COST OF DISAFFILIATION: Eagle Lake Methodist raising $25,000 for title to church building
Published 4:41 pm Tuesday, March 21, 2023
The history of Methodism runs deep in Vicksburg.
After the Rev. Tobias Gibson established the Hopewell congregation in Warren County in 1799, the Rev. Newitt Vick, for whom Vicksburg is named, became the first Methodist minister in Warren County.
There have been changes in the Methodist church since Vick’s first log cabin church was built, and it looks like more are developing as local Methodist churches begin to weigh their options for remaining in the conference or disaffiliating.
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Eagle Lake United Methodist Church has already made its decision and chosen to disaffiliate.
One reason, longtime Eagle Lake United Methodist Church member Peggy Callaway said, is because of the discussions being held about human sexuality and how that relates to members of the LGBT community becoming ordained United Methodist ministers.
“But it’s not just that,” Callaway said.
She said she believes that the United Methodist Church is not living up to its Book of Discipline, which outlines the law, doctrine, administration, organizational work and procedures of the church. And she feels that for those who are not abiding by the established guidelines, there has been no “accountability” or “recourse.”
“If you don’t want to go by what you have in the Discipline, then you sit down and work on that,” Callaway said, which she thought had been done in 2019 when a vote was taken at General Conference that concluded the Discipline would stand as is: that a person cannot be openly gay and serve as an ordained minister.
Callaway said Eagle Lake was in agreement with this decision.
“We want to remain scripturally faithful, is the bottom line, and we want to stay with the church Discipline as it is,” she said.
However, Callaway said she feels the “progressives” within the United Methodist Church are not abiding by the 2019 decision. With that being said, she did say the United Methodist churches in Mississippi are standing by the Book of Discipline.
According to umnews.org, a United Methodist Church website, 486 United Methodist churches in the U.S. have already disaffiliated. In Mississippi, seven church disaffiliations were approved by the Mississippi annual conference in 2019; 23 in 2021 and 12 in 2022. More are set to follow, including Eagle Lake United Methodist Church.
However, churches can’t just walk away from their parent organization. There are steps in disaffiliating one of which is to obtain the title to the building that is held in trust by the United Methodist Church’s General Conference and Annual Conference.
Holding the title to church properties has been part of the United Methodist Discipline since 1797 and according to Asbury Theological Seminary President Timothy C. Tennent, this was done “to reflect the connectional structure of the church by ensuring the property will be used solely for purposes constant with the mission of the entire denomination as set forth in the Discipline.”
To obtain their title, Eagle Lake United Methodist Church will have to pay the conference $25,000.
This amount, Callaway said, is based on two years of what would have been required of the Mississippi Conference’s “askings.”
Umc.org states “askings,” also referred to as apportionments, are used to fund the global mission and witness of the United Methodist Church. They also help provide the necessary structure to respond in moments of crisis locally, nationally and internationally, and they are used to develop and nurture the leaders of today and tomorrow.
The cost of apportionments being required, Callaway said, is another reason Eagle Lake United Methodist Church decided to disaffiliate.
“We cannot afford to stay in the United Methodist Church,” Callaway said. “The askings and the direct billing is so much of our income that we just can’t stay afloat.”
Apportionments in the United Methodist Church are determined by its membership. According to United Methodist Church’s website, for the average local church, 84.3 cents of each donated dollar supports ministries of the local congregation, 12.4 cents of every dollar given supports ministries within the state and 3.3 cents support ministries beyond the state including the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), which provides disaster relief across the world.
Locally, during the 2019, 2020 and 2021 Yazoo Backwater floods, United Way of West Central Mississippi executive director Michele Connelley said, UMCOR along with many other organizations collaborated with Eagle Lake United Methodist Church to assist those affected by the floods. UMCOR specifically, Connelley said, provided case management and funding to assist in the long-term recovery of flood victims.
Where to go after disaffiliation
In taking their financial situation into consideration, Callaway said, Eagle Lake United Methodist Church has plans to join the Congregational Methodist Church, which was established in 1852.
While many United Methodist churches choosing to disaffiliate are joining the offshoot Global Methodist Church, Callaway said the Congregational Methodist Church is a better fit for Eagle Lake’s congregation.
“It appears the Global Methodist Church, while they won’t have a trust clause, is building an infrastructure like the United Methodist Church,” Callaway said.
Therefore, she said they feel more comfortable going with Congregational Methodist Church, which is headquartered in Florence, Miss.
Additionally, its structure is smaller than the United Methodist Church or Global Methodist Church.
“I’ll say it’s (Congregational Methodist Church) organized more like the Baptist Church,” Callaway said, and its main tenant “is believing the Bible is God’s word given to us to follow and being scripturally faithful.
“We don’t see that anymore in the United Methodist Church,” she added. “I see it in Global, but again, I don’t know what that structure is going to look like.”
In response to Callaway’s statement about the United Methodist’s beliefs, Communication Specialist for the United Methodist Conference Jasmine Haynes said, “United Methodists share with other Christians the conviction that Scripture is the primary source and criterion for Christian doctrine. Our standards affirm the Bible as the source of all that is ‘necessary’ and ‘sufficient’ unto salvation, according to Article V in our ‘Articles of Religion,’ and ‘is to be received through the Holy Spirit as the true rule and guide for faith and practice,’ as is stated in Article IV of our ‘Confession of Faith.’”
Redwood United Methodist Church
Eagle Lake United Methodist Church is what the United Methodist Church refers to as a two-point charge, meaning one minister is appointed to two churches. Eagle Lake United Methodist Church shares a charge with Redwood United Methodist Church; therefore, Callaway said, the plan is that Redwood United Methodist Church will also disaffiliate and join the Congregational Methodist Church.
Paying off the $25,000
In an effort to raise the $25,000 needed, Eagle Lake United Methodist Church has set up a GoFundMe account, which is on its Facebook page. They have also held a fern fundraiser and have plans to hold several raffles, which include a guided fishing trip with Stan Thibodeaux, 20-minute rides in three of the Southern Heritage Air Foundation’s vintage planes and a Marlin .22 rifle.
Church members are also selling boudin balls and during Lakefest, which will be held in late May, along with the boudin balls, they will sell cookies and sweets, handmade stained glass crosses and other crafts and plants.