FROM THE PASTOR
April 27, 2022
To Members of Bethlehem United Methodist Church:
Greetings from the Administrative Board, Elder Board and Brother Jeff. We are writing you a letter as member of Bethlehem United Methodist Church to bring you up today as to where we are in the disaffiliation process from the United Methodist Church (UMC). We are also informing you as to the current status of the UMC.
During General Conference of 2019 in Saint Louis, the UMC delegates met from all around the world. The main topic was to discuss and to determine if the UMC would maintain its current doctrine on traditional marriage between one woman and one man or would the UMC vote to allow homosexual marriage to be accepted, performed and embraced in the UMC. By a close vote, the delegates voted to maintain the Biblical view of marriage between one man and one woman. However, many people were upset at the vote and people begin to organize to rebuff the decision. So, a group of leaders from the traditional side, a group of leaders from the progressive side and a group of leaders from the centrist side all came together to propose a solution to the conflict. The group would put forth the solution called “PROTOCOL OF RECONCILIATION & GRACE THROUGH SEPARATION.” This protocol would allow each church to align itself with its belief as to marriage, ultimately splitting the denomination into two or three rather than one. This protocol would be voted on at the 2020 General Conference of the UMC. Due to Covid19, the 2020 General Conference was pushed to 2021. And due to Covid19, the 2021 conference was pushed to 2022. The UMC bishops met in late February 2022 and voted yet again to push the 2022 General Conference to 2024. The UMC is now at an all-time low as to unity, identity and direction.
On August 8, 2021, Bethlehem held a church meeting to discuss the future of the Bethlehem family as it relates to the United Methodist Church. In that meeting the Administrative Council, along with the church elders, recommended that Bethlehem inquire about the possibility of disaffiliation from the United Methodist Church. After evidence was presented as to why Bethlehem should disaffiliate, a straw vote was taken. The vote was unanimous: 137 yes to pursue disaffiliation to zero (0) not to pursue. Following the meeting, the Mississippi Annual Conference was notified. The conference then set up a meeting with Bethlehem on September 6, 2021 to explain the process of disaffiliation. David Stotts, the Mississippi Annual Conference treasurer, explained the options of disaffiliation. In short, option
one was to close the church, but buy back the assets of the church at a discounted price. The second option was to disaffiliate under the 2019 disaffiliation plan that passed during General Conference of 2019. This is the plan that David recommended for Bethlehem. Under this plan, the total cost of payout would be $244,393. This amount was determined by adding two years of apportionments plus Bethlehem’s share of the unfunded retirement plan in the Mississippi Annual Conference.
Brother Jeff, the Administrative Board and the Elders have continued to meet, pray and seek information to determine Bethlehem’s future with UMC. We have found no evidence or reason why we think we should remain in the UMC. The UMC has become so toxic that churches all over the world are disaffiliating at a rate never thought of. Therefore, we have scheduled a Church Conference on Wednesday, May 18th, 2022 at 7:00 P.M. to vote whether to disaffiliate or remain with the UMC. This is a members-only vote and you must be present to vote. If the vote carries on a 662/3 vote, Bethlehem will become Bethlehem Church of New Albany. We will maintain the current discipline, polity and theological belief that we currently adhere to. We will maintain the current leadership format that we now use. The Administrative Council is working hard on the other aspects of the structures of the new Church, such as clergy benefits, church insurance and financing the payout.
Please plan to attend the meeting on May 18th to cast your vote.
Grace and peace,
Rev. Dr. Jeff Lawrence