By Chuck Griffin, Holston WCA President
I took a day to process events of our Holston Annual Conference gathering, and I can tell several of you have done so, too, judging from the expressions of disappointment I have heard since we adjourned Wednesday.
Going in, I know some of you had hoped that a surprising way out of the UMC would take shape—that grace would prevail, moving us beyond the onerous, exit-fee laden disaffiliation process now being presented to traditional Methodist churches.
There’s no use in rehashing the highly structured events of the conference. (At least our bishop is organized.) There was one bright spot in our business meetings, however, and it’s going to make a huge difference over the next few weeks for churches trying to discern a path out of the United Methodist Church.
Our Holston WCA board secretary, the Rev. Todd Chancey, managed to push through a resolution forcing conference staff to publish online all of the Holston churches’ pension liabilities. The conference position had been that churches were not entitled to know this particularly expensive exit fee until after they had nearly completed the disaffiliation process.
Most departing churches do not know right now whether they will be required to eat a mouse or an elephant to get out of the UMC. Both are distasteful, but one is more manageable than the other.
We are going to know soon, though. The resolution requires the pension liability data to be available by July 8. As soon as it is posted, we will send the link around.
Once you look at the pension liability number, add in 12 to 18 months’ worth of tithe payments and what it will cost to do a survey of your property. You very well may find there’s an elephant on your plate.
Again, you can always ask us for help by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We do see other options on the horizon.
I should mention another resolution that passed, simply because it illustrates how liberals and institutionalists in our conference are sticklers for using the UM Book of Discipline when it suits them and casual about the Discipline when they find it inconvenient.
Resolution No. 1 passed 361-323. Basically, if someone is charged with violating the paragraphs related to prohibitions against same-sex marriage or the ordination of self-avowed, practicing homosexuals, the resolution recommends that punitive actions be suspended until the first annual conference following the General Conference scheduled for 2024. The bishop seemed to indicate from the dais that the Discipline will continue to be enforced in the Holston Conference.
Another important event occurred elsewhere while we were at annual conference.
Five one-time supporters of the General Conference legislation known as the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation pulled out of the agreement, effectively killing it.
For those traditionalists who were wanting to wait until 2024, thinking relief would come then—well, you might want to give up on that idea.