- The Oklahoma Conference
- Ministry and Service
- Connectional Ministries
- Office of Transitional Ministry
- Disaffiliation Resources
- A Guide for Holy Conversations
The purpose of this “Guide for Holy Conversations: Shall We Remain a United Methodist Church or Consider Disaffiliation” is to provide a process of prayerful and respectful conversations for congregations determining God’s will regarding whether to remain United Methodist of consider disaffiliation.
What Churches Should Participate in this Process?
Let’s start with what churches should not participate in this process…
Many UMCs will find this process unnecessary because they strongly identify as UM and have no plans to be otherwise. While no denomination is perfect and all denominations change over time; these congregations find the doctrine and structure of the UMC to be a faithful expression of Christianity they can support and be supported by.
So what churches should utilize this process?…
UM congregations that include a significant number of members who are unsure that they experience the doctrine and structure of the UMC to be a faithful expression of Christianity that they can support should have these Holy Conversations in order to discern and confirm the will of God for their congregation going forward.
What Participants Must Believe:
-Prayer is essential. All participants in this process must covenant to pray for God’s guidance. Above all, participants must be seeking to understand and to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
-Participants must believe that our Lord, Jesus Christ commands us to love one another. As his followers they must covenant with God and each other to treat one another with kindness and compassion in agreement or disagreement. They must listen to one another with openness making every effort to come to a place of understanding and good will.
How is this process initiated?
The decision to participate in this process must be made by the Church Council (Administrative Board/Council) of the congregation. The pastor or any member of the church may request that the Church Council discuss and vote to proceed/not proceed with this process.
If the Church Council votes for the church to participate in this process, the Council Chair and the Pastor
should contact the District Superintendent (DS) and the Director of Transitional Ministries (DTM) to inform them of the decision. (An email including all will be sufficient.)
The DTM will then work with the Council Chair and Pastor through the process. S/he will provide written reports to the DS throughout the process.
Who participates in the Holy Conversations?
The Church Council will be responsible for selecting 2 teams to represent the congregation.
- A Prayer Team to commit to praying at least daily for God’s guidance throughout this process for the Holy Conversation Team (HCT) and the congregation.
- A HCT to go through the discussions, information gathering, and prayerful process to discern God’s will and make a recommendation to the Church Council regarding whether to or not to request that a Church Conference be held to vote on remaining UM or disaffiliating. The members will be:
- The Church Council will select 4-6 active lay members of the congregation to participate in the HCT.These members must be worshiping regularly and supporting the church with time, talents, and finances. They should represent a cross-section of the membership (various ages and life experiences… single, married, parents, etc.).If lay staff (who are also church members) are considered, no more than 2 should be selected.The other 2-4 lay members should be non-staff members.It is recommended that names be submitted and voted on by Church Council members confidentially in writing. Members of the HCT can be but do not have to be members of the Church Council.
- The pastor or where there is a senior pastor and 1 full-time associate; both pastors should participate.Where there are more than 1 full-time pastors; the senior pastor will participate as well as a full-time associate selected by the Church Council in a confidential written ballot.
- The DTM or a trained designee from the OK Annual Conference staff and a trained member of the OKUMC Denominational Transitions team will serve as “guides and recorders” of the process.
How much time will this process take?
Six weeks to four months.
There is no set time for these meetings to occur but in most settings, there will be three weeks to two months between each conversation.
Holy Conversations Process
Holy Conversation #1 – Prayer, Purpose and Process
- The meeting will open with prayer followed by clarification by the guides that the purpose of the HCT is to discern the will of God to the best of their ability as to whether to or not to hold a Church Conference to vote on remaining a UMC or disaffiliating from the UMC. At the completion of this process the HCT will make a recommendation to the Church Council as to their discernment of God’s direction.The Church Council will determine whether to or not to concur with the recommendation of the team.
- The HCT will develop a written covenant they can agree upon based on “What Participants Must Believe”.This covenant will be read by all members as a part of a time of prayer in each HCT meeting. Members will be invited to reflect upon the covenant and pray for the church and their community daily.
- Prior to this first meeting, the guides and pastor(s) will provide written information about the church and it’s surrounding community.This information will include demographic data such as behaviors, attitudes, and preferences of different segments in the surrounding community as well as church membership and outreach data.They will also provide written information about the current state of the UMC in reference to possible decisions to be made by the General, Jurisdictional, and Annual Conferences. Members will be expected to have read all the information prior to the meeting and to come prepared with questions for clarification.The remainder of the meeting will be for the purpose of HCT members sharing concerns, questions, and comments with the guides.The guides will take notes throughout. (If the church has already held meetings to discuss the future of the church it is helpful for the guides to receive any documents produced in advance of the first conversation.)
- The HCT will determine the date/time of their next meeting. The meeting will close with a reading of the covenant and a prayer.
Following this first HC, the guides will meet to develop a written report to be shared with the HCT and the DS. Should additions and corrections be made at the next HCT meeting, the DS will be informed. The guides will also develop a written response including information addressing issues raised in the first meeting. The report/response will be sent to the HCT to read prior to the second meeting. Copies will also be provided to the DS.
Additionally, the local church HCT members may want to meet prior to the second conversation to discuss options they would like to propose or further questions they have or have heard from church or community members. While these conversations are not necessarily confidential, there should not be reports made to the Church Council or congregation until the whole HCT has discerned the direction they believe God would have the church to go. All 3 conversations need to occur before implementing a course of action. Conversations about the process beyond the team should be hopeful in order to help lower anxiety in the congregation about the discernment process.
Holy Conversation #2 - Prayer, Reflection, and Options
- The meeting will open with a reading of the covenant and prayer followed by the HCT review the written report on the first conversation.During the review they will present additions and corrections. The guides will record the changes as well as the conversations in this second meeting.
- HCT members will share additional information, questions, and comments they gathered since the last conversation.They will also present any additional options to consider for the future that have been discussed since the last meeting.
- The HCT will review the written response provided to them which includes information requested by the HCT or that the guides felt would be helpful based on the first conversation.During this review the HCT will listen to the guides as they reflect on what they heard from the HCT and offer suggestions for their unique setting for ministry.
- The HCT will determine the date/time of their next meeting. The meeting will close with a prayer.
Following this second conversation, the guides will meet to develop a written report to be shared with the HCT and the DS. Should additions and corrections be made at the next HCT meeting, the DS will be informed. The guides will also develop a written response including information addressing issues raised in the second meeting. The report/response will be sent to the HCT to read prior to the third meeting. Copies will also be provided to the DS.
Additionally, the local church HCT members will meet prior to the third conversation to discuss the options under consideration and the process to this point. They may also want to discuss additional proposals or further questions they have or have heard from church or community members. They are encouraged to prepare a document in response to the process to this point.
Holy Conversation #3 – Prayer, Evaluation, Recommendation
- The meeting will open with a reading of the covenant and prayer followed by the HCT review thewritten report on the second conversation.During the review they will present additions and corrections. The guides will record the changes as well as the conversations in this third meeting.
- The HCT will evaluate the options presented and agree upon a recommendation for the next faithful steps they believe God is leading the congregation to take.The guides will assist the team throughout this time of discernment.
- The HCT will determine how and when they will report their discernment to the Church Council.
- The meeting will close with a prayer.
Following this third conversation, the guides will meet to write an overview of the entire process and the conclusion discerned by the HCT. This document will be shared with the HCT and the DS. The guides will attend the Church Council meeting as guests when the report of the HCT is made. They will be available for support and to offer clarification when asked.
When the Church Council votes to accept or not to accept the discernment of the HCT, the chair and pastor should inform the DS and DTM of the decision in writing. (An email including all will be sufficient.)