AFFILIATION OPTIONS

AND INFORMATION

Our church family is now at the point of making a decision about whether Florence Methodist Church should affiliate with a new (or existing) Wesleyan / Methodist denomination or continue as an independent / non-denominational Christian church.

Following our congregational vote to disaffiliate from the UMC, our church leaders decided to wait for this next decision until after the official vote of approval to release us from the Kentucky Annual Conference and our receipt of a clear deed to all our properties (release from the Trust Clause). The Conference vote happened on June 4, 2023, and the deed has just recently been received in September and so we are finally free to move forward.

Unlike our previous disaffiliation decision, we believe the choice now before us, and the process to consider it, will be a much more positive experience. We are prayerfully choosing between options that range between good and better. Whichever way it goes, we have much to be hopeful about for the future of our Florence Methodist church family.

Our Church Council appointed the following people to serve on a new Discernment Team to consider affiliation options.

Our Current Discernment Team (for Affiliations) includes the following people:

  • Joy Tucker (Church Council Chairperson)

  • Doug Ackley (Lay Leader)

  • Julie Howe-Overwein (Finance Team Representative)

  • Nick Dunham (Trustees Chair)

  • Ron Forrester (Staff Parish Relations Committee Representative)

  • David Eichenberg 

  • Abby Schroeder 
  • Michael Sweeney (Senior Pastor)

  • Anna Merlo (Associate Pastor)

Much of the information below comes from Immanuel Methodist in Lakeside Park. We have long had a close connection with Immanuel, and we are grateful to them for allowing us to use their information and research. They have a tentative date of November 19th to vote on affiliation with the GMC. 

The Discernment Team on Affiliation has recommended to the Church Council that Florence affiliate with the Global Methodist Church. The Church Council approved the recommendation and set November 5th, 2023 as a tentative date for a churchwide vote. We plan on having 2 informational sessions on October 15th and 29th. This is the church’s decision, and we want to be transparent with our process and information we used to make this recommendation. Below you will find the information. We also want to answer any and all questions, so over the month of October we intend to field and answer all questions. 

We invite members of our church family to carefully read the following information (including web links) and to give us feedback – we would love to hear any comments, questions, ideas or observations.

The following is a list of criteria used to assess any future options:

  1. We intend to stay like we are (as much as possible) for the foreseeable future (at the congregational level)

  2. Prioritize a high regard for the inspiration and authority of Scripture

  3. Doctrinal positions that are orthodox, evangelical, and consistently held

  4. Remain rooted in the Wesleyan / Methodist theological tradition (includes meaningful connectional structure]

  5. Biblically faithful boundaries for Christian ethics and human sexuality that are clear and compassionate

  6. NO trust clause (this means that local church property is held “in trust” for a denomination who then effectively “owns” all).

  7. Continued strong support for women in all levels of ministry

  8. Limited authority and more accountability for Bishops, Superintendents, or other denominational leaders

  9. A representative form of church government with congregational votes reserved only for major decisions

  10. More congregational authority (or more significant) say in the hiring and tenure of pastors

  11. The ability to leave without cost if our congregation is no longer theologically aligned

These are not the most important matters from the criteria list above, because many of these denominations are already compatible with most of our doctrinal beliefs and other key theological issues. The following are just the most likely to be points of difference which are likely disqualify options from consideration.

  •  The presence of a “Trust Clause” in any form (this confers “ownership” of all property and all assets to a denomination and thereby confers significant power or leverage over congregations for the denomination).
  • Any limitations on women for any level of ministry (lay or clergy).
  • Must have a high regard for the inspiration and authority of scripture.
  • Must be rooted in the Wesleyan / Methodist theological tradition (includes a meaningful connectional structure).
  •  No Guaranteed Appointments (or tenure) for clergy (which could prevent local churches from initiating pastoral leadership changes when necessary).
  • Lack of accountability over denominational leaders at all levels.

Please follow the links below (in blue) for more information.

FREE METHODIST

Main Website

Affiliation Questions

More information

Key potential conflict: Has a Trust clause (waived for existing property – but would hold to all new). Only around 800 churches in the USA.

WESLEYAN CHURCH

Main Website

More information – 1

More information – 2

Key potential conflict: Has a Trust clause on all property (only 856 churches in USA)

CHURCH OF THE NAZARENE

Main Website

More information

Key potential conflict: Has a trust clause.

CONGREGATIONAL METHODIST

Main Website

More information

Key potential conflict: Small, no meaningful connectional benefit. Denominational giving is similar to GMC (5-6%) but no apparent Return on investment. Only 200 churches in the USA.

EVANGELICAL METHODIST

Main Website

More information 1

Comparison to UMC

Affiliation Information

Key potential conflict: Very small, no meaningful connectional benefit (85 in US, 400 globally)

CHRISTIAN AND MISSIONARY ALLIANCE

Main Website

More information 1

Key potential conflict: Several doctrinal differences including no women are allowed to serve in primary lead ministry roles

(e.g. Senior Pastor, or lay Elders) at this time.

FIRST CONGREGATIONAL METHODIST CHURCH OF THE USA

Main Website

More Information

Key potential conflict: Too small (50 churches); too fundamentalist; no connectional benefit.

THE FOUNDRY NETWORK

No website – link to article

Key potential conflict: No meaningful connectional benefit, and we may not even qualify (large church oriented)

THE GLOBAL METHODIST CHURCH – Please See Next Section

Key Observation:

Of the Wesleyan / Methodist heritage denominations that we considered, we believe that only the new Global Methodist Church meets all eleven points of our criteria listed above.

Main Website

GMC Beliefs & Governance

More Information

FAQ of the GMC

Article about affiliation

New GMC Catechism (a catechism is a summary of the principles of Christian religion in the form of questions and answers, used for the instruction of Christians).

Our initial connection in Kentucky (the Midsouth Provisional Annual Conference). The MidSouth Provisional Annual Conference will cover Kentucky, Middle and East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, parts of West Virginia, and a few counties in North Georgia.

Key Observation: Of the Wesleyan / Methodist heritage denominations that we considered. we believe that only the new Global Methodist Church meets all eleven of the criteria listed above.

The Provisional Book of Discipline of the emerging Global Methodist Church (GMC), has been designed in part, to correct and improve upon the many problems in the UMC, with particular respect to Doctrinal Unity, accountability, sexual ethics, and other issues of morality. It will focus on traditional orthodox Christianity, within a protestant Wesleyan / Methodist framework.

While it will have clear standards for doctrine, polity, and morality (for clergy and churches), it will be an “association of the willing.”

In other words, the balance of power shifts strongly to the local church in the GMC as compared to the UMC.

Without a trust clause, or without the power of guaranteed appointment for clergy (under episcopal control) a denomination like the current UMC loses its significant leverage over the local church.

In the GMC, local churches can also leave the denomination at any time, with a simple majority vote of the congregation at no cost.

Article comparing options with emphasis on the GMC

Connected or Independent

CONNECTED OR INDEPENDENT?

Why Churches Should Prayerfully Consider the Global Methodist Church

by Rev. Mike Powers and Rev. Aaron Mansfield

If you and your church are thinking about disaffiliating from the United Methodist Church—or if you already have—consider joining the work of the Global Methodist Church. Your choice to disaffiliate was guided by a desire to remain true to the authority of the Word of God and to minister in the Wesleyan Spirit, which is exactly why the Global Methodist Church was formed.

Congregational and connectional church structures have both proven effective in the Kingdom of God. The Global Methodist Church, in its Wesleyan approach to church government, reflects the best of both systems. There are distinct advantages to a church governance that includes both connectional and congregation values.

First, the continuity of being connected to the Wesleyan tradition honors the legacy of the original founders and the tradition of their faithful witness throughout the years. G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “tradition is a democracy which includes your ancestors.” The great effectiveness of the Methodist movement was found in a theology of grace and a system of church government to ensure that it continued to be preached, taught, and lived. The original purpose of the Trust Clause in Methodism was not to secure property rights for the Annual Conference; it was to ensure that only Methodist doctrine would be taught in Methodist Churches. The Global Methodist Church has processes and doctrine and discipline to help churches pursue ministry without having to reinvent the wheel. We believe that those who faithfully went before us, generously investing their time and treasures in their beloved church, were wise in creating a connectional system of accountability that ultimately serves to make effective ministry possible.

Second, the unity of the congregation is secured by an accountability structure. We have seen clearly what the lack of accountability can do in the chaos of the United Methodist Church. Healthy churches, like healthy families, live up to a standard that is beyond themselves. They are guided to do all things in love and to the glory of God. In the Global Methodist Church, local churches will develop ministries, outreach, and worship that fit the context they know better than anyone. They are the resident experts of ministry in their unique settings. An overarching structure that is keyed to the mission of Jesus Christ ascertains that everyone knows the purpose of the Church. The network of Global Methodist congregations will be unified by a Wesleyan commitment to praise God, make disciples of Jesus Christ, and reach the lost.

Third, a solid connectional polity contributes to immunity from clergy malpractice. Clergy with no accountability beyond the local church can create conflict and ineffective work as they assume more power and control in a church. For example, a gifted, yet strong-willed pastor from an independent church background serving a United Methodist congregation created division between the ‘stakeholders’ and his own followers. Two months after being ordained as a Deacon in the United Methodist Church, he abruptly left his appointment, sensing no responsibility to work through the conflict and having no desire to be supervised by the district superintendent. However, as a testimony to the mutual respect and accountability standards embraced by the leadership of that congregation, the average tenure for pastors in that small church is now more than seven years. Because conflicts in the church are normal and inevitable, the Global Methodist Church will hold everyone accountable at all levels: churches to the theology and practice of Wesleyan ministry, clergy to the discipline of the church, and bishops to the mission of Jesus Christ.

Fourth, a community of faith is a powerful way to fulfill the Great Commission to go into all nations, making disciples, and the Great Commandments, to love God and love neighbor. Perhaps some of you remember when churches were connected locally in worship and mission. We were connected not in an abstract way at a Conference level, but very directly as we met for worship and fellowship together. Being connected has given Methodists great leverage—think of a portion of every dollar given on a Sunday in every Methodist church going to support relief efforts or scholarships. A connectional church has those large-scale opportunities, but also has the benefit of working together locally in missions to the poor and distressed, in pooling resources to plant new churches, in gathering to learn and grow in the faith. The Global Methodist Church is committed to the local church as the strategic center of making disciples who make disciples. The Global Methodist Church structures, from Annual Conferences to Districts, will resource local churches for the ministry of the Gospel.

Fifth, the Global Methodist Church is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for this generation to contribute to the development of a Kingdom-centered mission and ministry from the ground-up. Many of us who have served in mainline denominations throughout our lifetimes have worked diligently to engage congregations, districts, annual conferences and even general conferences in spiritual renewal and strategic reforms. We praise God for those Spirit-filled, refreshing moments that encouraged and inspired us to press on. However, we know realistically that most of our efforts were limited and only temporary at best in their influence upon the denomination. We want to invite you to join like-minded brothers and sisters across the street and around the world in this divinely appointed moment to live more fully into the vision and mission of a connectional ministry that will be eternally significant throughout the generations.

“Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord.” Psalm 102:18

The following was prepared by Rev. Cambron Wright, Pastor of Asbury GMC in Highland Heights, KY.

Potential Benefits of going with the GMC

  1. Shared resources / accountability in a connected system – guardrails – in a voluntary assoc.
  2. Best option for maintaining essential continuity with heritage, beliefs, and values of Florence Methodist.
  3. GMC allows a sense of connection AND ownership and control over property.
  4. GMC had best opportunity for connection with other churches in our state and continuity with our beliefs and practices as Methodists/Wesleyans.
  5. High trust in the leadership of the GMC – in our general area and overall.
  6. The connected model is more biblical and true to who we are as Methodists.
  7. Genuinely Orthodox – core doctrinal and creedal standards.
  8. Truly Wesleyan – in practice and not for mere historical reference.
  9. Passionately Missional / Global
  10. Local Witness
    1. Local Church is strategic base for discipleship.
    2. Legacy and tradition of each congregation is honored (freedom in non-essentials).
    3. Accountability Structure secures the unity of the church.
    4.  The connection creates partnerships in ministry.

Below are some links to some helpful videos on the Global Methodist Church.

Video by Rev. Chris Morgan, pastor of Danville Centenary Global Methodist Church, Danville, KY

Why join the GMC? (vimeo.com)

These videos are of Bishop Jones, the Bishop of the Mid-South conference. He spoke in April at a Global Methodist gathering in Wilmore, KY. These are of the same speech, but I pulled the part on the stance of LGBTQ. It is very good.

Global Methodist Church LGBTQ+ Stance  

Bishop’s Jones Full Message

GMC –

No change to our core beliefs, and they will be consistently upheld.

Please follow the link below to read the statements on doctrine from the Provisional Book of Doctrines and Disciplines of the Global Methodist Church.

GMC What we Believe

We believe the core beliefs of the GMC are consistent with those of Florence Methodist Church since its founding, and compatible with how we anticipate moving forward as a church.

GMC –

The provisional Book of Doctrines and Discipline of the GMC, states,

“The canonical books of the Old and New Testaments (as specified in the Articles of Religion) are the primary rule and authority for faith, morals, and service, against which all other authorities must be measured.”

This statement is consistent with what the Florence Methodist church has believed and practiced since it was first established a a church.

A new catechism for the GMC states the following:

Holy Scripture –– “The canonical books of the Old and New Testaments (as specified in the Articles of Religion) are the primary rule and authority for faith, morals, and service, against which all other authorities must be measured” (¶ 104). As the Confession of Faith states, “We believe the Holy Bible, Old and New Testaments, reveals the Word of God so far as it is necessary for our salvation. It is to be received through the Holy Spirit as the true rule and guide for faith and practice. Whatever is not revealed in or established by the Holy Scriptures is not to be made an article of faith nor is it to be taught as essential to salvation” (Article IV).

INDEPENDENT –

If Florence Methodist Church becomes an independent or non-denominational church, we will need to create our own statements and positions on scriptural authority which can be changed by the local church in the future according to whatever process is laid our in the church by-laws.

Based on the criteria listed above, our our prayerful research, our Discernment team  has recommended to the Church Council that the Global Methodist Church as the best affiliation option for Florence Methodist Church.

However, we would love to hear from you before we, or our congregation is asked to make a final decision.

Please click here –Feedback Form – to give us your feedback or questions and ideas. We would love to hear from you!

We are still finalizing our schedule – but we anticipate having congregational Q & A sessions on October 15th and the 29th, and we anticipate holding a congregational vote in November 5th as part of a Church Conference. The tentative date is Sunday November 5, 2023 at 7:00 p.m. at Florence Methodist Church. The vote about affiliation will require only a simple majority of the full members present and voting.

Please check back here for new information about congregational Q & A sessions, and the congregational vote.

GMC –

Yes. Our current clergy leaders, Michael Sweeney (Senior Pastor) has been already accepted as an ordained Elder in the GMC, and Anna Merlo (Associate Pastor) has been ordained a Deacon in the GMC. They both hope to remain at Florence Methodist church until the Lord calls them elsewhere, or our church leaders initiate a change.

INDEPENDENT –

Possibly. Our current Pastors are now ordained by the GMC so they would need to decide about giving up those credentials. They intend to cross that bridge once we get there. As an independent or non-denominational church, any or all of our pastors, and ministry staff members can be ordained by our local church now and in the future.

GMC –

Essentially churches will have the final say on pastors and changes will generally only happen at the request of the church and/ or pastor. A different type of Bishop, with more limited authority, will approve the appointment of pastors in partnership with the local church and the Presiding Elder (somewhat like the old District Superintendent role but more limited). However, the process requires significant input by the local church leaders and/ or congregation. It might be described as a “modified call system.” Churches, and clergy, are also free to leave the GMC at any time.

INDEPENDENT –

The appropriate governing body will oversee any search process for hiring of all pastors, just like they currently do for other church staff. This is commonly know as “call system” and for lead pastors and clergy it typically requires a congregational vote to accept (hire) or to remove (dismiss) a pastor.

GMC –

No. Pastoral appointments are not expected to change until either the church and/or pastor requests a change.

INDEPENDENT –

No. The church has full control over the tenure of the clergy or other staff members according to whatever rules set by the church.

GMC –

The GMC has no Trust Clause – so our buildings and assets will always be owned by the Florence Methodist congregation.

INDEPENDENT –

There will be no trust clause if Florence Methodist Church moves forward in this direction.

GLOBAL METHODIST CHURCH –

Until the GMC Convening General Conference. Connectional giving is set at:

• 1% General Denomination

• 1.5 % Local Annual Conference

Following the Convening Conference of the GMC (expected in the fall of 2024) this amount is likely to change. The Transitional Book of Doctrines and Discipline states that connectional giving CANNOT exceed the following amounts:

• General Denomination 1.5%

• Local Annual Conference 5%

Please note this is approximately 50% less that what was paid by Florence to the UMC. Please also notice that much more of our connectional giving will stay in our own conference instead of supporting the general denomination.

INDEPENDENT

We would no longer pay any connectional giving or apportionments, so we could voluntarily set aside more money for ministry operations, or missions.. This would need to be determined by local church leaders, probably on an annual basis, as part of a budgeting process.

No, the GMC and the WCA are 2 separate organizations. It is a common piece of misinformation that the WCA and the GMC are the same.

The GMC was founded by a group that represented the wide spectrum of Methodist traditionalists. Yes, some were affiliated with renewal movements in the UMC (such as Good News, UMAction, and  the WCA), but the majority were unaffiliated with any renewal movements.

The WCA was founded as a renewal movement within the United Methodist Church (UMC), and still remains that presently in the UMC.

GMC –

No. We will work to maintain our emphasis on local, regional, and international missions partnerships. Lower apportionments could lead to an increase in missions giving.

INDEPENDENT –

Unlikely but possible. We will try to maintain our emphasis on local, regional, and international missions partnerships.

GMC –

Maintained through a new connection based on a shared commitment to sound beliefs related to biblical interpretation, Church tradition, and Christian doctrine and ethics. There are over 100 (former UMC) churches in Kentucky that have already joined the GMC – with many more expected to follow. Many of our existing relationships and partnerships, locally and beyond, will continue unchanged. We would also be part of the Mid-South Transitional Conference which has over 200 churches affiliated. Affiliating with the GMC would also allow us to unambiguously continue in the Methodist / Wesleyan tradition and demonstrate a continuity with our heritage.

INDEPENDENT –

Uncertain. Future pastors or lay leaders might seek out ministry partners based on a shared commitment to sound biblical interpretation, Church tradition, and Christian doctrine and ethics. To many, becoming an independent / nondenominational church would represent a break with the almost 150 year Methodist tradition of Immanuel. The Wesleyan / Methodist theological tradition has always been essentially connectional.

GMC –

Unlikely. We expect our church to be very similar in orientation as it is now for the foreseeable future, so we are hopeful that people will remain. If people love and trust our church now, they should be able to continue doing so. We also anticipate new growth. The GMC will provide a much better (but also familiar) substitute to our current structure and operating procedures.  This option would also allow us to unambiguously continue in the Methodist / Wesleyan tradition and demonstrate a continuity with our heritage.

INDEPENDENT –

Possibly – but we will attempt to keep our church in a similar in orientation as it is now for the foreseeable future, so we are hopeful that people will remain. However, an independent / nondenominational church can change directions more quickly and autonomously, and even more substantially. While this may present some good opportunities it also presents some risk as well. To many, becoming an independent / nondenominational church would represent a break with the 181 year Methodist tradition of Florence Methodist Church.

If our congregation decides not to affiliate with a new or existing Wesleyan / Methodist denomination (Like the Global Methodist Church) we have two primary choices:

  1. Continue as an Independent /Non-denominational church in the Wesleyan / Methodist theological tradition.

  2. Wait for new options, or for changes that make existing options more attractive.

We might be able to develop Florence Methodist Church as a fully independent / nondenominational church that reflects our criteria (for the foreseeable future) but it would not be “connectional” in the sense of the Methodist tradition, and it would require us to build the structural support from the ground up. It might also result in unintended outcomes in terms in terms of sustainability going forward, particularly in issues of pastoral succession and transition. In other words – it might more easily result in a significant change to the character of Florence (criteria pt. 1).

Please check back here, and look for information in the weekly emails and other church correspondence for updates.

Yes! We love and welcome all people who come here seeking to find Jesus and to worship God. That will not change. All people are sinners in need of a savior, and we welcome all so that all may be called to repentance, saved by grace through faith in Christ, and move toward the holiness God desires.

We understand that this may be an issue where not all people at Florence Methodist will see eye-to-eye.

We embrace the same beliefs and practices regarding human sexuality (and gender) as we have throughout our 180+ year history as a church, as well as 2000+ years of Christian tradition, sound biblical interpretation, and Christian doctrine.

We align with Jesus’ words that a “Christian” marriage is between one man and one woman, and that sexual intimacy is a gift of God which is intended to be enjoyed exclusively within a monogamous married relationship between a man and a woman.

Being part of the GMC, or being and Independent / Non-denominational church would represent no change in this regard for Florence since this has been the position of this congregation since its inception.

The GMC provisional discipline states, “We believe that human sexuality is a gift of God that is to be affirmed as it is exercised within the legal and spiritual covenant of a loving and monogamous marriage between one man and one woman (Exodus 20:14, Matthew 19:3-9, Ephesians 5:22-33).”

GMC –

No. Given the biblical truths related to the Christian covenant of marriage, as well as gender identity questions, this will not occur at Florence.

The GMC provisional discipline states, “We believe that human sexuality is a gift of God that is to be affirmed as it is exercised within the legal and spiritual covenant of a loving and monogamous marriage between one man and one woman (Exodus 20:14, Matthew 19:3-9, Ephesians 5:22-33).”

INDEPENDENT –

No.