FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

We know that you may have questions about the discernment process. Please use the sections below to navigate between the topics. Please let us know if there are questions you have that may not be listed. 


To view and download a list of all FAQ's, please click the document link below.

Discerning our Future FAQ's

spiritual discernment

  • There are a variety of ways to make decisions. In the church, sometimes spiritual discernment is used particularly during deep and challenging decision making. Spiritual discernment is setting oneself or the community apart for a time of deep listening for the Holy Spirit’s wisdom, insight and calling. It is not judging others (Matthew 7:1-2), but encountering God’s wisdom and understanding in others, the community of faith and ourselves for discerning God’s calling for the congregation and each of us individually.

  • The FUMC Shreveport Discernment Taskforce has developed and organized a 40 Day Discernment plan for our church that includes:

    • Prayer: 40 Days of Guided Prayers
    • Education: A series of big meetings designed to educate the church on the Theological and organizational Issues at hand.
    • Worship & Exploration: A series of Wednesday night meetings for church members to have any questions answered and expounded upon.
    • Conversation Circles: An opportunity for small group discussion.
    • Congregational Alignment: 
    •         At the end of the 40 days of Discernment, the Church Council will reconvene to consider the recommendation of the Task Force. 
    •         Should the Church Council elect to invoke paragraph 2553, the District Superintendent is notified and sets a Church Conference for the entire Church Body to vote.

theology

  • The UMC’s theological impasse is rooted in our differing beliefs regarding the authority of the Bible, interpretation of the Bible, its impact on how we live out our faith, and the Lordship of Jesus. 

    We acknowledge that some people identify as “Centrist” or “Compatibilist” and recognize parts, not all, of both Traditional and Progressive theology. However, for the purposes of our Discernment, the taskforce is detailing only the primary two theologies to clearly define the theologies with which we are having to align. 

    These are only some of the theological differences: 


    Traditional Methodism

    • Historic and Biblical; choose to reaffirm the traditional Biblical teachings. 
    • The Bible is The Word of God and divinely inspired by Him. Canon is closed. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
    • There is Absolute Truth in the Bible. Matthew 5:18
    • Jesus is “THE” way. John 14:6
    • If God says it is sin in the Bible, then it is sin; belief in original sin. 
    • Sin needs conviction, repentance, justification, conversion, salvation. 
    • Practice of homosexuality is a sin Romans 1:26-27
    • Transformation of the world is a consequence of making disciples of Jesus Christ; the church is not built on politics, but on Jesus. Matthew 28:19-20
    • Atonement & forgiveness is by faith in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Romans 3:38, 5:1; Ephesians 2:8-9

    • Believes the incarnation, virgin birth, physical death, and bodily resurrection of Jesus (Apostles and Nicene Creeds). 

    • Marriage is between one man and one woman; it is God’s design for procreation. Genesis 1: 27

    • We are made in the image of God and He created us male and female. Mark 10:6

    Progressive Methodism
    • Culturally Driven; Favor a secular worldview that is fluid and shaped by political pressure from social justice groups
    • The Bible contains words of God, but the writings are products of “the writers time in history” and is a fallible record of human experiences; Canon is open to accept “new revelations” 
    • Parts of the Bible are true. My truth is not your truth; people define their own truth
    • Jesus is “A” way.
    • Some things in the Bible might have been a sin then, but is not now; humans are born good; the story about the Garden of Eden is a myth. 
    • No need for repentance; universal salvation is a “civil right”; forgiveness is not a gift of grace. 

    • The practice of homosexuality is not a sin. 

    • Transformation of the world is through political action, often in line with liberal political causes. Promoting inclusion is the highest value of an unapologetic social justice agenda. 

    • Sin is corrected through acts of social justice and mercy; Jesus’ death on the cross was not necessary or divine. 

    • Progressive clergy have publicly professed their unbelief of these. Retired UMC Bishop, Joseph Sprague, denies the virgin birth. The self-avowed lesbian UMC Bishop, Karen Oliveto, preaches that Jesus was human and “like a hunk of clay, forming and reforming himself”. The memory of Jesus’ life and teachings inspired His disciples to think He was merely “spiritually alive”. 

    • Marriage is between two persons or any two gender identities; same sex marriage is a human-affirming rite and a sacramental act to be performed in church. 

    • Our identity does not come from God; God did not make us in his image. Our gender identity is given to us at birth by “those who care for us” and has nothing to do with biology. God created an infinite number of genders. 

  • is due to inconsistent or absent enforcement of Book of Discipline violations. Bishops are not holding clergy accountable, nor are they holding one another accountable. The Western Jurisdiction elected a partnered lesbian Karen Oliveto as a Bishop in 2016. In the Illinois Great Rivers Conference, a drag queen/gay man, Isaac Simmons (Ms. Penny Cost) is the first openly queer person to be certified as a Candidate for Ordained ministry, and the first drag queen to receive that title in the World. In the Baltimore-Washington Conference, retired Rev. Michael Johnson is now a trans woman identifying as Rev. Mary Johnson and is married to Bishop Peggy Johnson. 


    Two North Georgia Conference District Superintendents filed complaints against two North Georgia UMC elders for participating in a same-sex marriage at Glenn Memorial on the Emory campus in December 2021. Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson investigated the complaints and determined that the elders neither participated in the vows nor pronouncement. They only prayed and read scripture, so the complaints were dropped. The letter of the Book of Discipline law was kept, while the spirit was blatantly violated. 


    At their June 2021, the Florida Annual Conference approved resolutions that allow churches the ability to list members as male, female, or non-binary and allow co-lay leaders who are members of the self-identified LGBTQIA+ community. When updating clergy profiles with the United Methodist Church, ministers are to select male, female, or non-binary (neither male nor female, but usually under the umbrella of transgender). 

  • There are churches that self-title as “Progressive Christian Community.” Most people have never heard the term “progressive Christianity,” and even now it is difficult to describe what qualifies someone as a progressive Christian. Progressive Christianity represents a post-modern theological approach and is not necessarily synonymous with progressive politics. Although there is a focus on promoting values such as compassion, social justice, and tolerance, achieving these is often through political activism. Concerns of feminism are also a major influence on the movement. The Progressive Christian Bloggers Network, Center for Progressive Christianity, The Beatitudes Society, CrossLeft, Social Redemption and The Progressive Episcopal Church are all notable initiatives within the movement for Progressive Christianity. 


    Progressive Christianity developed out of the Liberal Christianity of the modern era, which was rooted in enlightenment thinking. It is a post-liberal movement within Christianity “that seeks to reform the faith via the insights of post-modernism and a reclaiming of the truth beyond the verifiable historicity and factuality of the passages in the Bible by affirming the truths within the stories that may not have actually happened”. It is characterized by a willingness to question tradition, accept human diversity with a strong emphasis on social justice, caring for the poor and oppressed, and environmental stewardship of the earth. It emphasizes right actions over right beliefs, and does not claim that Christianity is the only valid or viable way to connect to God. There is a deep belief in the centrality of instruction to “love one another” (John 15:17) within the teachings of Jesus Christ. 

human sexuality

  • News media coverage often highlights UMC clergy and/or congregations that either advocate for or stand against full inclusion of self-identified LGBTQIA+ persons as clergy and as couples married in the church. At FUMC Shreveport, discernment and decisions are focused on the primary matters of scriptural authority — what orthodox Christians have always believed about God, Jesus and the Bible — above matters of full inclusion.


    Regarding this specific topic, FUMC Shreveport relies on the Scriptures to guide all matters of human relations, including sexuality.

  • The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church has been the same on this matter since 1972, and yet it is disregarded by progressive clergy and congregations across the denomination with no accountability or enforcement.


    Paragraph 304.3 of The Discipline says, “The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore, self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.”


    FUMC Shreveport has always followed The Discipline and will continue to for as long as necessary, in adherence to the authority of Scripture regarding marriage (Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:4-5) and sexual practices outside of marriage (Romans 1:26-27, Leviticus 18:22).


    FUMC Shreveport stands with many other churches condemning the increasing defiance and disobedience against The Discipline on this matter.

    • FUMC Shreveport views all people as individuals of sacred worth. Therefore, LGTBQIA+ persons have been welcome, are welcome and will be welcome and invited to participate in worship as lay congregants or in ministry programs as lay participants. 
    • Just as we have always done, we will continue to extend welcome, grace, and respect to all who call FUMC Shreveport their church home and all people seeking a relationship with Christ.
  • Yes, it is true that rumors of an “amicable denomination separation” have been bubbling up for decades. At the 2016 General Conference, the need for “a split” became so strong, ugly, and dysfunctional that an amicable separation or “just getting along and living together” was deemed impossible. At a 2019 special “called” General Conference, a plan was approved for a “gracious and amicable split” to solve the conflict once and for all. A traditional “disaffiliation” plan was approved as an addition to the Book of Discipline (¶2553), but did not end the conflict. Progressives immediately rebelled against that plan. Twenty U.S. Annual Conferences passed resolutions repudiating the General Conference’s approval. Leading pastors and laity took out full-page ads in newspapers apologizing for the decision to approve the Traditional Plan. Those disagreements resulted in the creation of several other plans to pave the way for the denomination to resolve the conflict at the 2020 General Conference. The petitions for those plans are still valid agenda items for the August 29 – September 6, 2022 General Conference. Unfortunately, the 2022 General Conference has been postponed until 2024, thereby further delaying the opportunity to resolve this 50-year-old conflict. 

  • While human sexuality is the issue receiving the most public attention and debate, it is not the root issue. It is a symptom of a deeper divide about theological and institutional issues. By embracing and celebrating the popularity of homosexuality and same sex marriage, modern culture has forced the UMC to address the issues regarding self-identified LGBTQAI+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, asexual and intersex and other non-heterosexual and self-identified genders, i.e. gender fluid, gender queer, pansexual, polyamory, two spirit, allies, kink, and non-binary). The language regarding homosexuality in the Book of Discipline has remained constant for decades. Legislative petitions have been submitted by Methodist individuals and groups requesting removal of this language, which exposes theological differences in the beliefs regarding human sexuality. See https://www.resourseumc.org - General Conference 2020: Advance Daily Christian

  • Human Sexuality – Book of Discipline ¶162.G. “We affirm that all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God. All persons need the ministry of the Church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as their spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship that enables reconciling relationships with God, with others, and with self. The UMC does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching. We affirm that God’s grace is available to all. We will seek to live together in Christian community, welcoming, forgiving, and loving one another, as Christ has loved and accepted us”. 

    The UMC implores families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends. Everyone is welcome to worship and actively participate in the life of our churches. Laypersons may become members and live out their faith through their local church without respect to sexual orientation or practice. 


    Sexual relations are affirmed only within the monogamous, heterosexual marriage and a distinction is drawn between orientation and practice, or behavior. In 1976, ¶613 was added to the Book of Discipline “No board, agency, committee, commission, or council shall give United Methodist funds to any ‘gay caucus’ or group or otherwise use of such funds to promote the acceptance of homosexuality”. 

    The church has also maintained restrictions regarding clergy. In 1984, ¶304.3 was added that “Since the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching, self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be accepted as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in the UMC. ¶341.6 was added to the Book of Discipline “Ceremonies that celebrate same-sex unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches”. 


    Some members feel strongly that the church should uphold its current stances regarding gay clergy and marriage. Others strongly advocate for inclusion of self-identified LGBTQIA+ persons in all aspects of life in the church. To accomplish this inclusion, they want all prohibitive language regarding self-identified LGBTQIA+ persons abolished entirely from the Book of Discipline. 

  • It has been proven over decades that it is not possible to live together with the deep, theological differences. In the wisdom of Dolly Parton, “A bird and a fish can love each other, but where are they going to live?” Methodists can still have respect and compassion for one another, but cannot all live in the same house any longer. Separating into two expressions of faith is both a beginning and an end for both Traditionalists and Progressives - an end to conflict and uncertainty, and the beginning of vibrant denominations that can focus time and resources on missions and ministries instead of focusing on the conflicts that divide them. Still, there will be deep grief for all Methodists when separation happens. 


    Rick Warren (Senior Pastor, Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, CA) – “Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate”. 

  • Methodism is our expression of Christian faith, but the group is no longer “United.” Traditionalists feel they aren’t leaving. The church is leaving them. The goal was never about winning or taking over the UMC. The Traditionalist’s goal has always been to create a vibrant evangelical Wesleyan church that is fully focused on mission and ministry and not a church mired in a bloated bureaucracy, dysfunctional, divisive and struggling over sexuality. Traditionalists do not believe their future will be determined by getting all that is rightfully theirs. Trusting God’s grace and committing to doing his will leads to a faithful and fruitful future. 


    Traditionalists outnumber centrists and progressives, but do not have the votes to elect orthodox bishops in the more liberal jurisdictions. Centrists and Progressives have no incentive to leave. They control the power structure of the UMC as more Centrists and Progressives are being elected as General Conference Delegates in the U.S, and also in our Louisiana Annual Conference. 


    The “United” Methodist Church “name” never truly signified theologically united; it was rooted in the merger of the Evangelical United Brethren Church and The Methodist Church in 1968. A “name change” would require a super-majority vote at General Conference and ratification by Annual Conferences. 

Organizational Structure, Finances & Implications of Our Options

  • In recent months, many traditionalist United Methodist churches across the U.S. have been weighing whether to leave under Book of Discipline Paragraph 2553, titled “Disaffiliation of a Local Church Over Issues Related to Human Sexuality.”

    Though the denomination has a trust clause — meaning church properties are held in trust for the denomination — under 2553, churches can, through the end of 2023, leave with their buildings and other assets if they meet financial and voting requirements, and get annual conference approval. Reference

    https://www.umnews.org/en/news/large-texas-churches-vote-on-disaffiliation

  • General US UMC Membership has steadily declined every year since the 1968 Merger. Total US UMC Membership began at 10,990,720 in 1968 compared to the 6,268,310 in 2020. This is a 4.7M Decline in 52 years. The chart below details the decline by year and the number of members by Jurisdiction in 2020. 


    UMC US Membership Data since 1968 Merger      
    Year Members    
    1968 10,990,720    
    1973 10,192,265    
    1978 9,731,779    
    1983 9,291,936    
    1988 8,979,139    
    1993 8,646,595    
    1998 8,400,000    
    2003 8,186,254    
    2008 7,679,850    
    2013 7,299,753    
    2018 6,672,043    
          Total US Decline
    2020 6,268,310   4,722,410
           
           
    2020 membership by Jurisdiction      
    Name Members    
    North Central 1,000,109    
    Northeastern 1,025,203    
    South Central 1,476,111    
    Southeastern 2,504,062    
    Western* 262,825    
           
    Totals 6,268,310    
           


    *Note the most progressive Jurisdiction (Western) is also the smallest by far,
    and smaller than some individual annual conferences in the other jurisdictions.
         
  • The Trust Clause ¶2501 – Each congregation’s property is held in trust, for the benefit of the entire denomination. Property cannot be sold, bought, or substantially changed without the involvement of the district superintendent. Local churches do not own their church property and assets. 


    John Wesley instituted the Trust Clause during the Methodist Movement of the 18th century so that "those so appointed should preach no other doctrine than is contained in Mr. Wesley’s Notes upon the New Testament and four volumes of sermons” (Works of John Wesley, vol. 9).  The purpose of the Trust Clause was to protect the church from heterodox teaching which was inconsistent with the Scriptures and the received interpretation of the Wesleyan message as found in Wesley’s canonical sermons.   During the 20th Century, the Methodist denomination contextualized some of of ministry standards in the 1939 merger, and later advocated a more pluralistic theological approach in the 1968 merger, not so dissimilar to the current "Big Tent" rhetoric.  As a result the Trust Clause serves merely now as a requirement of institutional unity rather than its original purpose of assuring a unified theological doctrine and interpretation. 

  • Clergy may choose to affiliate with the denomination of their choice. The Wespath pension plan will remain intact for all clergy and church personnel who join the new denomination. Clergy pensions are protected by law, and no matter whether a pastor joins the post-split UMC, the GMC, another denomination, or simply quits the ministry, his or her pension is protected. 

    Health insurance differs from Annual Conference to Annual Conference. It is anticipated that similar standards for health insurance most clergy are familiar with today will be available in whatever denomination with which they align. 

    What is 2553?


    Paragraph 2553 is an addendum to the Book of Discipline that became effective in the close of General Conference 2019. This paragraph was added after the Traditional Plan was approved as an option for progressive churches with differing views on Sexuality and the institution of marriage to have an amicable way to separate. However, those churches opted not to invoke this option but rather proceed to disregard the Book of Discipline and the newly approved Traditional Plan knowingly and publicly. Subsequently, the failure to enforce any consequences for these violations has resulted in the situation we face today. The exact language of this addendum is in the link below. 


    https://www.umc.org/en/content/book-of-discipline-2553-disaffiliation-over-human-sexuality

Section Title

  • the governing body of the UMC; consists of elected clergy and laity from every Annual Conference; the official voice of the UMC; the only group allowed to make changes to the Book of Discipline; supposed to meet every four years; has not met for regular session since 2016.

  • The highest decision-making body in the UMC for questions of law

  • The Council of Bishops is made up of all active and retired bishops of The United Methodist Church. The Council meets twice a year. According to the Book of Discipline, “The Church expects the Council of Bishops to speak to the Church and from the Church to the world and to give leadership in the quest for Christian unity and interreligious relationships” (Paragraph 427.2).

  • Large geographic regions of UMC; consists of elected clergy and laity; meets every four years following General Conference; main purpose is to elect and assign bishops to Annual Conferences

  • A geographic region of within a Jurisdiction; oversight provided by a Bishop and Cabinet (a group of District Superintendents and other Conference level staff—all clergy); AC consists of clergy and laity from every congregation/charge within the Annual Conference; meets yearly; conducts the business of the Annual Conference

  • the process for a United Methodist congregation to leave the United Methodist Church

task force email contact

if you have any other questions, comments or concerns , please email the Discernment Taskforce at