Some things I learned on Feb. 13


“The local church is a connectional society. . .such a society of believers, being within The United Methodist Church and subject to its Discipline, is also an inherent part of the church universal.” — Book of Discipline, Paragraph 203. 


In one of our local churches, a difficult situation emerged in 2004: The interim supply pastor and congregation expressed their desire to leave the United Methodist connection, changed the sign in front of the church to reflect a new name and informed the Annual Conference that they now owned the church property.


This matter was resolved on Feb. 13 as this congregation reached a mutual agreement with the Mississippi Annual Conference to purchase the church property. 


I learned several things: 

  • How important it is for us to help our churches celebrate with theological understanding that we are entrusted with stewardship of all God’s gifts, including church property, for evangelism, Christian nurture and mission. 
  • How important it is for us to engage in dialogue with local churches around this central theme of trust. We do not live solitary lives and nor do we have congregational polity.  We are a connectional people, profoundly connected to other Christians.
  • How important it is for us to discern and dialogue helpfully in settings where people lack understanding of the theological and missional meaning of the disciplinary trust clause, paragraphs 2501 and 2503, that articulates the way all United Methodist property is held in trust for The United Methodist Church.
  • How important it is to recognize times of questioning and challenge as opportunity for clarification and witness of who we are as a connectional people. 

I also give thanks again today that we are not alone. We live together toward God. 


A local journalist asked me if the UMC would consider changing “this bylaw.” I responded that the trust clause is not a bylaw. It is a central heartbeat of who we are. 


A holy “trust” comes to us from our forebears and our contemporary mission partners:  we are entrusted with life and gifts and property. We hold that trust for our churches and for the expansive connection of United Methodists. We hold that trust for those who went before us, for those who are around us, and for those who will come after us. This is profound and holy and good.


“To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. . .For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. . .” — I Corinthians 12:7,12