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General Conference FAQs

General Conference FAQs

Below are some frequently asked questions in response to the changes that were made at the 2024 General Conference. Informational links are embedded within the document. We will continue to update this list as we receive additional information.  

Who is Welcome at Christ Church?

Everyone is welcome at our church.  A welcoming and hospitable climate begins at the curb, continues into the heart of the congregation, and moves outside church walls into the community. The ministry of welcoming is the responsibility of the entire church family and a way of ministering to people, seven days a week, in all walks of life.  Here at Christ Church, we strive to do this right and will continue to welcome everyone into our church!

Feel free to link directly to the following sections:

Basics of General Conference
   Regionalization
   Removal of Harmful Language
   Revised Social Principles
Impact on the Local Churches
Other Important General Conference Decisions
Impact on Christ Church and What’s Next

Basics of General Conference 

  • What happened at the 2024 General Conference? 
    General Conference is the official decision making body of the United Methodist Church.  Delegates from all around the globe vote on all legislation.  In May of 2024, some changes were made to the United Methodist Church Book of Discipline and the Social Principles at the international meeting of the United Methodist Church that happens every 4 years.  
    Our church is grappling with some of the changes and how our church will operate in relation to some important matters. Our church is composed of members with wide ranging viewpoints on many of the changes made at the General Conference.  
    Recap from the Holston Conference on General Conference

  • What are the main pieces of legislation that were supported at General Conference?
    Much of the legislation that came before the General Conference dealt with three legislative priorities known as the “R’s”. Those were: 
    - Regionalization
    - Removal of Harmful Language
    - Revised Social Principles

Regionalization

  • What is regionalization?
    According to ResourceUMC, “The Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters has been working diligently since 2012 to develop a proposed structure for The United Methodist Church, worldwide, that builds connectional unity across the whole denomination while making room for customization in how the church lives out its mission in each region of the world, including the United States.” In essence, regionalization allows for unity in doctrine and theology while allowing for contextual flexibility in the following conversations:
    - Criteria for ordained and licensed ministry
    - Criteria for specialized lay ministries
    - Criteria for admission of and care for lay members
    - Organization of the regional, annual, district, and charge conferences
    - Hymnal and ritual
    - Judicial administration 

Removal of Harmful Language 

  • What did the General Conference approve regarding same-sex marriage and the ordination of LGBT persons?
    The legislation passed by the General Conference removed the language that prohibited pastors from officiating same-sex marriages as well as language that prohibited the use of local church facilities for those ceremonies.  Language prohibiting the ordination of self-avowed, practicing homosexual persons in the UMC was also removed.
     
  • When do these changes go into effect?
    These changes went into effect at the close of the General Conference on May 3, 2024.

Revised Social Principles 

  • What are social principles? 
    The Social Principles represent the prayerful and earnest efforts of the General Conference to speak to issues in the contemporary world from a sound biblical and theological foundation that is in keeping with the best of our United Methodist traditions.  The Social Principles are not church law and are non-binding. They can be amended and changed every 4 years at General Conference.
     
  • The General Conference approved the Revised Social Principles. Why were the Social Principles revised?
    The Social Principles were revised in a best effort to address contemporary issues and undergird disciplinary language revisions in the Book of Discipline. The revisions involved 12 years of development and engagement from thousands of United Methodists around the world. Find the Revised Social Principles here.
     
  • Were assertions about homosexuality removed from the Social Principles?
    Yes. General Conference delegates eliminated that “the practice of homosexuality… is incompatible with Christian teaching.” This was found in the Social Community section of the Social Principles.
    In the same vote, delegates affirmed “marriage as a sacred, lifelong covenant that brings two people of faith (adult man and adult woman of consenting age or two adult persons of consenting age) into a union of one another and into deeper relationship with God and the religious community.”
     
  • When do the Revised Social Principles go into effect?
    The revised document goes into effect January 1, 2025.
     
  • What is the difference between the new stance on abortion and the previous stance?
    The UMC’s position continues to be pro-life and has not changed significantly.  In the new edition of the Social Principles, the section on abortion is included in a new section entitled Reproductive Health and Abortion.  While this section is largely rewritten from the previous one, our basic position on abortion does not appear to have changed in any significant way. 
    The United Methodist Church affirms the sanctity of life in these two statements in the Social Principles:
    - Our belief in the sanctity of unborn human life makes us reluctant to approve abortion.
    - But we are equally bound to respect the sacredness of the life and well-being of the mother and the unborn child.  

    If interested, the reader is encouraged to read the new Section K of the Social Principles.

Impact on the Local Churches

  • Are conferences supposed to train Staff-Parish Relations committees to consider receiving pastors without regard to sexual preference?
    Nothing in the recent changes passed at the 2024 General Conference regarding human sexuality suggests this. Our Staff-Parish Relations committees receive training annually by our district superintendent.  Our bishop, in responding to the General Conference changes has reiterated that “The Bishop and Cabinet will continue to use careful and prayerful consultation in the appointment process, with the goal of clergy/church matches that result in effective ministry.” 
    Further, in recognition that a number of churches may not be open to accepting gay clergy (without stating that), a new provision was added to the Discipline that allows gay clergy in good standing to be appointed across annual conference lines when their bishop can't locate an appointment in their conference. 

  • Who can become a UMC ordained minister now?
    In addition, the General Conference has decided that a person’s entrance into the ministry process of the United Methodist Church shall not be prohibited by gender, ethnic origin, color, economic status, and now adds – by removal from the Discipline – sexual orientation.
    In other words, candidates for ministry are to be eligible by their perceived gifts and potential for effectiveness in the proclamation or teaching of the gospel, the making of disciples, providing pastoral care, or connecting the church to the world.

  • Are ministers now required to be “celibate in singleness” whether they are gay or straight?
    The words “fidelity in marriage and celibate in singleness” in Paragraph 304 of the Discipline, Qualifications for Ordination, have been replaced with “faithful sexual intimacy expressed through fidelity, monogamy, commitment, mutual affection and respect.”  These requirements will apply to all candidates for ordination.
  • Will pastors be forced to officiate same-sex weddings?
    No, UMC pastors have always decided whom they will marry. This is based on several factors including the couples’ preparation for the marriage covenant. This has not changed. Pastors will continue to decide whom they will marry. There is no mechanism in Conference leadership nor desire on the part of the bishop to determine whom a pastor will marry.  
    As the newly adopted language reads, we will “not penalize any clergy for performing, or refraining from performing, a same-sex marriage service.” The desires of all clergy are to be honored and not judged by others.

Other Important General Conference Decisions 

  • Why did the UMC approve a resolution not to invest in bonds in Israel but did not mention the atrocities committed by Hamas on Israel?
    The resolution, which is not binding, urges UMC institutions to not invest in the government bonds of Israel, Turkey, and Morocco due to long-term military occupations by those nations.  While the resolution does not mention the October 7, 2023 attack by Hamas on citizens of Israel, our Council of Bishops issued a letter a month after the attack that did so.  It decried the attack by Hamas and called on both sides to find a way to peace.  Here is a link to that letter.
  • What did the General Conference decide about apportionments?
    Apportionments are the funds that each annual conference (such as our Holston Annual Conference) is expected to pay each year to the general United Methodist Church.  These will be reduced in an effort to balance funding important connectional ministries through the general church budget and supporting the local church during financial challenges due to the pandemic and disaffiliation. 
    Our church tithes 10% to the Holston Conference, and that would most likely stay the same.  CUMC does not pay apportionments directly to the General Conference. 

Impact on Christ Church and What’s Next

  • How is Christ Church not changing?
    Our ministers, teachers and mission groups are continuing on as before General Conference.  We are still welcoming everyone into our church from all walks of life.  We try to be a place of shelter and love for all in our communities. Please listen to Pastor Nathan’s June 9th sermon on this subject. We have many classes and support groups still teaching and ministering to our members and our community.   Our curriculums for our young people and children are carefully selected for their rich Christian teachings and are always being reviewed by our excellent staff at the church.  We will faithfully continue our mission to further the work of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.
  • How do the decisions made at the General Conference change the mission and ministry of my local church?
    Our commitment to who God has called us to be here at Christ United Methodist Church does not change. Our mission remains “Learning to live the way of Jesus Christ and inviting all to follow him.” 
    At our local church, our leadership and members will continue to chart the course of our ministry and our church mission, just as is currently the case.

  • Our Church created a discernment team - who are the members and what  is their role?  
    A discernment team was created to evaluate our options as a church after the 2024 General Conference.  Approximately 25% of the United Methodist Churches disaffiliated during 2022-2023. Most large churches in the state of Tennessee chose not to disaffiliate at that time.   We made a decision, voted on by the church council, to wait until after the changes were decided this past May to evaluate our options. A discernment team will not have authority to make decisions for the church but will be a recommending body to the church council. The team has met twice and has reviewed the almost 300 survey responses submitted to the church.  An update is being released after each meeting.  Updates can be found on our website.

    - The team was put together by the nominating committee and approved by Church Council, and an attempt was made to represent different leaders and points of views on the committee.  
    - The team has reviewed the survey responses and will be charting a path forward over the next 2-6 months.
    - This team is not committed to either a pathway of disassociation or staying United Methodist.  Its task is to listen to our congregants and evaluate information as we receive it from the Holston Conference.  
     
    The committee is composed of the following people:

Nathan Malone 
Ashlie Henderson
David Hall
Becky Hall
Andy Martin
Rick Eason
Lisa Felker
Mark Kapperman
Oscar Parks

Cathy Baker
Adrianne Cowan
Ansley Pearson
Brian Dantzler
Eric Duree
Nozi Madida
Stephen Overall 
Michael Brown
Lori Heath












 
  • A survey of the congregation of CUMC was taken back in June.  What did the survey results say?
    The Discernment Team greatly appreciates every one of the over 300 responses to the survey, which was intended to allow the congregation members to speak out with their views.  The names of submitters were deleted from the responses before they were given to the team, and the team members have read every single one.   
    There were numerous things almost everyone held in common, such as a deep and abiding love for this church and for one another. It was clear that no person wanted to hurt anyone else and that everyone seeks to know and love God and others. Everyone emphasized a strong commitment to our mission and ministries and many who disagree with each other serve side by side in our mission and ministries and are in deep relationship with each other in classes and groups. 
    The results of the survey confirmed over and over that we are a much more diverse congregation than many of us would have assumed given the traditional nature of our church and its geopolitical location. This came as a surprise to people on both ends of the spectrum. 

  • Who is running the church?
    As with all United Methodist churches, our Church Council is the key decision-making body.  It serves as a represented democracy and is composed of the chairs of Finance, Staff-Parish Relations, Missions, Nominations, Personnel, and our Trustees.  Each of these committees has key leadership roles in their particular areas.  In addition to these leaders, the Council also includes three panels of members at large, who represent the members of the church in decision-making.  Here is the listing of all members of our Church Council for 2024.   Our Council Chair is Ashlie Henderson.  Day-to-day operation of the church is led by our staff, which is led by our Executive Director, Becky Hall.
    Our church has three ministers who are voting members.  Nathan Malone (Senior Pastor), David Hall (Minister of Evangelism and Care) and Wayne Cook(Minister of Pastoral Care).

  • What does our church have to do now to accommodate the decisions made at the General Conference? 
    The recent decisions of the General Conference do not require action from anyone. However, the decisions do leave space for change to occur if that is the desire of our congregation. We have created a discernment team to carefully and prayerfully consider a path forward. Since we did not have a policy in place after the changes at the General Conference we elected through a vote of the Trustees and affirmed by the Church Council to continue the previous policy of not allowing same sex weddings on our campus at this time.
  • Does our church now have to host same-sex weddings?
    No, the General Conference legislation explicitly protects the rights of clergy and churches not to officiate at or host same-sex weddings. The UMC will not “require any local church to hold or prohibit a local church from holding a same-sex marriage service on the property of the local church.”
    We know that different people have different opinions on these matters and our churches are in different contexts within the bounds of the Holston Conference.  The bishop expects that the diversity of everyone’s opinion and everyone’s context will be honored.
    CUMC has currently voted through the Trustee committee and affirmed by the church council to not hold same sex marriages based on the current ministers’ recommendations and the desire of leadership to keep the same policies as were in place before General Conference.  

  • Can my church still disassociate from the United Methodist Church based on the decisions made at the General Conference?
    We are monitoring the response of the Holston Conference closely.  Please read the letter that was sent out on June 28th from our Holston Conference.
     
  • Will our church have a vote?
    Yes, we will have a vote of the members to see if we should move forward with a dissociation pathway.  The discernment team is monitoring this issue closely.  Please keep in mind the following:
  1. This first vote would only decide whether we have enough members who are in favor of moving ahead and exploring the process.This is not the vote to actually officially disassociate, that vote will be held at the end of the process and will require a "still to be determined" % of members.
  2. The discernment team has recommended that we should not ask for an initial vote until we receive more information from the Holston conference that will outline the terms of disassociation.  This information would include cost, time frame and what percentage of the members would need to approve the plan to leave the denomination.  See the letter from the Holston Conference above that is dated June 28th.  Our hope is that we can provide information very soon and start the process of our initial vote.
  3. You will receive more information as we approach a vote.
  4. All members will have a vote.
  5. We are exploring the possibility of having different forms of voting available to maximize participation. 
  6. A disassociation process is a very complex and detailed undertaking and will take a large investment of time for our church if we vote to enter that process. After entering that process, lots of work would have to be done in relation to leadership, finances, staffing issues, and missional changes.  There would still need to be another vote by our church membership at the end of the process to formally disassociate.   
  • If our church votes to disassociate, where could our church go?
    We could move to another Methodist Denomination such as Global Methodist Church or Free Methodists or become an independent church.
  • Will our current leaders stay with our church if we disassociate from the United Methodist Church?
    Our pastors and executive director have stated they will remain in the United Methodist Church.
     
  • Who owns local church property?
    Since the earliest days of the Methodist movement, local church property has been held in trust by the local church for the benefit of the entire denomination.  Thus, if a local church closes, ownership of its property and all improvements on it goes to the Trustees of its annual conference.  If a church should decide to leave the United Methodist Church without following an approved process for disassociation, it would lose its property. This trust clause was put into our Discipline in 1797 and is reflected in all deeds of local church property.  
  • According to Paragraph 2549 of the Discipline, under the direction of the annual conference, the conference Trustees can retain, sell, lease, or otherwise dispose of the property of a closed local church.  According to the letter from our conference Trustees included above, it appears the Trustees will try to utilize this paragraph to offer a process for local churches to disassociate from the United Methodist Church and take their property with them.

  • How much would disassociation cost our church? 
    The temporary Disaffiliation process ended in December 2023.  If local churches are permitted to leave the United Methodist Church now, it will be through a new dissociation process.  We don’t know at this time, but the cost, based on previous history of the disaffiliation process could be substantial for us to close the church and receive ownership of our property.  This was the case during the disaffiliation process.  The conference has assured the congregations that they would provide a gracious exit, not punitive.  We are still waiting on those details.
     
  • We have been told that Christ Church is the same church today that we have always been.  How can that continue with the very progressive decisions that have been made by the delegates at the General Conference? 
    Christ Church has already made the decision that we will not allow same gender weddings in our facilities, and our pastors have stated they will not perform same gender weddings.  This has always been our practice.  The changes made at the General Conference include protections for local churches and pastors in deciding whether to host or perform these ceremonies or not to do so.  Provisions were added that district superintendents and bishops may not penalize pastors for their decisions in this regard nor direct local churches to do or not do these ceremonies. 
    When it is time for a pastoral change, our district superintendent consults with our Staff-Parish Relations Committee regarding our church’s needs, and this gives us the opportunity to express our desire regarding the new pastor’s human sexuality.  We have been fortunate to have pastors serve us for long periods of time, and every time a change has been needed, our district superintendent and bishop have attempted to make appointments that were consistent with our needs and wishes.  We have every reason to believe that will continue in the future. 
    Within these practices, Christ United Methodist Church has always been and will continue to be welcoming of all persons, regardless of age, race, economic status, or human sexuality.  Perhaps the greatest challenge for our members is to trust that we will continue being Christ Church, knowing that some other local churches in the United Methodist Church will now host same gender weddings and have gay pastors.
     
  • What is the source of our curriculum used in classes for both Adult and Children at CUMC?
    Currently and for the last several years, the children and youth curriculum come from two non-denominational companies with strong statements of faith.  The curriculum is selected and monitored by both our Director of Education and our Director of Children’s Ministries.  The adult curriculums used come from a wide ranging library of resources that we have at our church as well as other requested materials from other sources.  All requests go through our Director of Education. 

More questions will be answered as they are received.

8645 E. Brainerd Rd. Chattanooga, TN 37421 
423-892-9363
423-892-8443 fax