Pastoral Letter to the Church and Pastors in Oklahoma
I appreciate the ministries of our local churches and pastors. There is so much good being done through our ministry and witness. Please know that I am praying for each of you during this summer season.
The Conference is also blessed with an outstanding conference staff and excellent district superintendents. Everyone is working well together with a strong commitment to the mission of the church and dedication to serve with excellence in ministry. I express my gratitude to each of the colleagues with whom I serve.
In this brief letter, I wish to address a rumor, some misconceptions about the disaffiliation process, a common question about a pastor’s right to vote at a Charge or Church Conference and false assertions which question our theological doctrines.
I generally do not address rumors, but in this case, I wish to dispel any rumor that I plan to retire at the end of 2022. I fully intend to serve through the remaining quadrennium. Moreover, I am eligible to serve until 2028. When appropriate, I will follow the Disciplinary process for retirement for bishops in ¶408.2 and will notify you of my intentions. At this point I expect to continue to serve the three conferences to which I am currently assigned. Formal assignments will be recommended and approved by the Jurisdictional Conference at the November 2-5 meeting and will take effect January 1, 2023.
In the past week, the disaffiliation process has been misrepresented to several Oklahoma Conference churches. I have received letters requesting disaffiliation using ¶2548.2. Each letter appears to be derived from a common source, which has not considered United Methodist polity or the disaffiliation policy of the Oklahoma Conference. Sadly, this is misinformation and adds unnecessary costs to a local church when the church pays additional attorney fees for this advice.
¶2548.2 is intended for deeding property and does not address the other issues in disaffiliation. The question of the use of ¶2548.2 for the purpose of disaffiliation is currently being considered by the Judicial Council. The paragraph, which requires my approval to be utilized by a local church, will not be used for disaffiliation unless given the approval of the Judicial Council and a plan for its use is developed and incorporated into the policies of the Oklahoma Conference. Regardless whether ¶2548.2 or ¶2553 is used for disaffiliation, a local church is not released from unfunded pension liabilities as determined by Wespath, nor is a church released from required apportionment obligations or the retiree health supplement as determined by the Oklahoma Annual Conference. Please contact Rev. Tish Malloy for questions related to disaffiliation.
Questions have been raised as to whether a clergy person in full connection has the right to vote at a Church or Charge Conference. The answer is yes, clergy under appointment have the right to vote at a Charge or Church Conference, as well as other entities identified in ¶244.3. Likewise, retired clergy and clergy appointed to extension ministries who elect to hold their membership in the charge conference can also vote because they are considered members of that charge/church conference pursuant to ¶246.2, 344.3.
I have received reports from a few lay persons that the foundational theological doctrines of the UMC are in the process of being eliminated - specifically, that the UMC will abandon historical doctrines of the Trinity, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the elimination of the Articles of Religion of the Church. These assertions are conjecture, speculation, or falsehoods that seek to evoke fear and distrust.
The Constitution of the UMC safeguards these historic doctrines and beliefs. I encourage you to review the Articles of Religion in ¶104 of the Book of Discipline. These articles contain the basic UMC doctrines. I also refer you to the Restrictive Rules of the UMC Contained in ¶¶17-22. Article I declares, “The General Conference shall not revoke, alter, or change our Articles of Religion or establish any new standards or rules of doctrine contrary to our present existing and established standards of doctrine.” Article II states, “The General Conference shall not revoke, alter, or change our Confession of Faith.”
I reiterate this statement in the Book of Discipline: “The UMC affirms that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Savior of the world, and the Lord of all” (¶121).
In conclusion, I ask for your prayers and pledge to pray for each of you as I fulfill the vows I made at my ordination and consecration to uphold the Book of Discipline.
In the Service of Jesus Christ,