FAQYour Questions Answered
We’ve compiled answers to the most common questions asked about Covenant’s future affiliation and discernment process. We are still collecting and answering questions throughout this season, so please send in any questions that aren’t answered below. You can also discuss your questions through Pastor One-on-One Conversations and Living Room Gatherings.
Why is our church considering separation from the United Methodist (UMC) denomination?
Due to the ongoing division taking place in the greater denomination of The United Methodist Church, congregations across the U.S. are being allowed to choose their own pathways for future affiliation based on their core values and theological beliefs.
The history is long and complicated, but ultimately, discerning Covenant’s alignment with our denominational affiliation with regard to the authority of Holy Scripture in all matters of faith and practice is the central reason why Covenant Methodist Church has entered discernment.
Why is this happening now?
At Texas Annual Conference (TAC) in late May 2022, Bishop Scott Jones encouraged each congregation to consider its future affiliation by the late fall of this year—whether that’s remaining in The United Methodist Church (UMC) or staying in Wesleyan connection by affiliating with another Methodist denomination.
In June 2022, Bishop Jones announced his retirement effective December 31, 2022, citing “increasing disobedience and escalating conflict in the denomination.” The new incoming bishop will have the authority to alter the current pathway for discernment.
Covenant is one of over 290 churches in the TAC currently in an official season of discernment. This number is expected to continue to increase through September.
What will change if Covenant Methodist Church leaves the UMC?
As an 11-year-old church, planted in the orthodox Wesleyan theology, Covenant will continue to advance God’s vision for a Community Connecting in Christ regardless of denominational affiliation.
Covenant’s pastors and council are working to ensure the ministry and mission of the church advance without delay, interruption, or redirection.
What is the process to disaffiliate from the UMC?
The Texas Annual Conference (TAC) laid out a seven-step process for each church seeking to separate from the UMC:
- Complete the appropriate period of discernment
- Calculate apportionments and unfunded pension liability estimates
- Conduct a congregational vote to disaffiliate
- Pay in full previous year’s apportionments and current year apportionments
- Pay in full unfunded pension liability
- Complete all necessary legal forms
- Be approved for release by an affirmative vote of the Texas Annual Conference.
When would a change be official, if Covenant votes to disaffiliate?
December 31, 2022
A special called session of the Texas Annual Conference of the UMC will be held on December 3, 2022, for the purpose of voting to release local congregations that have completed the necessary steps and settled all financial and legal obligations to the TAC by that date. Covenant would be among this group if our discernment period reveals a desire to leave the denomination.
Would Covenant Methodist Church affiliate with another denomination?
Covenant seeks to advance its connectional Wesleyan heritage rather than pursuing the narrowness of localized accountability through independence. If Covenant chooses to disaffiliate, our Church Council believes we should remain connectional through a new denominational affiliation.
While other Wesleyan denominations could be considered, the newly formed Global Methodist Church (GMC) provides the clearest pathway to supply consistency in doctrine, evangelistic initiatives, global impact, clergy assessment, clergy deployment, and pension and benefits.
How does the Global Methodist Church's (GMC) organization, structure, and doctrine differ from the UMC?
Some of the organizational/structural differences in the GMC include:
- Expanded consultation requirements for pastoral appointments
- No guaranteed appointments for clergy
- Significantly reduced connectional funding
- Term-limited bishops who must be re-elected to additional terms
- No trust clause.
Differences in the GMC’s doctrine include the addition of the Apostle’s Creed, Nicene Creed, and Chalcedonian Definition, as well as reducing the Restrictive Rules to focus solely on doctrine.
Who makes the decision to remain with the UMC or to disaffiliate and when will that happen?
Professing members of the church will have the opportunity to participate in a called church conference for the purpose of voting on Covenant’s future denominational affiliation. The in-person, member vote will take place on October 23 at 2p at Covenant.
How will this affect my church membership?
Your vows of membership are honored regardless of denominational affiliation. Your membership is recorded in our local church database, and that status will not change as a result of any disaffiliation or affiliation activity.
Questions about Human Sexuality
Are LGBTQIA+ persons welcome at Covenant?
Covenant views all people as individuals of sacred worth. Therefore, we maintain the expectation of love in the body, which, at Covenant, is and has always been a universal welcome in hospitality, fellowship, worship, discipleship, sacrament (communion and baptism), and membership. We extend welcome, grace and respect to all who call Covenant their church home.
How would Covenant respond to a LGBTQIA+ person who feels called to ministry?
We are called to love all and accept all into the discipling fellowship of the church. While we were yet sinners (unworthy) Christ came and died for us as an offering of redemption. In so doing, he did not turn away from anyone, but rather called everyone to turn from their sin and follow him in humble submission.
If an LGBTQ+ member of our Covenant family articulated to us a call to ministry, first and foremost, we would reiterate our love, and most importantly, God’s love for them. Then we would enter into a time of listening to their story, drawing into a deeper relationship with them. It is our hope and expectation that this process is intentionally relational, multi-faceted, and seeks to be radically loving. We would defer to the Holy Spirit’s leading on when to engage in conversations concerning God’s invitation to sexual holiness as a faithful practice for those striving to follow Jesus.
If this person is a youth, as with any minor discerning a calling, there would be a conversation with the parents about honoring the discipleship of their child.
As has been the practice in the UMC, in the GMC if a person articulates a call to ministry, they enter into a significant process through which the church examines their call and discerns evidence of their readiness for ministry. This process includes a series of interviews, psychological examinations, credit checks, background checks, and theological examinations. This process calls each pastor to holiness of heart and life held in accountable relationships with other pastors and the Bishop they serve under. As a part of the process, pastors make a vow to maintain faithfulness in Christian marriage (defined as between one man and one woman) or celibacy in singleness.
Historically, in the UMC, if a person articulates a calling to be in a same-gender relationship, we would bless them as they pursue that calling in another denomination. In the GMC, we would do the same; that other denomination would likely be the future UMC.
Isn’t the division in the UMC about accepting LGBTQIA+ people in the church? I’ve seen it in the news media.
No. Whether or not people living an LGBTQIA+ lifestyle are welcome in the church is not a matter of debate.
The presenting issue that has been on display in the media is whether or not said persons should be ordained as Methodist clergy and whether or not Methodist ministers should perform LQBTQIA+ marriages. This flashpoint issue is rooted in longstanding, foundational differences in the way Methodists rely upon Scripture as the primary authority for the Christian life.
What is our stance on LGBTQIA+ clergy and marriage?
Paragraph 304.3 of The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church says, “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.”
The Book of Discipline has been the same on this matter since 1972, and yet it is disregarded by progressive clergy and congregations across the denomination with limited accountability or enforcement. Covenant has always followed The Book of Discipline and will continue to for as long as necessary, in adherence to the authority of Scripture regarding marriage (Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:4-5) and sexual practices outside of marriage (Romans 1:26-27, Leviticus 18:22).
Covenant stands with our bishop, Scott Jones, in condemning increasing defiance and disobedience against The Book of Discipline.
Financial, Legal, and Property Questions
What is the financial cost of disaffiliation from the UMC?
The financial obligations associated with disaffiliation in the Texas Annual Conference (TAC) are highly favorable compared to those of other conferences around the nation. TAC requires the base minimum allowed by UMC governance regulations:
- pay in full the previous year’s apportionments (already paid) and the current year’s apportionments (already budgeted).
- pay in full unfunded pension liability (the current liability calculation is $0).
The only remaining costs are the legal expenses to make the necessary amendments to Covenant’s legal documents (approximately $2,000-$3,000).
What is the cost comparison between apportionments in the UMC and connectional funding in the GMC?
UMC Apportionments 2022 ~$35k
GMC Connectional Funding 2022 Est. ~$16k
What happens to the church’s 501(c)3 status?
As a religious 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, Covenant’s ministries operate solely from the financial support of its members, supporters, and community members-at-large. This status will not change based on denominational affiliation.
What is the trust clause and how does it affect our church if the vote is to disaffiliate?
The trust clause is a historic, universal claim made by the UMC and written into the church’s articles of incorporation in an effort to retain ownership rights of local church properties. If Covenant chooses to disaffiliate we would be automatically released from this claim upon a final vote for disaffiliation by the Texas Annual Conference.
Will Covenant retain our buildings and property?
Completing the disaffiliation process would allow Covenant to leave the United Methodist Church with our property and material assets, free of any trust clause referencing the denomination.
If we remain affiliated with the UMC our building and property would remain in trust.
What is the legal risk of leaving the denomination?
There is no risk or liability associated with disaffiliation by following the prescribed steps for completing the process. The risk of litigation increases in cases where churches take steps to disaffiliate outside the prescribed process.
Questions about our Pastors and Staff
Where do our pastors stand on this issue?
Covenant’s pastors each believe their future ministry lies in the Global Methodist Church. While each pastor would offer transitional service if Covenant chose to stay in the UMC, none of the pastors believe their future ministry lies within the UMC.
How will our staff be impacted by the decision?
The Staff Development Team surveyed the staff members. Half reported feeling personally aligned with the GMC and plan to choose their employment accordingly. The other half were undecided as to how Covenant’s affiliation would affect their desire to remain on staff.
Town Hall Q & A
Click below to view the complete list of questions received from our congregations at the Town Hall on August 28 and prior. While identifying information has been removed, the questions appear in their original uncut format along with the Discernment Team’s responses.
8555 Creekside Green Drive,
The Woodlands, Texas 77389
Covenant Methodist Church