The Rev. Dr. John Hatton, our District Superintendent, has called a Church Conference for Sunday, February 5, 2023 following the morning worship service for the purpose of holding a vote of professing members of Summit Heights concerning disaffiliation from the United Methodist denomination. The Administrative Council voted 9-1 to request this conference.
Summit Heights Disaffiliation Summary
On July 12, 2022, the Summit Heights Administrative Council directed Pastor Chris and Cathy Bays, chair, to assemble a group of church members to form a Discernment Team to make a recommendation for the future relationship of Summits Heights with the United Methodist Church. The team was composed of Cathy Bays, Chris Guelda, Beverly Herrlinger, Linda Kliethermes, Linda McFarland, Jim Post, Mike Welker, and Pastor Chris Howlett. They met five times to review and discuss materials related to past and current actions and inactions of United Methodist bishops, boards of ordained ministry, annual conferences, and pastors. The Discernment Team facilitated a listening session for church members on Sunday, November 20th.
MOTION TO THE ADMINISTRATIVE COUNCIL:
After discussion and prayerful consideration, the discernment team moves Summit Heights disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church. The decision to disaffiliate was not unanimous among the Discernment Team members, 6 voted to disaffiliate and 1 voted to remain United Methodist.
On January 17 the Administrative Council voted 9 to 1 in favor of supporting the motion to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church and contacted the Rev. Dr. John Hatton to schedule a Church Conference so professing members can vote.
The United Methodist Church is at a crossroad, sadly splintering across the world due to deep disagreements over a variety of issues. The historic essentials of the Christian faith and Wesleyan theology center on Christ’s deity and work of salvation, the authority and primacy of scripture, practical holiness, and confession of the faith (creeds). Our shared covenants are being increasingly ignored and violated. Pastors, bishops, boards of ordained ministry, annual conferences, and jurisdictional conferences are not upholding the historical biblical Methodist doctrines and discipline. They are acting in open, direct disobedience to the current Book of Discipline without accountability. Specifically, some pastors and bishops view the resurrection as a metaphor, consider the Bible … an old book written by people who don’t know nearly as much as we do…, and do not uphold the Nicene and Apostles’ Creeds. Additionally, self-avowed practicing homosexuals are being ordained as pastors and consecrated as bishops. The United Methodist Church has become a pluralistic denomination, supporting opposing views that do not align with the essentials of the Christian faith. In addition, we believe the issues concerning LGBTQ+ ordination, marriage, and the promotion of “Queer Theology” within the denomination deeply affect our witness to our local community and beyond. The systemic dysfunction in the denomination has led to over 2,000 churches in recent months in the United States alone to disaffiliate. The culture of our conference distracts us from our mission. In short, for us to remain the church that we are and dream to be, we need to chart a different course.
The overwhelming majority of the Discernment Team and Administrative Council felt doctrinal fidelity and leader accountability are essential for church leaders to both uphold their vows to the entire Book of Discipline and be held accountable when they act in opposition to the historic essentials in the Book of Discipline. We have come to the conclusion that in order to remain a vital church for the community and continue our mission, it is time to distance ourselves from the United Methodist denomination. There are seasons in life that require necessary endings. This is appears to be one of those times. We are committed to continue to love the people of Jefferson County, including those in the LGBTQ community and their allies, with the extravagant grace of God we received and freely offer in Jesus’ name.
One of the reasons for disaffiliating at this time is due to financial considerations associated with the trust clause. Each United Methodist church’s property and resources are held in trust for the Annual Conference. If a church chooses to disaffiliate, the property and resources stay with the Annual Conference. The trust clause has been temporarily suspended by action of the General Conference. If a church chooses to disaffiliate before March 15, 2023 they are able to retain their property and resources while paying a calculated amount to the General Conference based on remaining yearly apportionments and support for retired pastors’ pension. If a church wants to wait and consider possible disaffiliation at a time after March 15, 2023 the financial obligation is unknown, but will likely be magnitudes of order higher.
The recommendation to disaffiliate was a difficult, heart-wrenching decision.
Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. 2 Timothy 4:2-5
I am not afraid that the people called Methodist should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid, lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case, unless they hold fast both the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out. John Wesley
FOR MORE INFORMATION
For more information concerning the rationale for the recommendation of the Discernment Team and Administrative Council to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Denomination, you're encouraged to watch the videos below.
This video is the presentation made in worship on January 22 by church leadership concerning the rationale for disaffiliation and announcing the Called Church Conference: https://youtu.be/DfzjW_zR0nY
In this video, Jim Post, our Lay Leader, and Cathy Bays, our Administrative Council Chair answer questions about the disaffiliation process: https://youtu.be/Os7J8yNqfrs
Pastor Chris has made a statement concerning disaffiliation. You can view it here: https://youtu.be/Lt2kK7yuhg8
This link is to a video, which is part of a series, from Rev. Rob Renfroe, an ordained elder in the UMC, and leader in Good News:
We invite you to watch this video and the entire series: Rob Renfroe Video.
As various questions come in, we will update this page.
Q: Is this vote only about human sexuality?
A: No. Summit Heights seeks to be in ministry with and loves all people, and all people are called to repentance and faith. The ethics the Church has embraced for 2,000 years are still God's will today even though the culture is changing. The leadership of the United Methodist Church not only wants to change with the culture concerning ethics, but also theology. Bishops, professors in UM seminaries and colleges, pastors, and others within the UMC have and do teach that Jesus is not unique, the resurrection is only a metaphor, and the Bible is only an historical signpost, not the living, active, Word of God. The UMC, like several mainline denominations has lost its way. The vast majority of Christians around the world, however, still believe what the Bible and the Church have taught throughout time.
Q: Why are we changing?
A: Summit Heights is not changing in the essentials of the faith we have believed and taught for over sixty years. The United Methodist Church has and is changing in that they are no longer holding bishops, Jurisdictional Conferences, Annual Conferences, and pastors accountable to the Book of Discipline concerning sexual ethics and doctrine. Disaffiliation will allow us to remain faithful to what the Church has taught in all places and times for the past 2,000 years.
Q: Are there financial consequences to disaffiliating?
A: Yes. We will pay the church's portion of the Annual Conference's unfunded pension liability and 12 months worth of apportionments. Moving forward we will save money on apportionments and will own all our assets free and clear of any trust clause, freeing up funds for utilization for the mission of God through Summit Heights.
Q: What does a "Yes" vote mean at the Church Conference?
A: A "Yes" vote means you agree with disaffiliating from the United Methodist Church.
Q: If we disaffiliate, what's next?
A: If Summit Heights disaffiliates from the UMC there are several options that have been studied by the Discernment Team. In the weeks following the Church Conference, the team will meet in order to make a recommendation to church leadership concerning the possibility of joining another denomination.
Q: If we disaffiliate will we have to remove the large cross hanging in the sanctuary.
A: No. The cross in the sanctuary is disconnected from any discussion about our relationship with the UMC. We will be required to remove the UMC emblem from the sign facing the Outer Loop.
Q: Were the consequences of remaining in the UMC seriously considered by the Discernment Team?
A: Absolutely. There was a thorough and prayerful study and discussion of all options including remaining UMC and disaffiliating. These findings were shared and discussed in the November 20, 2022 Congregational Meeting.
Q: What is the trust clause and what does it have to do with our church?
A: Summit Heights holds its assets in trust for the Kentucky Annual Conference of the UMC. This means if Summit Heights wanted to leave, we would pay for all the assets and property, worth millions of dollars. However, in 2019 General Conference passed paragraph 2553 which lays aside the trust clause until the end of 2023, meaning if Summit Heights disaffiliates now, we do not have to pay for our property twice and we will own our property outright.
Q: Why aren't those who want to change the church's stance on theology and human sexuality the ones who are leaving?
More progressive (so-called) Christians are in places of power within the UMC, even though they represent a minority of church members throughout the denomination. Bishops have failed to guard the faith, exercise the discipline, and protect the unity of the church. There is no path forward within the UMC that will change this. Thus, thousands of churches, like Summit Heights, who desire to maintain the teaching of the church are choosing to disaffiliate. Many are joining the Global Methodist Church, a new Methodist, traditionalist denomination.