Disaffiliation statement from Bishop Leonard Fairley
I write to appeal to the presence of Christ the risen Lord in each of you.
I share this statement as a shepherd who loves the people of the church and not so much as a biblical scholar, parliamentary expert, or expert interpreter of the Book of Discipline. I am restating that in no way should my kindness or the Annual Conference’s posture of graciousness be an encouragement for churches to disaffiliate.
As I have stated on numerous occasions, it has not and never will be my desire that any church should disaffiliate. However, I am keenly aware of where we are as a denomination and that disaffiliation, as a matter of conscience around the issue of human sexuality, is an option stated in the Book of Discipline, paragraph 2553.
Friends, please know of my deep prayers, support, and encouragement for each of you. Please remember your church does not have to vote on anything. However, if you are in a place of discernment, I am asking your pastor and other leaders to lead your church in a spirit of healthy Christian discernment based on true and accurate information.
To pastors, I say, in this liminal season, your community of faith needs you to be the shepherd of the whole flock. They need you not to push your own agenda but to share the transformative agenda of Jesus Christ spelled out in Scripture and our General Rules: Do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God. We do this together as Christian sisters and brothers seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Using fearful untruth is not the Christian way and should stop immediately.
I know that you are being told that if I am reassigned to another conference, the current plan of disaffiliation will be vetoed or changed by a new bishop. Those ideas are false and should never be used as a reason to disaffiliate.
I give thanks to Conference leadership teams that have worked on a disaffiliation process that we wish was never necessary. Per Discipline, it was their work, and they have done it in a spirit of graciousness.
Your decisions in this season are much more significant and life-changing than what will or will not happen to a bishop. My prayerful expectation is that you would engage your congregation in an intentional discernment process that includes truthful information about our Wesleyan heritage and the United Methodist Church that reflects an openness to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Resources for understanding what this means for your church and FAQs from Wespath, the Council of Bishops and Ask the UMC can be found on the conference website. If you have additional questions please contact your District Superintendent or submit your questions on this form on our website.
As United Methodists, we share a rich history of mission and ministry. I encourage you to reflect on your congregation’s life together as United Methodists. Prayerfully reflect on all the amazing things you/we have and will yet accomplish together as a people called United Methodist. Think of the people who have been water-washed and Spirit-born in your congregation. Imagine the many others who will come to know Christ because of your lived witness embodying his love, mercy, and grace. Reflect and see all the saints of God who have gone on to be with the Lord, who blessed our lives as United Methodist people. Think of the table fellowship you have shared together, and the gift of God’s grace poured out so beautifully at the Lord’s Table. Think on these things and give thanks.
As I look toward the future, I pray that each of you will join in the pivot toward God’s redemptive and reconciling work in Jesus Christ. I pray that each of you will join in the pivot toward the deeper work of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Join in the pivot toward God’s future with hope. Pivot toward what the Lord requires; “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” - Micah 6:8.