults translations can be, I have read a bit on the topic. It is my understanding that “homosexuality” was never addressed or mentioned in any translation prior to 1946. Before that translation, the scriptures in question were addressing pedophilism (sp?), not homosexuality. Is this accurate, and if so, what changed in 1946?

  2. What did the original Bible’s language say about homosexuality?

  3. The three speakers talking about staying with the UMC talked about all the things that have built the UMC as a whole that FUMC has been a part of. Why did they not mention about the possibilities of having a future pastor that is married to the same sex or is transgender?
*Given the complex theological nature of these questions, we deferred to our Senior Pastor, Dr. Darren McClellan:

Yes, the first evidence of the term ‘homosexual’ in the Bible was from the original English translation of the Revised Standard Version that was produced in 1946. 

In the original Greek text of the New Testament, two words that Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10 are malakoi and arsenokoitai. The later term is particularly challenging for translators, because there is no known use of the term in other ancient documents that precede the New Testament. Thus, many scholars believe that Paul coined the phrase aresenokoitai himself, as it appears very rarely in ancient Greek writings after Paul. 

Both words are found in longer catalogs of misbehavior known as “vice-lists.” The terms malakoi (literally meaning “soft” or “effeminate” ones), and arsenokoitai (literally “man-bedders”) have been translated in a multitude of ways in our English speaking Bibles. 

In the case of 1 Corinthians 6:9, these two words are usually translated into one. For instance, 

King James Bible (1607) “abusers of themselves with mankind”
Revised Standard Version (1946) “homosexuals”
Phillips Bible (1958) “perverts”
Today’s English Version (1966) “homosexual perverts”
Revised Standard Version (1971) “sexual perverts”
New International Version (1973) “homosexual offenders”
New American Bible (1987) “practicing homosexuals”
English Standard Version (2001) “men who practice homosexuality”

 1It is also interesting to note that the first use of the term “homosexual” in a German translation was produced in 1983. Previously, as in the case of Martin Luther’s 1534 translation, the term was Knabenschander, meaning “boy molester.” So what was behind the change of the German translation in 1983? For more on that discussion, see “Has ‘Homosexual’ Always Been in the Bible?” by Ed Oxford. www.forgeonline.org 


To be fair, a part of what makes this work of translation a challenge is that there are very few references to arsenokoitai found in Greek literature outside of the New Testament. Nevertheless, in four of the known instances, the concern is over economic exploitation and abuses of power, not same-sex behavior; or more precisely, economic exploitation and violence in the sex business, as in forced prostitution.2

So with regard to the question: what did the original Bible’s language say about homosexuality? When trying to make sense of translation as a means of interpretation, it is often difficult to determine which is the chicken and which is the egg.

Even so, we press on.

As James Brownson describes,

“Most scholars recognize that the presence of these two words reflects widespread assumptions throughout the ancient world about male-male homosexual activity; almost all the documents discussing male same-sex eroticism assume a distinction between active older men (commonly referred to in Greek as erastai) and passive younger males (commonly referred to as eromenoi)--in other words, the practice of pederasty. The malakoi are the younger, passive eromenoi, and the arsenokoitai are the older, active erastai.3

The vice list in 1 Timothy 1:10 includes three terms which are likely interrelated in reference to male-male erotic activity: pornoi (tanslated by the NRSV as “fornicators,” but can also mean “male prostitutes”), arsenokoitai (“man bedders,” the same term that appears in 1 Corinthians 6:9), and andropodistai (“slave dealers,” or “kidnappers”).4 Is it reasonable to assume that the three terms belong together in this list? If so, then we have a description of kidnappers or slave traders (andropodistai) acting as “pimps” for their captured and castrated boys (the pornoi, or male prostitutes) servicing the arsenokoitai, the men who make use of these boy prostitutes. 


2Dale B. Martin, Sex and the Single Savior: Gender and Sexuality in Biblical Interpretation (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2006), p. 39. 

3 James Brownson, Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Eerdmans, 2013. As Brownson notes, the definitive scholarly discussion of these issues is found in Robin Scroggs, The New Testament and Homosexuality: Contextual Background for Contemporary Debate (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1983). 

4 As others have asked, How might the church’s understanding be different if arsenokoitai had been translated “sex traffickers” or “sexual exploiters” or “rapists” or “sexual predators” or “pimps”? For more on that line of inquiry, see David P. Gushee, Changing Our Mind, 2nd edition, (Canton, Michigan, 2015). Gushee argues that “such translations are plausible, even if not the majority scholarly reconstruction at this time. And they are at least as adequate, or inadequate, as ‘homosexuals’--a term from our culture with a range of meanings including sexual orientation, identity and activity–not a word from Paul’s world” (p. 79).


In sum, let it be said that the translation of these terms and their relevance to the interpretation of scripture–as well as the application of texts in the practice of Christian ethics–remains a matter of highly contested debate.5 As a matter of discernment, however, it is worth recognizing the intensity of the debate among classics scholars and New Testament interpreters as to what was the full scope of Paul’s intention when he was writing about same sex-activity in the Greco-Roman world. While we are still trying to clearly decipher the original intent of the text, it can be said with confidence that in imperial Rome same-sex activity was “strongly associated with idolatry, slavery, and social dominance…often the assertion of the strong over the bodies of the weak.”6 Without question, the holiness of God declares that these aspects of human existence were (and are!) in need of redemption by the power of the cross and the saving grace of Jesus Christ.7

Finally, with respect to the second part of this question presented to the Discernment Team, one can imagine that there are plenty of socio-behavioral theories, historically speaking, as to what was happening in 1946 that might have influenced the RSV translation. The same can be said for subsequent “American” translations and their relationship to the prevailing “culture wars” in American society.

Different conclusions will be drawn from these discoveries. Nevertheless, one thing scholars do agree on is that trying to recreate the mind of the Apostle Paul on these matters in such a way as to fit into our postmodern worldview has proven to be a rather impossible task. Jesus’ silence on the issue is another point of consideration; one that is, interestingly enough, utilized on both sides of the debate.


5For a highly accessible and constructive exchange of differing views on the matter see, Dan Via and Robert Gagnon, Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views, (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003). Leading traditionalist voices within this particular discussion include Robert Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice:Texts and Hermeneutics, (Nashville: Abingdon, 2001) and Richard Hays, The Moral Vision of the New Testament: A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethics, (Harper Collins, 1996). For another cultural example, see the latest commentary and controversy that surrounds a recent documentary project, 1946: The Mistranslaton That Shifted a Culture. Of course, some are calling it “ground-breaking” and “revolutionary,” while others have labeled it “self-serving” and “irrelevant.” One wonders if any of these caption-creators have actually seen it. This writer confesses that he only discovered it while working on this response. If you decide to watch it for yourself, call the church office and let us know what you think. 

6 Michael Vasey, Strangers and Friends: A New Exploration of Homosexuality and the Bible. (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1995), p. 132.

7 As you can tell, now I’ve turned to preaching.


  1. If the Book of Discipline changes to allow Gay/Lesbian clergy, is not the United Methodist saying that being Gay/Lesbian is no longer a sin? If the Book of Discipline changes to allow for Gay/Lesbian, marriage, is not the United Methodist saying that marriage is not a sin? Is a Gay/Lesbian marriage Holy in the eyes of God if the Book of Discipline changes?

Thank you for your question, but we do not know the answer to these questions.

General answer for questions in this section:

The United Methodist Church position has to be built around John 3:16 “That GOD so loved the world, that HE gave His only begotten SON, that whosoever believeth in HIM, shall not perish but have everlasting life.”

The United Methodist Church embraces “Big Tent” Christianity in that all persons "whosoever" who believe in JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD are welcomed into membership of the United Methodist Church.

The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers the practice incompatible with Christian teaching. The key word here is “practice” or living a lifestyle of practicing homosexuality. The Book of Discipline states: ——“self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in the UMC(304.3)" and that "ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted in our churches(341.6).” Such same sex unions are considered evidence of a self-avowed practicing homosexual lifestyle.

Being a homosexual person does not in any way prohibit that person from being a member of the United Methodist Church. A homosexual member of the UMC can be a certified candidate for the ministry, a minister, or appointed to serve in the UMC as long as they are not living a lifestyle of a self-avowed practicing homosexual.


  1. What churches in Alabama and North Florida have left UMC affiliation?

Please refer to the Alabama West Florida website for a listing that is periodically updated.

  1. Why aren’t the advocates of homosexuality the ones who should disaffiliate?

That was the original purpose of paragraph 2553 being added to the Book of Discipline.

  1. What is the current membership of UMC? What is the breakdown of membership percentages by jurisdiction?

There are five jurisdictions in the United Methodist Church in the United States. According to this website, http://www.umdata.org/UMFactsHome.aspx, there are 6,268.310 members in those five jurisdictions. The Southeastern jurisdiction is the largest by far (2.504.062), and the Western jurisdiction (262,825), is the smallest by far.

  1. Why does the church Annual Conference cabinet have a vote on a local church’s vote? That is part of the Church policy as stated in the Conference’s 8 step process for disaffiliation.


  3. How can we continue to support an organization that doesn’t adhere to its own governance or hold accountable its own leaders? If we aren’t going to uphold the Book of Discipline, then hen why do we have it?

  4. Why are we to follow the book of discipline, but the Bishops do not?

  5. Why aren’t the violators of the Book of Discipline addressed and penalized?

  6. Why did Bishops give up their integrity and not follow the Book of Discipline?

  7. Why not discipline the churches offending the current General Conference rules?

  8. How can bishops be allowed to ignore the positions already existing in the discipline regarding the ordination of professing homosexuals and even the election of professing homosexuals as bishops?

The United Methodist Church is divided into Jurisdictions with each Jurisdiction being responsible for the election of its own bishops and the ordination of clergy. The Southeastern Jurisdiction, of which the Alabama-West Florida Conference is a part, has no control over the actions of bishops in any other Jurisdiction. Bishop David Graves of the Alabama-West Florida Conference, of which FUMC is a part, has openly stated that he is following the Book of Discipline, which has not changed.

  1. Every 4 years the Book of Discipline can change its language and rules. 2553 will disappear. How do you know 2549 won’t disappear also?

The Book of Discipline can be modified at a General Conference, held every four years except when there was something like the Covid pandemic that made meeting impossible. The next General Conference (GC) is in 2024, so no changes could occur until that time. Paragraph 2553 could be revised at that GC, or eliminated as no longer being relevant, if the deadline is not extended. Paragraph 2549 also could be revised or modified, but it is unlikely that the entire paragraph would be eliminated since the paragraph broadly covers all instances of churches closing or not existing. Paragraph 2549 also has been a part of the Book of Discipline for a very long time. Paragraph 2553 was specially created in 2019. The deadline in 2553 was artificially created as December 31, 2023 at a time when the assumption was that a General Conference would be held in 2022. Since that General Conference was postponed until 2024, this created the awkwardness of the deadline for disaffiliating before the GC, at which that deadline could be extended.  


  1. What does the Global Methodist Church say about communion? Open versus closed (sic?)

  2. Who, where, why did the Global Methodist group form?

  3. What is the Global Methodist Church’s stand on homosexuality?

  4. The presentation was excellent. Thank you. My question is related to options other than Global Methodism. It seems that this was the only option presented other than remaining UMC. I am not in support of GMC, but why not Independent Methodist?

  5. Does the Discernment Team think the structure of these meetings are allowing ALL church members to fully understand ALL sides of the issue? This may be the design intended by UMC and if that is true, it is wrong. Would you reconsider the structure of these meetings to include enough time for both sides to fully describe the issues as they are today and what the future will look like whether it is UMC, alternative Methodist churches or even independent churches.

  6. The agenda for the Discernment Information Meetings states in part, "Three reasons Fairhope UMC should stay in the UMC." Another says, "Why are congregations considering disaffiliation from the UMC?" Another says, "Why do we have to decide anything?" I have heard repeatedly that nothing has to be decided right now and that FUMC should take a wait and see approach. The way the information meeting agenda is presented would imply that the person who drafted the talking points is in favor of staying UMC. Does this not defeat the purpose of the whole meeting? Should not the meeting be to determine what is best for the local congregation and not UMC as a whole?

Our subject is Continued Affiliation or Not (or Disaffiliation or Not). We do not need to speculate at this time on the Global Methodist Church, the Wesleyan Covenant Association, being independent, or other denominational relationships. After the determination is made to Disaffiliate or Not, there will be time to plan our path forward. 


  1. Why is there a staff member on the team? Two if you count the piano player?

The Discernment Team was chosen through the same process as all other church committees. Members of the Discernment Team were first submitted by their Sunday school classes and then approved through the Nominations Committee and by the Board of Stewards. Discernment team members must already be actively engaged in keeping covenant with Fairhope UMC through their prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness.

  1. How many members are part of the Board of Stewards that would vote for the church?

The voting members of the Board of Stewards include the lay leaders, delegates to Annual Conference, Chairs of church committees, and the at-large members chosen by the Nominations Committee. The members of the Board of Stewards (Church Council) are listed in the Book of Discipline, paragraph 252. In addition to these, we have 15 at large Stewards, giving us a total of 27 members.


  1. Regarding the handout authored by McGilberry & Chason:
    ○ Can you please provide an answer to #9- the question was not answered
    ○ Regarding #12- if disaffiliation is approved, where will the new clergy come from?
    Has the group pursuing disaffiliation considered that our non-appointed staff are not obligated to remain on staff and that some may leave if disaffiliation is chosen?

These documents were not supported by the full membership of the Discernment Team. Therefore, we are unable to answer these questions but we refer you to the information below in answers regarding pastors and staff.

  1. What happens to our pastors and staff if we disaffiliate?

  2. If FUMC disaffiliates, how will the selection of pastors be handled and will the church keep its current staff?

  3. Dr. Darren McClellan is a gifted preacher and teacher and is a strong leader. Rev. Laura Parker is a warm, intelligent, and thoughtful pastor and teacher. We are so blessed to have them at our church. Am I understanding correctly that Dr. McClellan and Rev. Parker intend to remain faithful to their ordination in the United Methodist Church and that, if our church were to vote to disaffiliate, we would lose them as our pastors?

  4. I’ve heard some people say that if we vote to disaffiliate, nothing changes except Darren and Laura would no longer be here. Do we actually know if that is true? I suspect that some other staff members may be leaving if we leave the united Methodist church.

Both Dr. Darren McClellan and Rev. Laura Parker have indicated their intention to remain elders in the United Methodist Church, so if Fairhope UMC were to disaffiliate, both of them presumably would be reassigned to other UMC churches or some other role within the UMC. If Fairhope UMC were to disaffiliate, some process, including who gets to make the decisions, will need to be created for locating candidates and ultimately selecting someone to serve as pastor. This will be true irrespective of whether the church decides to remain independent like Vestavia Hills, join the Free Methodist Church like Frazier UMC, or join the Global Methodist Church. Someone might be selected to serve in a temporary or transitional role while a process for selecting a new pastor is established.  

All staff members are employees of the church and, as such, would decide whether they wished to remain as employees of the disaffiliated church. The Discernment Team does not presume to speak for staff about what they might do since, until there is a disaffiliation, a number of factors are unknown. For example, will the budget of the disaffiliated church be equal to or greater than the current budget since this would relate both to the ability to pay staff and the ability to support any roles staff may have within the church. The same also will be true with whether new church pastors and leaders would have the same, or different, visions for the church and the ministries it offers. These are all unknowns at this time and staff might not know their preferences until whatever changes take place are instituted.



  1. Why have you not answered my previous questions? I needed to know before I sat here today. Why ask more questions?

The Discernment Team as a whole reviews all the responses to ensure they are accurate and truthful. The questions from all three information sessions, as well as questions submitted through the website will be posted and answered on the website as soon as possible. We appreciate your patience.

  1. What percentage of our church membership have attended 1 of 3 diversity workshops?

Approximately 400 people attended the informational meetings out of a total church membership of 2661. The meeting video will be posted for continued viewing on the discernment team section of the church website.

  1. In the interest of transparency and uncensored information, will you be making public the results of the responses to "The Four Types of United Methodist" sheet that was handed out at the Discernment Team presentations. I think many in our congregation are just as interested as you all are in where our members stand. I know we are.

Yes, that will be part of the Discernment Team’s report.


  1. Why don’t we think this is a slippery slope?

We are not sure what this question intended of “what” was the slippery slope?


  1. The Discernment Committee has been diligent in examining the issue before us. These briefings appeared to be a safe place here in the sanctuary-to hear all sides of the issue. I was offended that a special interest group hijacked the briefings by passing out their opinion paper. The attempt to turn the briefing into a popularity contest and making a mockery of the process.
  2. There needs to be a vote.
  3. If we are not addressing the HUMANITY of this issue, then the business issues and legalism do not matter.
  4. The discernment team needs to point out to members UMC is jurisdictional; meaning the West district has no authority over our district that is conservative. What is happening in California will never happen here.

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