Update - August 11, 2023

We have received notice from Rev. Fred Britton, our District Superintendent, of a date and time for our church’s vote on whether to disaffiliate.


The St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church will have a special called church conference on Sunday, September 10, 2023.  The conference will be held in the sanctuary of St. Matthew’s UMC beginning at 2:00 p.m. The sole purpose of this meeting will be to discuss and vote upon the Certification of the Local Church filed with the Mississippi Conference of the UMC, Inc.


Here are some important details:


  1.          All full members of the congregation will have the right to vote.
  2.          The vote will be taken by secret ballot.
  3.          The results of the voting will be reported to the church conference before adjournment.
  4.          For the motion to pass, a minimum of two-thirds of the full members present and voting must vote in favor of the motion.
  5.          Once the voting is closed, no other ballots will be accepted by the tellers.
  6.          There will be no absentee ballots or proxies allowed.
  7.          The ballots will be supplied by the district office on the date of the church conference. They will be maintained as a permanent record of the voting results by the Mississippi Annual Conference.


As we prayerfully approach this called church conference, I encourage you to join me in the Bible study provided by the Conference "Exploration for Biblical Discernment."  Andy Stoddard will lead sessions on the next couple of Wednesday nights, or you can find the information on the church's website.

There are some additional documents that our church must provide to the District Superintendent no later than five business days before the conference.  I will personally see that these requirements are met in a timely manner.


If you have any questions about any of this information, please feel free to contact me.


Sherribeth Wright


Thanks to Rev. Lauren Porter and Rev. Steve Casteel for being with us for this conversation

In our continuing process of discernment, the team will hold an anonymous in-person survey for church members with 1 question:

Select one:

-I desire to leave the UMC

-I desire to stay in the UMC

The survey will be held on 2 consecutive Sundays, in Perry Fellowship Hall

Sunday, July 9th and July 16th

from 7:30 am until 1:00 pm.

If you are not available on either of the above 2 Sundays there will also be an absentee survey completion in the church office (conference room)  on

Thursday, July 6th, from 3-6 pm and

Monday, July 10th, from 3-6 pm

Results will be tallied late Sunday, July 16.

Please email your questions to team@stm-umc.org.

What is the purpose of the discernment process at St. Matthew’s?

St. Matthew’s, along with many other churches throughout the United Methodist Church, is engaged in a process to discern whether our church should remain affiliated with the UMC.  This team is reflecting upon what the UMC believes (doctrine) and how the UMC is organized (polity) and where we find ourselves in the midst of deeper UMC conversation. 

Much, but not all, of the current tension is related to conflict regarding human sexuality.  We are listening to church members, talking to other individuals and leaders, and most importantly, praying for God’s guidance as we go through the process.

What is the United Methodist Church’s position related to the ordination or marriage of homosexuals?

The United Methodist Church is governed by the Book of Discipline. Much of the current debate in the church centers around human sexuality and the UMC stance on human sexuality as stated in the Book of Discipline. Among the statements in the Book of Discipline regarding human sexuality are these two:

Paragraph 304: 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.

Paragraph 341: 6: Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.

What is meant by “disaffiliation”?  What is the process for a church to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church?  I have heard about disaffiliation and Paragraph 2553 in the Book of Discipline. What is it?

In 2019, a temporary paragraph was added to the Book of Discipline, which gave a process by which a church could disaffiliate from their Annual Conference if they disagreed with the UMC’s position on human sexuality.

For a local church to disaffiliate, two things must happen. First, the church must hold a called church conference for all local church members and must reach a 67% (2/3) vote to leave the denomination. Members must be present to vote.

Second, if that 67% threshold is reached, the church must pay two years of apportionments and the church’s share of the unfunded pension (together called a “Covenant Fee”).

This paragraph sunsets at the end of 2023. The original intent was for the Protocol for Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation to pass in 2020, thus giving local churches three years to discern what they would do. After the 2020 General Conference was postponed, the Mississippi Annual Conference Board of Trustees passed a resolution allowing churches to use a different section of the Discipline to disaffiliate. The Board of Trustees has stated that Paragraph 2549 of the Discipline will be used by the Annual Conference to facilitate the disaffiliation of local churches, using similar requirements as those set forth in Paragraph 2553. Several other Conferences have also expressed an intention to use this alternative path to disaffiliation. This alternative path will allow Mississippi churches to disaffiliate through Annual Conference 2025.

I keep hearing “Protocol.” What does that mean?

The Protocol for Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation (Protocol) was legislation that was proposed going into the 2020 General Conference and was on track to be passed. This legislation would have given a more orderly path for an entire Annual Conference to withdraw from the UMC and then would have allowed any local church to withdraw from its Annual Conference if it did not agree with the Annual Conference’s choice.

This legislation will come before the 2024 General Conference as well.

Exactly what do we owe if we disaffiliate now?

The amount we will owe for our covenant fees is unknown at this exact moment, we will know more after our information meeting with David Stotts, Conference Treasure and Rev. Dr. Stephen Cook, our District Superintendent on March 23, 2023. That number is based on two years of apportionments and our share of the unfunded pension liability.

Will we have a denomination to join if we leave? What are most churches doing as far as a denomination?

If St. Matthew’s chooses to disaffiliate, there are several options for connection: long-standing denominations – Free Methodist, Independent Methodist, and Congregational Methodist, to name a few, as well as a newer denomination – Global Methodist. There is also the option of remaining independent.

Will we still have to pay the same amount or more if we decide to disaffiliate after the 2024 General Conference?

Our Conference Board of Trustees has resolved to extend the spirit of Paragraph 2553 through the use of Paragraph 2549 through Annual Conference 2025. The procedures used in this proposed process will be made clear in the Preconference Report to be published this Spring.

Are UMC churches required to hold a vote on disaffiliation?

No, no church is required to vote a disaffiliation.  They would remain United Methodist. 

If a church chooses to move forward on disaffiliation, then the process of Paragraph 2553 must be followed through December 31, 2023.  If a church chooses to disaffiliate after that, they will follow the path given by Conference Trustees as mentioned in the previous question. 

Why can’t a UMC church just pull out or leave without going through this process?

One of the foundational concepts of the UMC is what is called connectionalism. Going back to John Wesley’s day, for all Methodist any deeded property has a trust clause.  This means that all United Methodist property is held in “trust” by the Annual Conference.  As long as that church remains United Methodist, the management and ownership of the property belong to the local congregation’s board of trustees.  If the congregation chooses to leave or withdraw from the Conference, the property’s trust “lien” causes the property to revert to the Conference’s trustees. The local church owns and operates the property independently as long as it is used for United Methodist worship.

It is the connectional structure that also is the foundation for the “appointment” of clergy by the Annual Conference. 

If we disaffiliate, will our pastors remain the same?

The way we recruit, retain, and release clergy leadership will be different if St. Matthew’s disaffiliates. Based upon choices made (independent or affiliation with another tradition), the calling of the clergy will be more of what is understood as a “call” system, along with potential guidance from potential denominational structures.

In the same way, St. Matthew’s discerns its future; your current clergy will also discern how and where they are called.

How can I learn factual information and not just ‘hearsay’?

Talk to your clergy and your Discernment Team. One of the promises your clergy have made is to withhold personal opinion regarding this process so that their voices can be trusted and seen as impartial. Their only desire is to help St. Matthew’s be who St. Matthew’s is and make the best decisions based on the known facts.

My family is Progressive. What are the chances that a more progressive approach will be taken in the Book of Discipline in 2024/My family is Traditional. What are the chances that the Traditional language concerning Human Sexuality in the Book of Discipline will be upheld?

In 2024, delegates from around the United States and international (central) conferences will gather for our next General Conference. General Conference meets every four years, but our most recently scheduled one (for 2020) was postponed because of COVID. There will be legislation considered for many different areas of the church, including human sexuality.

At every General Conference, the Conference must consider all legislative items it receives. All legislative items before the General Conference are proposals only.  They have no force unless a General Conference approves them.

While no one knows what General Conference will decide, we know that the delegates from Africa will vote for Traditional language, and the African delegates constitute approximately 32% of the total delegates at General Conference.

Even if the Book of Discipline remains the same on Human Sexuality, who will make sure that it is not violated?

The Discipline calls for the Bishop of each Annual Conference to enforce the Discipline. Some bishops in other parts of the US have refused to enforce the Discipline. Legislation will be submitted to General Conference to call for greater accountability for Bishops and Annual Conferences for upholding and keeping the letter and spirit of the Discipline. It is unknown whether this legislation will be passed.

How many delegates do we have going to the 2024 General Conference from Mississippi? Are most delegates from America?

Mississippi elects five clergy delegates and five lay delegates. Fifty-six percent of the delegates to the rescheduled General Conference are from American Annual Conferences. Thirty-two percent are from African Central Conferences.

What is WCA? GMC?

The Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA) is a group of United Methodists established in the mid-2010s whose purpose is to call the UMC to remain faithful to its theological and social teachings. It is one of several “renewal” groups you may have heard of – WCA, Good News, and the Confessing Movement.

The Global Methodist Church (GMC) is a new Methodist/Wesleyan denomination that was launched in May 2022 following the Commission on the General Conference’s decision to postpone General Conference until 2024. It is a denomination that was announced in preparation for the Protocol, which was on track to be passed at the postponed 2020 General Conference.

Are there any important dates to keep in mind? What is the timeline for this process?

Here are the key dates:

June 2023 – Annual Conference

August 1, 2023 -  local church lay leadership requests an Exploration Meeting in writing by email or letter to the district superintendent.

September 10, 2023 - the end date for the Exploration Meetings in the local churches. The last day to enter the disaffiliation process is within 30 days of your Exploration Meeting.

October 25, 2023 - all church conferences to hold the official disaffiliation will be completed. 

December 9, 2023 – Called Annual Conference to vote on any disaffiliations.

April 2024 – General Conference

June 2024 – Annual Conference

June 2025 – Annual Conference (conclusion of Conference extension of disaffiliation through Paragraph 2549 as an alternative to the expired Paragraph 2553)


David Stotts will provide more specifics for St. Matthew’s at our March 23 meeting.


I could use a simple timeline of past, present, and future.


2016 – General Conference forms Commission on the Way Forward to propose an answer to issues of human sexuality in the UMC

2019 – A special called General Conference adopts the Traditional Plan, which affirms current UMC position on sexuality (no gay weddings nor the appointment of active homosexual clergy). As part of that Paragraph 2553 was included.

2020 – General Conference postponed

2021 – General Conference postponed

2023 – Sunset of Paragraph 2553

2024 – Next General Conference

June 2025 – Annual Conference (conclusion of Conference extension of disaffiliation through Paragraph 2549 as an alternative to the expired Paragraph 2553)


What can I do to help?

Pray for your church!  Continue to worship, give, serve and be a part of the amazing things that God is doing here!  Voice your concerns to our team – you can email them at team@stm-umc.org.  Pray for the members of this team – Mimi Arthur, Patrick Davis, Casey Farmer, Gay Huff, Joey Hull, Randy Lynn, Barbara “BAM” Magruder, John Moore, Suzanne Parker, Kaye Schloemer, Thais Walden, Chris, Wells, and Joyce Williams. 

Pray for your clergy and staff.

Continue to be at work for the Kingdom of God through St. Matthew’s!


Click here if you would like to download a PDF copy of the Frequently Asked Questions. 

Our Discernment team also recommends these videos:

Rev. Andy Stoddard giving an overview of our United Methodist Structure

Rev. Rob Renfroe on why churches should disaffiliate

Rev. Adam Hamilton one why churches should stay United Methodist