Welcome to our website!! We are hope-filled, joy-filled, Spirit-filled and excited for what the Holy Spirit is doing and will do in this season of ministry. You are invited to join us in this journey of faith by checking out the resources and upcoming events for the global WCA as well as this regional chapter of the WCA here in Western Pennsylvania. Reach out anytime with any questions you may have. May we embrace the ideal of John Wesley when he said, “I continue to dream and pray about a revival of holiness in our day that moves forth in mission and creates authentic community in which each person can be unleashed through the empowerment of the Spirit to fulfill God’s creational intentions.”
A Note from Janet Lord
I have now now created a private Facebook group for WPA GMC folks. I can only invite people who I’m friends with on Facebook. If you would like to be added to this page, first we have to be friends on Facebook. Then, if you are interested I can add you to the new WPA GCM Facebook page. Thanks!
Open Letter to the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference and the Conference Trustees
October 22, 2022
Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
The past many months have been quite chaotic here in Western Pennsylvania. If your church is considering disaffiliation, then you have experienced the miasma that is the ever-changing process and costs for disaffiliation. If your church is not disaffiliating, you have still felt the disorientation this ambiguous process is forcing on everyone. One of the main causes of this disorientation and chaos is not having a clear, fair, and reasonable plan for churches that are called by God to consider moving in a different direction.
Many of you may remember the legislation P73, which was overwhelmingly approved in the legislative section at Annual Conference. It was a clear, fair, and reasonable plan for disaffiliation which progressive, centrist, and conservative members of the conference strongly supported. P73 clarified that our annual conference would use the basic minimum set out by paragraph 2553 and keep our process at that. This plan was clear, fair, responsible, and accepted by the vast majority of the annual conference. Specifically, P73 stated that:
- The apportionment rate for churches to pay would be their 2023 rate.
- The pension liability each church would pay would be calculated using the same formula the annual conference had been using for the past three years and we would not change it.
- There would be no other costs added on to these two minimum requirements except for the legal costs associated with disaffiliation.
Unfortunately, the bishop removed P73 from the legislative jurisdiction of the Annual Conference and placed it under the legal jurisdiction of the Judicial Council (the Supreme Court of our Church). Furthermore, the bishop did not allow any questions or appeals to this decision and then she abruptly adjourned the conference. Many of us walked away from that conference feeling disoriented and unsettled in our spirits.
The root of these feelings is distortion of holy conferencing. Holy Conferencing, which all members agreed to follow, was defined in our pre conference journal starting on page 5 found here (https://www.wpaumc.org/files/aboutus/2022+annual+conference/01+preface+2022.pdf). All of these guidelines are essential for our work together, especially the tenant, “We believe Christians can discuss important issues without the acrimonious debate and parliamentary maneuvering that can divide a group into contending factions.”
The bishop’s parliamentary maneuvering regarding P73 is now before the Judicial Council for review. We believe that the Judicial Council will rule that they have no jurisdiction to consider this matter. (See link to brief). This ruling will mean that the Judicial Council will understand that the bishop acted inappropriately and contrary to the Discipline by placing P73 under the Council’s jurisdiction and thereby thwarting the vote to approve P73.
Since P73 was on the consent calendar with a vote of 93 to 9, it is a certainty that P73 would have been approved with all the other actions on the consent calendar. Therefore, we call on the Conference Trustees to reinstate the parameters of P73 as the guiding principles for disaffiliation agreements as soon as the Judicial Council rules they have no jurisdiction. You have been put into a unique position to both care for churches which are trying to follow God’s call through pursuing disaffiliation, and to fix the harm that was done to our conference and connection at Annual Conference this year. We implore you to hear the voice of centrists, progressives, and conservatives alike who voted nearly unanimously in section for a process and plan which was clear, fair, and reasonable for everyone involved. Who knows, perhaps you have come to your position for such a time as this.
We also call upon the members of the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference to:
- Pray for our churches, Conference Leadership, Bishop, and Conference Trustees.
- Patiently wait and watch for the Judicial Council ruling on P73 which should come down the first week of November.
- Prepare to engage in Holy Conferencing in negotiations with the Conference Trustees.
Your Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
WPA WCA Council
Our desire as the Western PA Chapter of the WCA is to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, seeking to be led by both the Word of God and the Spirit of God. Over the past several weeks, I have been praying a portion of Psalm 25 not only for myself and for our leadership, but for all of us in this challenging time in our denomination:
Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths;
Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long. (4-5)
As churches and leaders discern where they believe God is leading them, we have sought to guide and come alongside them as we navigate these next steps together. We have a great team of leaders in our chapter as well as experts whom we have consulted who have developed a Disaffiliation Timeline to guide us in these next steps.
We shared this Disaffiliation Timeline with a host of leaders throughout our Annual Conference who are seeking more information as they navigate the next steps toward disaffiliation from the UMC. We are sharing this on our website believing that this document can guide churches across the theological spectrum as they discern their next steps.
Now, we are sharing this document with you, so open the attachment, collaborate with your leadership team, prayerfully discern your next steps, and reach out anytime for a WPA WCA coach to answer your questions and help you navigate the process. We continue to pray for churches and leaders throughout our Conference as we continue on this journey together.
Serving in Jesus’ name,
Rev. Laura Saufell
Count the Cost
Over these past few months, there have been numerous gatherings with the bishop, assistant to the bishop, and district superintendents as local churches have gathered in prayerful discernment for their future. They have been counting the financial cost and story after story has come through with churches responding with “our church just cannot afford it.” They have heard the costs and walked away discouraged because of the unaffordability of disaffiliation.
There is another metric, though, involved in counting the cost. As Jesus was speaking to the large crowds traveling with him, he laid out the cost of becoming a disciple (Luke 14). Many traveled with Jesus, but there were few who actually followed Jesus. He was unimpressed with the large crowds traveling with Him. He was calling them to take up their cross and follow Him. He did not want them to follow blindly but to prayerfully discern whether or not they were ready for the cost involved in following Jesus.
As churches prayerfully discern their future, it is not just about the financial cost. There is a spiritual cost that each church needs to discern. How can your local church, your gathering of disciples of Jesus, most effectively make disciples who make disciples of Jesus? Are you willing to take the next step of a Church Conference so that you can enter into negotiations with the Conference Trustees? Are you willing to stand with hundreds of other churches in our Conference and thousands of churches throughout our United Methodist connection counting the cost of following Jesus to reach the least, the last, and the lost with the good news of Jesus Christ?
The WCA chapter of Western PA supports churches which choose to exercise their disciplinary right to disaffiliate under paragraph 2553. We do not recommend legal litigation as a primary course of action at this time, but instead encourage churches which feel called to leave the United Methodist Church because of reasons of conscience to follow the official processes for disaffiliation laid out in paragraph 2553 and by our Conference Trustees. For churches that choose an alternative path, our WCA chapter will continue to support them through their alternate process.
As church after church gathers in Church Conferences throughout these next few months, the WPA chapter of the WCA is here praying for all of our local churches and praying for all of our Conference Trustees as they work together to make a way for churches to disaffiliate and live into the ministry of making disciples of Jesus Christ. We are praying for the fire of the Holy Spirit to fall and for Jesus to be made known throughout Western Pennsylvania and beyond. Come, Lord Jesus!
Rev. Laura A. Saffell
This is a challenging time for all of our churches and clergy in the United Methodist Church and in our particular Conference as they prayerfully discern their future striving to contend for the faith once for all entrusted to the saints (Jude 3). It is challenging because contending for the faith has never been easy. The challenges and cultural shifts through which the followers of Jesus have had to navigate for the past 2,000 or so years have been incredibly difficult.
Throughout the history of Methodism, followers of Jesus in this stream of Christianity have oftentimes found themselves at crossroads where they had to prayerfully discern whether to stay in the prevailing stream of Methodism or separate and begin a new expression of Methodism. Out of those seasons of prayerful discernment, Methodist forms of Christianity multiplied and grew. People were set free for joyful obedience as new expressions of Methodism were born which now number 80 Methodist, Wesleyan, and related denominations that represent over 80 million followers of Jesus in 138 countries according to the World Methodist Council (https://worldmethodistcouncil.org/about-us/).
Why share this brief history of Methodism at a time of anxiety and brokenness in the United Methodist Church? Because sometimes we need to be reminded that countless others have been in prayerful discernment over our long and storied history as followers of Jesus in the Methodist stream of Christianity seeking to contend for the faith once for all entrusted to the saints. We need to be reminded that God has often led His people to do difficult things. In fact, Jesus said to those who would follow Him: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
At the time of this writing, nearly 300 churches out of nearly 800 in the Western Pennsylvania Conference have indicated a desire to explore disaffiliation from the United Methodist Church. This then gives them the opportunity to meet with the Bishop, the Assistant to the Bishop, and their District Superintendent to hear more about the process and be given some of the costs involved should their local church decide to pursue disaffiliation.
Now is the time to engage in robust prayerful discernment as followers of Jesus, as leadership of local churches, as clergy, as congregations, as leadership at all levels of United Methodism as we all seek to be freed for joyful obedience through Jesus Christ our Lord. Please be assured that no matter where each church discerns the direction God is leading them, you are being lifted up in prayer that in all ways we may each be faithful to His leading and that more and more people may find life in the name of Jesus and in the power of His Holy Spirit.
Our next Annual WPA WCA Membership Gathering will be held on Saturday, November 12th, at 10:00 am. Stay tuned for additional details