Last week, as was announced, The Fount voted to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church. What this means is that the membership of the church has begun the process to withdraw from the UMC. What makes this process difficult is what is known as the “trust clause”, which is a clause in the property deeds of the church and parsonage that specifies that if the church ever ceases to be a United Methodist Church, the title to the properties reverts to the denomination. In other words, as it stands right now, if the church disaffiliates from the UMC it would have to surrender its properties.
But in 2019 the General Conference of the UMC enacted paragraph 2553 in the Book of Discipline. This paragraph makes possible the disaffiliation of UMC congregations for a limited time (the end of 2023). The provisions of par. 2553 specify that the local church must pay an additional year of apportionments and its share of the unfunded pension liabilities of the conference. For us, that amounts to a little more than $100,000. The California-Pacific Annual Conference, however, has added to those provisions (which par. 2553 allows, but does not specify) 50% of the property value of any church properties (church and parsonage). That amount could be as much as $5 million, depending on the appraisal of church properties.
The leadership of The Fount is working with the National Center for Law and Liberty, a Florida-based legal firm which represents hundreds of United Methodist Churches, to try and negotiate a better arrangement. Clearly, if the church had to pay $5 million to the conference, it would kill the church! So, the leadership will be negotiating in good faith with the annual conference to try and reach a compromise. Your prayers are needed to seek the favor of God and the good will of the bishop and conference trustees.
As announced last week, the vote to disaffiliate from the UMC was 100% of those present and voting. In other words, the congregation is united on this matter. But there is no guarantee that the congregation will prevail, and it may become necessary to surrender the property and re-plant the church. The congregation also voted last week to seek affiliation with the Global Methodist Church, once disaffiliation from the UMC was complete. If the church completes disaffiliation or has to surrender the property, it would re-plant as a Global Methodist Church.
So, The Fount is entering a new season. We all need to pray and fast for God’s wisdom and guidance. If you have any questions about this, please feel free to contact me or a member of the Church Council. We are in this together!