While we were pleased to share the recent news about our newly appointed Bishop, Delores “Dee” Williamston, who will begin her tenure in Louisiana on January 1, most of you have also likely been made aware of unsettling events happening among our churches.
For over forty years our denomination, as well as most others, have been grappling with issues of human sexuality, and fractures have occurred in every strand of the Church. At a special session of the global United Methodist Church General Conference in 2019 the controversy reached a peak, and the groundwork was laid for allowing a seemingly unavoidable split of the UMC. A constitutional amendment (paragraph 2553) was enacted, providing a way for churches to be released from the church’s long-standing “Trust Clause,” enabling individual churches to disaffiliate from the denomination while retaining their properties. Par. 2553 included guidelines for payments to be calculated and made to each church’s Annual Conference and an orderly process that must be followed. Several churches have now accepted the terms of exit and have chosen to disaffiliate.
First United Methodist Church of Natchitoches has not made such a decision, nor have we entered a formal discernment process which would need to be authorized by our Church Board. Our pastor has been visiting with small groups to foster clarity regarding our current denominational context. Congregational action is not a requirement. However, with anxiety being heightened and conflicting stories swirling, we want you to have access to accurate information. The General Church website, www.umc.org, has a forum called “Ask the UMC,” and they have produced a number of articles addressing questions that have been expressed throughout the denomination regarding these issues. You may find those posted Q & A editions at https://www.umc.org/en/content/ask-the-umc-series-is-the-umc-really. For your convenience we have compiled the “Ask the UMC” series’ responses in a single printable document <here> if you would prefer. There are also many resources available on our conference website at https://www.la-umc.org/.