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Discerning the Way Forward with hope

Please note the Mount Pisgah Church Council Executive Committee has prepared this webpage reflecting the facts and information as presently understood and communicated by the United Methodist Church. This situation has been dynamic, evolving, and changing over the course of the past several years and even as recently as the June 2022 North Georgia Annual Conference. As new information and guidance from the United Methodist Church is provided, if any, additional steps and considerations may come to bear. We will update this webpage as appropriate to continue to proactively inform the people of Mount Pisgah.

The Church Council would like to invite you to attend a live webinar on Sunday, August 14th, at 2:00 for an update on our discernment process as a church body and a time for Q&A. Church Council leadership will share a presentation and update you on the information they have considered to lead us into this season of discernment on how to best live out the mission of Mount Pisgah that we have embraced now for almost 200 years.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Who made the decision for Mount Pisgah to begin the process of discernment regarding our future with the United Methodist Church?

A majority of the Church Council voted on June 23, 2022 to begin a discernment process to explore the possibility of disaffiliation from the UMC. While this was the day the Church Council voted, the topic of discernment and disaffiliation had been discussed at several other Church Council meetings. This decision was not made lightly nor without prayer, significant discussion, and training for the Church Council members on the discernment process.

Why did the Church Council make this decision?

The United Methodist denomination is already experiencing the disaffiliation of some churches. The disaffiliation of other churches seems inevitable. The current process for Mount Pisgah to disaffiliate expires December 31, 2023 based on changes made at the last General Conference in 2019. 

What is “disaffiliation” from the United Methodist Church (UMC)?

“Disaffiliation” is a process whereby a United Methodist Church can separate from the United Methodist Church Denomination while keeping its property and assets. Since Mount Pisgah is a United Methodist Church, if we want to separate from the denomination, this process is required.

Has Mount Pisgah or its leadership decided to separate or disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church (UMC)?

No.  The decision to disaffiliate from the UMC is a congregational one and requires a vote by professing members of the congregation present at a specially called church conference.  We have decided to begin a period of discernment, or a process of discernment, with the congregation to determine our future course of action for Mount Pisgah.

Would anything change at Mount Pisgah because of a disaffiliation from the UMC?

Everything you know and love about Mount Pisgah would continue as usual. Worship would remain the same. Our Mount Pisgah in Spanish ministry would continue to thrive and grow.  Our Atlanta Indian Prayer Fellowship would continue to conduct vital discipleship. Our plans to reach out to the younger persons in our community would continue as planned.  All persons would continue to be welcome to join the community of faith at Mount Pisgah. Our property and assets would be under the complete control of our local church body. We would hire our own senior pastor and all other pastors. We would no longer be able to use the “Cross and Flame” symbol. It would be necessary to drop “United Methodist” from our church name, but we could retain the name “Mount Pisgah” or “Mount Pisgah Methodist”.

Has Mount Pisgah ever been faced with this kind of discernment process before in considering denominational affiliation?

 Yes. In our 191 year history there have been several seasons of discernment that resulted in Mount Pisgah choosing to be affiliated over the years with four different Methodist denominations: the Episcopal Methodist Church (1831); the Episcopal Methodist Church South (1865); the Methodist Church (1939); and finally, the United Methodist Church (1968).

Why is Mount Pisgah evaluating the process of disaffiliation from the United Methodist Church?

It is no secret that the United Methodist Denomination has been involved in an on-going and intensifying conflict. This conflict intensified after the 2019 General Conference. A theologically diverse group developed a proposal to allow amicable separation to occur known as the “Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation.” This legislation was to be voted on at the 2020 General Conference. The 2020 General Conference was postponed several times and most recently has been postponed/cancelled until 2024. The result is a continuing escalation of the conflict within the denomination. A number of churches have already disaffiliated, and it seems inevitable that others will follow. At least one succeeding denomination, The Global Methodist Church, has already announced its formation. There is a high probability that there will be additional denominations formed as well.

 

While the conflict stems from a deep theological division, much of the focus has been on performing same-sex marriages and the ordination of clergy who are professed, active homosexuals. However, the issues that divide our denomination are much deeper and more complex, and include the Divinity and Lordship of Jesus Christ, the Authority of Scripture, the virgin birth, the Resurrection, the uniqueness of Christianity, and the sinless life of Jesus. 

Why are we acting now?

As stated at the June 2-4, 2022 North Georgia Annual Conference Session, the process to disaffiliate requires that a request to disaffiliate be submitted to the District Superintendent between January 1, 2023 and February 28, 2023 for disaffiliation to be approved by the Annual Conference in June 2023.  Prior to submitting such a request, a local United Methodist church must have gone through a period of discernment with the congregation to determine if that is the correct course of action for that congregation.  We want to be sure we have ample time for Godly discernment and prayer within our congregation.

What happens next in the process of discernment regarding disaffiliation?

On June 23, 2022, the Church Council voted to officially begin the process of discernment regarding disaffiliation.  This fall we will be conducting a series of congregational church family meetings and discussions as we work through the discernment process.  Prior to the end of this year (2022) and at the completion of the discernment process, the Church Council will make a determination on sending a letter requesting that Mount Pisgah begin the disaffiliation process to our District Superintendent. If sent, the letter would request that he call a “Church Conference” whereby all of the professing members of Mount Pisgah can vote whether or not to disaffiliate or remain in the UMC. Only professing members are allowed to vote, per the Book of Discipline of the UMC and the guidelines for disaffiliation provided by the North Georgia Annual Conference. The letter would also request that Mount Pisgah be provided with the cost to be paid for disaffiliating. You will be informed of the time for this Church Conference if and when it is scheduled.

Who can vote?

Only “professing members” of Mount Pisgah can vote. Professing members are those who have officially joined Mount Pisgah. Anyone who wishes to attend is welcome. At the close of 2021, Mount Pisgah reported to the Annual Conference 6320 professing members on its rolls; however, 4663 consistently take part in the activities of the church.

If I’m a member, do I have to be present in-person to vote?

Yes.

If I’m not a member, can I vote? How do I find out if I’m a member?

No. Send inquiries to tpadmin@mountpisgah.org.

What happens following the Church Conference?

If the Church Council decides to hold a Church Conference to vote on disaffiliation and if two-thirds of those present and voting professing members approve of disaffiliation, the Mount Pisgah Trustees will enter into an “agreement” with the Conference Board of Trustees of the North Georgia conference of the UMC.

 

This agreement will spell out the details and legalities of moving forward. The agreement will involve a financial cost to leave the denomination. The cost includes Mount Pisgah’s share of the North Georgia Conference’s unfunded pension liability for clergy, currently retired and active. Per the terms of the disaffiliation legislation passed by the 2019 General Conference it also includes two years of the apportionments we pay annually to the North Georgia Conference. These payments honor a system which Mount Pisgah has been a part of for a long time. As part of the RISE initiative, Mount Pisgah has funds available to cover these costs without compromising any of our current activities. Following this process, Mount Pisgah will become an independent church, not connected to a denomination, with the possible option of joining another denomination at a later date.

If Mount Pisgah disaffiliates from the UMC, how will it be appointed a pastor?

There are 70 churches in North Georgia that disaffiliated from the UMC at this year’s North Georgia Annual Conference session. It is anticipated that there will be additional churches that will follow since the postponement of General Conference until 2024. These churches are putting together pools of potential pastoral candidates. If Mount Pisgah chooses to affiliate with one of the new denominations, they will also have candidates available. Additionally, in either case, Mount Pisgah will select its own senior pastor as well as the other pastors. 

Can I get more information before the vote?

Yes, Mount Pisgah will be holding “church family” style meetings and discussions during this Fall. When these are scheduled, they will be advertised in the church bulletin, during worship announcements, via e-mail, and on the website. Please plan to attend to have your questions answered.

How will Mount Pisgah remain financially viable, both now and in the future?

Mount Pisgah will remain financially viable through God’s continued grace and your continued generosity. Mount Pisgah does not receive any funding from the North Georgia Conference. In addition, Mount Pisgah will continue to pay apportionments to the North Georgia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church until such time as it formally disaffiliates, should such a determination be made. If Mount Pisgah disaffiliates, apportionments would no longer be paid.

What happens if Mount Pisgah doesn’t disaffiliate?

If Mount Pisgah doesn’t disaffiliate, it will remain a United Methodist Church, including all property and assets remaining in trust with the North Georgia Conference.

What does it mean to hold property “in trust”?

A term used to describe property held by a person who is not the owner but who is a trustee or an agent. Holding property in trust for The United Methodist Church means the “holder” is required to use the property exclusively for the purposes of and to benefit The United Methodist Church. It also means that if, at any point, it becomes clear the holder can no longer or chooses no longer to function as part of The United Methodist Church, it forfeits all rights to continue to hold the property, and the property itself and all other assets transfer to the denomination. In the case of a local church, the property and all assets of the local church would transfer to the Annual Conference Board of Trustees.

This means that Mount Pisgah is not the owner of our property or assets. Rather the trustees of Mount Pisgah are ‘agents’ for the UMC and the UMC owns all of the assets.

Could the Conference close Mount Pisgah?

Yes, this is a possibility.  Several churches smaller in size than Mount Pisgah have already been closed. When a church is closed the assets of the local church automatically transfer to the Annual Conference Board of Trustees.

What can I do to support Mount Pisgah’s future?

The first thing to do is to pray. Pray for Mount Pisgah, other churches that choose to disaffiliate and those that will remain in the UMC. Additionally, be informed and be prepared to vote at the appropriate time. Finally, continue to support Mount Pisgah with your presence and your gifts.