Bridge Churches – 7/6/2023

As some of us have seen in recent months, the United Methodist Church at large has experienced several instances in which a church has chosen to disaffiliate from the denomination. This disaffiliation has taken place when a church believes that it’s theological understanding of human sexuality differs significantly enough from that of the UMC that they no longer wish to remain within the connection. Some churches are also disaffiliating because of an expectation that our current church law found in the Book of Discipline could change at the 2024 General Conference.

To date, I have had no one speak to me regarding a desire for First UMC to disaffiliate, and church leadership has voiced a willingness to work within the connection through any changes that may occur next year. In addition to that, First UMC has spent the past few weeks discerning the opportunity to be named as a “Bridge” Church within our Annual Conference.

Bridge Churches provide pastoral support, nurture, and opportunities for connection during this time of grief and transition related to churches choosing to disaffiliate from the UMC. This work is always in response to each individual’s needs, timing, and sense of God’s call. These bridge congregations bring no expectation of church membership; rather they offer support based on the needs of each person and community.

Given the hospitality I see embodied each week on Sundays, this is an easy thing for our Church to decide to do. It does not bind us to any changes in church law, but simply highlights our willingness to care for any neighbors that may be looking for a new UMC after theirs has left the fold.

Our Council will vote on this at our next meeting in July, but please know that if you’d like to be a part of this conversation or have any questions about what this Bridge Church title would mean for us, please contact myself or our SPRC chair Ben Rothermel.