Update – June 2, 2022
Greetings Friends and Family of The Way Woodstock,
I wanted to reach out to update you regarding Annual Conference. Our church’s decision to separate from the United Methodist denomination required Annual Conference approval. Today, the North Georgia conference approved 71 churches’ decision to disaffiliate, including our own. By the end of this month, we will become an autonomous Methodist church, The Way Woodstock Inc. While our affiliation is changing, our theology, mission, and vision remain unchanged: We exist to glorify God and make disciples of Jesus Christ by Sharing in Hope, Living with Purpose, For the Sake of Others.
Some of you may be curious as to what this means for us organizationally going forward. We have incorporated as a local church, with by-laws (click here for by-laws) and a statement of faith (What We Believe), distilled from the UMC Book of Discipline. These will serve us for the duration of our time of discerning our affiliation with other Methodist denominations/networks. Your staff-parish team is actively working to ensure a smooth transition for both pastoral and lay staff. The church Council has worked diligently to put all of this into place and is eager to share with the church at large in the coming weeks.
To that end, please stay tuned for information about an upcoming Church Summit. At this summit, all are invited to celebrate what God has been doing in and through this community of faith thus far this year. We will receive an update from the Council on the state of the church, as well as hear from your pastors and lay leaders about some exciting new ministry opportunities beginning this fall.
Please continue to be in prayer as we move forward.
Peace & Grace to All,
Sutton Mehaffey, Council Chair
Update – April 26, 2022
Dear Friends and Family of The Way,
Pastor Ann and I wanted to reach out to you in light of last night’s decision for our community to step out of the United Methodist connection. It goes without saying that today is a day of mixed emotions for everyone. There is clarity for all and there is grieving for all too. We have been and remain in prayer for each of you, your families, and our collective faith family as we move forward. We would like to share with you a few things from our hearts as we step into this new season.
First, thank you. Thank you for the grace-filled manner in which you entered into conversations with one another and collectively in the town hall gatherings. While not everyone shared the same perspectives and convictions, what Ann and I witnessed was your character as followers of Jesus showed brightly in how you engaged in these conversations. Some may perceive our decision to disaffiliate in a way that is inaccurate. Our natural tendency is to be defensive. But may we all continue to respond in a grace-filled manner.
Secondly, as appointed pastors, we both are choosing to go forward with The Way into this next season of mission and ministry. That means we too, will be stepping out of our clergy connection within the UMC this June to journey with you. This is no light matter for us, nor our families. Ann and I have invested a great deal into the UMC connection, and our clergy peers have invested a great deal into us too. We appreciate your prayers as we navigate our next steps alongside each of you.
Thirdly, community matters. Community is essential for faith formation and for living out our calling to be an active part of the body of Christ. For some, the decision last night and the vision of this local Methodist expression of Christ’s larger body – the Church, may lead them to choose not to go with The Way. I believe Ann and I can speak for the whole community in saying, our desire is for no one to go. But if not remaining to be a part of The Way is the choice that is made, may you go with Christ. Stay by his side and know he desires to walk with you and with all of us daily. Find a faith community to continue to grow in your faith and to participate in the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ.
Fourthly, be in prayer. Pray for one another. Pray for grace filled conversations to continue. Pray for and ask for forgiveness where there is hurt within and between one another. Pray for peace and compassion for all. Pray for a fresh move of the Holy Spirit within this faith community.
Lastly, with clarity comes forward momentum. Empowered by the Spirit of God, may we be even more committed and intentional in our mission to glorify God and make disciples of Jesus Christ by sharing the hope-filled life in Christ with others so that we may all discover and live into our God-given purpose. Like Apostle Paul, may we be unashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ! It is too good to keep to ourselves.
Grace and Peace,
Pastors Andy & Ann
Update – April 25, 2022
After months of prayer and discernment, the members of The Way gathered earlier this evening for a special called “Church Conference” for the purpose of voting on disaffiliation from The United Methodist Church. With overwhelming support, the membership voted to move forward with disaffiliation. There are several next steps including working with the North Georgia Conference Board of Trustees on a disaffiliation agreement followed by ratification by the Annual Conference held in early June. Your leadership will keep you informed as we continue through the process.
May we all be in prayer for one another and remain committed to our mission of Sharing In Hope, Living with Purpose, For the Sake of Others.
Dear The Way | Woodstock family,
We reach out to you today to address a topic of significant importance to our church family: The Way’s future with the United Methodist Church.
After months of discussion and prayerful consideration and deliberation, our Church Council unanimously voted last week to begin the process of disaffiliating from the United Methodist Church. This is a first step in a process that will require approval by a two-thirds majority of the church membership.
The ongoing conflict over foundational principles and theological divisions within the United Methodist Church have intensified over the last few months, leaving many UMC-affiliated churches wondering what the future holds. The hope was that the General Conference in August 2022 would pass a proposed protocol allowing churches to separate amicably from the UMC and retain their assets. However, as more and more churches have chosen to disaffiliate from the UMC now, the concern is that there will not be sufficient votes to pass that protocol. The Way’s Church Council cannot in good conscience sit back and wait for others to determine our future.
The Church Council feels that the conflicts and divisions within the UMC have become a distraction to our vision, mission, and ministry of making disciples committed to Sharing In Hope, Living with Purpose, For the Sake of Others.
Moreover, we have already taken contractual and financially binding steps in our Making Room vision, which everyone is eager to see become a reality. The Council believes that seeking additional funding to begin renovations is not wise until we first address our relationship with the UMC.
This is an important issue—both spiritually and legally—that requires prayerful thought and discernment. You likely have many questions about what staying with the UMC or disaffiliating means to The Way Woodstock. The Church Council feels strongly that every aspect of this process be transparent, inclusive, and informed. We will hold three town-hall type meetings to provide information and answer questions from our congregation. The first meeting will be held in Latimer Hall on Sunday, February 27 at 10 a.m. between our traditional and modern services. Childcare will be provided. The other town hall meetings will be held March 13 and April 24, also between our worship services. Childcare will be provided for these meetings.
Our District Superintendent will be on campus on Thursday, March 3 at 6 p.m. in the Sanctuary to share what disaffiliation entails.
When do we vote?
The vote on whether to disaffiliate from the UMC is scheduled for Monday, April 25, at 6 p.m. in our Sanctuary; childcare will be provided. Our District Superintendent, John Pinson, will preside over the meeting and oversee the voting. Per official guidelines provided by the North Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church, only official members of The Way Woodstock are permitted to vote, and the vote must be in person with a valid photo ID.
If the church membership votes in favor of disaffiliation, The Way Woodstock will continue its tradition of following the faith and practices developed in the Wesleyan and Methodist traditions. God has richly blessed us in our coming together as The Way Woodstock UMC. Our heritage runs deep in Methodism, dating back to 1889 with the founding of Woodstock Methodist Church. We have been, are, and will continue to be Methodist.
We are enthusiastic about growing our vibrant congregation and ask for your trust and prayers as we discern and follow where God leads us.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter concerning The Way’s future.
Sutton Mehaffey, Church Council Chair
Andy Rogers, Lead Pastor
Ann Garvin, Associate Pastor
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is “disaffiliation” from The United Methodist Church (UMC)?
“Disaffiliation” is a process whereby a United Methodist Church can separate from The United Methodist Denomination while keeping its property and assets. Since The Way Woodstock is a United Methodist Church, if we want to separate from the denomination, this process is required.
Why does The Way wish to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church?
It is no secret that The United Methodist Denomination has been involved in an ongoing and intensifying conflict. The UMC is headed for a separation/split because of differences in theology.
Much of this conflict stems from deep theological division. While many will explain that the issue centers primarily on human sexuality, our pastors and Church Council believe the issues are much deeper and more complex. The Authority of Scripture is being challenged and parts of the Book of Discipline are under scrutiny. When these foundational principles are altered, the Church ends up in chaos and unable to present a life-changing Gospel Message to the world.
In addition, the conflict in the UMC has become a significant distraction for The Way’s mission and ministry of “sharing in hope, living with purpose, for the sake of others.” Our Church Council has spent a good bit of time focused on the conflict and impending split in the UMC. They have done this to protect and preserve The Way and its future mission and ministry in this community and world.
For these reasons, our Council believes that The Way should not remain a part of the UMC. The Council believes that separating from the UMC now will allow us to move forward in our mission. We want to remain focused on what God has called us to do as The Way.
Who made the recommendation for The Way to begin the process for disaffiliation from The United Methodist Church?
The lay-led Church Council has made the decision to recommend disaffiliation. Pastors Andy and Ann also sit in on the Church Council. While the final decision to start the official disaffiliation process was made February 9, 2022, this team has been prayerfully discerning our church’s future and options for several months. The church membership has the final vote on whether the church should disaffiliate.
Why have I not heard more about this until now?
Our Senior Pastor and Council Chair have shared general information about the state of the UMC several times in past worship services and church-wide emails. At that time, we outlined the ongoing issues and conflicts within the UMC and stated that The Way was exploring its options related to these issues. However, only recently has the Church Council considered disaffiliation. We began the disaffiliation process because there was a short deadline to do so. The church membership will ultimately decide whether The Way disaffiliates with the UMC.
What happens next in the disaffiliation process?
On February 9, 2022, our lay-led Council voted to officially begin the disaffiliation process. On February 14, a letter requesting disaffiliation was sent to our District Superintendent. The letter requests that he call a Church Conference, whereby all members of The Way can vote to disaffiliate. Only members are allowed to vote, per our UMC Book of Discipline and guidelines for disaffiliation provided by our Conference. A two-thirds majority vote is required to move forward with the process. If that number is not reached, The Way will remain a United Methodist Church. The District Superintendent has requested that the vote be held on April 25, 2022.
Who can vote?
While anyone is welcome to attend the meeting where the disaffiliation vote will be held, only “professing members” of The Way can vote. Professing members are those who have officially joined The Way. If you aren’t sure of your membership status, please contact Allen McMullen.
If I am a member, do I have to be present in-person to vote?
Yes. Only church members can vote for disaffiliation and must vote in person with a photo ID.
Where can I get more information before the vote on April 25?
Our District Superintendent will be on campus on March 3 at 6 p.m. to discuss what disaffiliation means. In addition, The Way will hold “town hall” style meetings to provide additional information and answer questions from church members. The first meeting is scheduled for Sunday, February 27 at 10 a.m. between the traditional and modern services. The other meetings are scheduled for March 13 at 5 p.m. March was so 27 at 5 p.m., and April 24 at 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Please attend to learn more about disaffiliation. Childcare will be provided for these meetings.
What happens following the vote?
If two-thirds of the church members present vote to approve the disaffiliation, The Way would enter into an agreement with the Conference Board of Trustees for The North Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church.
This agreement would spell out the details and legalities of moving forward, all of which we are prepared for. Part of this involves a financial cost to leave the denomination. The cost involves an unfunded pension liability for the denomination and apportionments due per the agreement; the cost for The Way to disaffiliate is $80,000. The Way has the funds available to cover these costs, which would come from “undesignated” funds (cash reserves).
Following this, The Way would become an independent church, not connected to a denomination. As an independent church, The Way would have options to affiliate with other Methodist churches that have disaffiliated from the UMC. Such an affiliation would provide fellowship and accountability as well as a pool of potential pastors if Pastor Andy and/or Pastor Ann retired or left the church.
IF DISAFFILIATION IS APPROVED
What will disaffiliation mean for our church organization and our beliefs?
The Way as we know it will not visibly change. We will develop a governing “board” similar to that of our Church Council as an independent church. Our Christian faith beliefs will remain Wesleyan, as they are now, and we will adopt a set of bylaws and Faith & Practice drawing from the Book of Discipline.
How will the new church remain financially viable, both now and in the future?
The Way will remain financially viable through your continued generosity. Your giving in the past, present, and future is what enables The Way to fulfill its mission and purpose—regardless of whether we are affiliated with the UMC. In addition, if we disaffiliate from the UMC, we would no longer pay apportionments to The United Methodist Church—about $32,000 a year– which would enable us to cover financial obligations incurred from disaffiliation, (pastor benefits, for example) as well as allow us to give more to the local and global missions we already support.
Is anything going to change at The Way because of this disaffiliation with the UMC?
Most everything you probably know and love about The Way now would continue. Worship, Next Generation ministries, small groups, missions would remain the same. There may be changes in our church protocols, as we would be free to handle things differently than what the UMC requires. Our pastors and staff would remain in their current positions and our property and assets would be under the control of The Way Leadership. Our legal name would change from The Way Woodstock United Methodist Church to “The Way Woodstock.”
How would I transfer my membership from The Way United Methodist Church to the new church?
Unless you notify us otherwise, we would transfer your membership to the new church on your behalf. If you wish to remain a part of The United Methodist Church, we will help you connect with a local UMC church in our area so you can transfer your membership to that church.
What can I do to support The Way’s future?
Pray as we take this journey. Pray especially for our staff and Church Council. Be informed and present and prepared to vote at the appropriate time. Finally, continue sacrificially serving and giving to the mission and ministries of The Way.
How does this affect our Making Room campaign?
If the church congregation votes to disaffiliate, the Making Room campaign will go on. It will take additional time to accrue the funds needed to start the renovation process, as Conference grants would no longer be an option. Your continued commitment will allow us to continue toward our goal.
IF DISAFFILIATION IS NOT APPROVED
What happens if we don’t disaffiliate?
If we don’t disaffiliate, The Way would remain a United Methodist Church, which appears to be moving toward a more progressive theology and changes to the Book of Discipline – changes that are contrary to the foundational tenets of Methodism that we have known and supported for generations. In other words, our church direction would be controlled by the UMC and not by our congregation. If The Way does not disaffiliate now, we may lose the opportunity to choose the future direction of our church.
Our property would continue to be held “in trust” by the denomination and our pastors would remain under appointment and could be moved at any time by our Conference to another church or moved to another capacity altogether. Our staff and Church Council will also continue to be distracted from leading us towards our primary mission as a church.
History has proven that once the theology of a denomination is changed, it is imposed on both clergy and local churches. Despite the assurance that each church and clergy can choose for themselves and remain within the UMC, that has not proven to be the case. We would likely move toward a more progressive church with a new pastor appointed to head that direction.