Frequently Asked Questions

(Once you open each question, simply click/tap anywhere in the box to collapse the question again)

The United Methodist Church (UMC) is the largest denomination within the wider Methodist movement of approximately 80 million people across the world. There are United Methodist Churches in the United States, Africa, Asia, and Europe with approximately twelve million members. In the United States, the UMC ranks as the second-largest Protestant Church.

Our UMC structure is similar to the three branches of the United States government. The dispersed authority of the United Methodist Church is divided among three “branches”; an executive branch, a legislative branch, and a judicial branch. These are outlined in The United Methodist Constitution, the fundamental constituting and legal document of The United Methodist Church. The Constitution was approved as part of the Plan of Union for the merger of The Evangelical United Brethren Church and The Methodist Church in 1968, 55 years ago. It establishes the basic outline for the organization of the denomination. There are checks and balances for each with individual responsibilities outlined in The Book of Discipline.

General Conference

The legislative branch and responsibilities belong to the General Conference. Our polity organizes our church into “conferences.” The highest and most authoritative level is called the General Conference. The General Conference serves as the primary legislative body, and is the only entity with the authority to speak on behalf of the entire United Methodist Church.

The General Conference meets every four years to consider the business and mission of the church. As a legislative body, it is made up of an equal number of lay and clergy delegates representing our churches around the globe. A formula is used to determine appropriate representation from across the denomination. The number of delegates can vary based on this formula. The total number of delegates is between 600 and 1,000. General Conference 2016 had 864 delegates. The 2020 was postponed because of Covid and the 2024 session will have 862 delegates.

The work and decisions of the General Conference are published in The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church. These are our shared “rules” and detailed procedures that form our covenant together. This Book of Discipline establishes procedures for virtually every aspect of the church’s life. It also communicates the denomination’s official position on a variety of issues and cultural challenges. These procedures and positions are organized by paragraph numbers within The Book of Discipline. The equivalent of our General Conference would be our U.S. Congress.

The work of the General Conference informs the work of the “Annual Conferences,” that are made up of geographical areas. Currently, there are 129 Annual Conferences globally. Each conference connects local churches, sets ministry priorities and budgets, approves ordination candidates, holds clergy membership, and votes on constitutional amendments under the direction of the General Conference. Annual Conferences also elect clergy and laity delegates who will represent them at General Conference. Annual Conferences are made up of “Districts” in a geographic area.

For reference, Grace Church is part of The Florida Annual Conference and is in the North Central District.

Council of Bishops

The Council of Bishops is the executive branch of the UMC and includes all current and retired UMC Bishops. They provide oversight and vision for the church. Active Bishops are assigned one or more Annual Conferences, or “episcopal areas,” to oversee and annually appoint all clergy to lead local churches in the conference. Bishops are elected at another sub-division of the organization called Jurisdictional Conferences and serve within that region for four-year terms. The U.S. equivalent to the Council of Bishops is the Presidency.

Grace Church is part of the Southeastern Jurisdiction Conference. The Florida Annual Conference was led by Bishop Ken Carter until December 31, 2022, and Bishop Tom Berlin became our new Bishop on January 1, 2023. Our North Central District Superintendent is Rev. Dr. David Allen. Rev. Rick Thompson serves Grace Church under the appointment of the Bishop.

Judicial Council

The Judicial Council is the judicial branch of the UMC. This nine-member body determines the constitutionality of the actions of the General Conference, reviews all Bishop decisions, and serves as the final court of appeal in the church’s judicial system. When you think of the Judicial Council, think of the Supreme Court of the U.S.

The UMC has been in a protracted struggle focused on differing understandings of Jesus’ intentions and teachings surrounding human sexuality for many years. Before discussing the implications of this debate, it is important for us to understand that followers of Jesus do not all agree on whether or not the practice of homosexuality is inherently sinful, and what is the extent of LGBTQ inclusion in the church. But let us be clear, no matter where we stand, this struggle is not about an “issue.” This struggle is about people of sacred worth.

The UMC was established in 1968 in Dallas, Texas with the joining of the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church. Since the first General Conference of 1972, just four years later, the UMC has been engaged in debates on the issue of homosexuality and the extent of LGBTQ inclusion.

The current official position of the UMC as determined by the General Conference as it relates to “the practice of homosexuality” is below:

¶ 161 The Nurturing Community
F) Human Sexuality—We affirm that sexuality is God’s good gift to all persons. We call everyone to responsible stewardship of this sacred gift. Although all persons are sexual beings whether or not they are married, sexual relations are affirmed only with the covenant of monogamous, heterosexual marriage.

We affirm that all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God. All persons need the ministry of the Church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship that enables reconciling relationships with God, with others, and with self. The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching. We affirm that God’s grace is available to all. We will seek to live together in Christian community, welcoming, forgiving, and loving one another, as Christ has loved and accepted us. We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.[ ]

Furthermore, The Book of Discipline also prohibits United Methodist clergy from officiating at same-sex weddings, citing such as a chargeable offense against the polity and practice of the Church:

¶ 2702 A bishop, clergy member of an annual conference [or other clergy classifications] may be tried when charged…with one or more of the following offenses: (a) immorality including but not limited to, not being celibate in singleness or not faithful in a heterosexual marriage; (b) practices declared by The United Methodist Church to be incompatible with Christian teachings; including but not limited to: being a self-avowed practicing homosexual; or conducting ceremonies which celebrate homosexual unions; or performing same-sex wedding ceremonies; (c) crime; (d) disobedience to the order and discipline of The United Methodist Church; (e) dissemination of doctrines contrary to the established standards of doctrine of The United Methodist Church; (f) relationships and/or behavior that undermines the ministry of another pastor; (g) child abuse; (h) sexual abuse; (i) sexual misconduct or (j) harassment, including, but not limited to racial and/or sexual harassment; or (k) racial or gender discrimination.[[ ]]

From the denominational perspective, since 1972 the debate on the floor of General Conference has, at times, turned into demonstrations by LGBTQ persons and allies that have stalled and even stopped the legislative process of General Conference. The struggle has not remained on the floor of General Conference but has also spilled out into the broader life of our church. Again, it is important to note that the people who have spearheaded these demonstrations are also followers of Jesus for whom full inclusion of LGBTQ persons is of grave spiritual and social justice concern.

Following General Conference 2012, retired Bishop Melvin Talbert issued an appeal for pastors to openly disobey The Book of Discipline, which he deemed to be wrong, and to begin performing weddings for same-sex couples which he himself did. In addition, groups of progressive pastors in several Annual Conferences including in our own Florida Annual Conference have openly stated their willingness to perform such ceremonies and have done so. There have been a growing number of same-sex wedding performed by UMC clergy across the UMC.

Other acts of disobedience to The Book of Discipline have occurred throughout the UMC. In July 2016, the Western Jurisdiction of the UMC elected Karen Oliveto, a married lesbian, as Bishop, in defiance of The Book of Discipline. The UMC Judicial Council ruled her election out of order and referred the matter back to the Western Jurisdiction for resolution as our Book of Discipline requires. However, the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops has refused to take any action allowing her to remain the Bishop of the Mountain Sky Area.

Earlier at the General Conference in May 2016, the Council of Bishops acted to attempt to reconcile the differences between the differing camps by creating The Commission on the Way Forward (COWF). This 32-member commission was comprised of representatives from various constituencies within United Methodism and charged with creating and presenting options for the Church to definitively move beyond the current impasse on the extent of inclusion for LGBTQ persons. In February 2019, three potential options were presented and heatedly debated at a special called session of the General Conference in St. Louis:

  1. The One Church Plan which would allow for differences in practice within our denomination around performing same sex marriages and LGBTQ ordination based on contextuality.
  2. The Connectional Conference Plan which was a complicated plan that would create at least three non-geographical branches based on ideology around human sexuality.
  3. The Traditional Plan which affirmed our current position and increased the amount of accountability for compliance around our position.

After four days of worship and prayer, as well as painful deliberation, the 864 delegates from the United States, Europe, the Philippines, and Africa voted to affirm the Traditional Plan. As you can imagine, not everyone was pleased with the results. It should be noted that the more conservative African, Filipino, Eastern European votes coupled with the smaller traditionalist American vote led to the result. As the American UMC has shrunken over the decades and as many of these global UMC’s have grown over the same period, the vote at General Conference regarding our denominational policy about the extent of LGBTQ inclusion has remained as it currently is.

Since General Conference 2019, many Annual Conference Boards of Ordained Ministry, the group charged with ordaining clergy, have promised to ordain self-avowed, practicing LGBTQ persons and have done so regardless of the General Conference’s adoption of the Traditional Plan. Whole Annual Conferences including our own Florida Annual Conference, have passed resolutions “condemning” the passing of the Traditional Plan at the 2019 General Conference in St. Louis and many vowing to disobey The Book of Discipline around clergy performing same-sex weddings and the ordaining of non-celibate gay persons.

As a result of these debates, many UMC churches began to discuss whether they could in all good faith and conscience remain in the UMC struggle any longer. These included both churches that were more traditional and more progressive than the current UMC reality. These discussions led to a closer look at Paragraph 2553 in the Book of Discipline.

At the 2019 Special Called General Conference, a new paragraph was approved and inserted into The Book of Discipline that allows churches to leave the UMC because of “issues related to human sexuality.” Below is the lengthy paragraph:

¶ 2553. Disaffiliation of a Local Church Over Issues Related to Human Sexuality—

  1. Basis– Because of the current deep conflict within The United Methodist Church around issues of human sexuality, a local church shall have a limited right, under the provisions of this paragraph, to disaffiliate from the denomination for reasons of conscience regarding a change in the requirements and provisions of the Book of Discipline related to the practice of homosexuality or the ordination or marriage of self-avowed practicing homosexuals as resolved and adopted by the 2019 General Conference, or the actions or inactions of its annual conference related to these issues which follow.
  2. Time Limits–The choice by a local church to disaffiliate with The United Methodist Church under this paragraph shall be made in sufficient time for the process for exiting the denomination to be complete prior to December 31, 2023. The provisions of ¶ 2553 expire on December 31, 2023 and shall not be used after that date.
  3. Decision Making Process–The church conference shall be conducted in accordance with ¶ 248 and shall be held within one hundred twenty (120) days after the district superintendent calls for the church conference. In addition to the provisions of ¶ 246.8, special attention shall be made to give broad notice to the full professing membership of the local church regarding the time and place of a church conference called for this purpose and to use all means necessary, including electronic communication where possible, to communicate. The decision to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church must be approved by a two-thirds (2/3) majority vote of the professing members of the local church present at the church conference.
  4. Process Following Decision to Disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church–If the church conference votes to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church, the terms and conditions for that disaffiliation shall be established by the board of trustees of the applicable annual conference, with the advice of the cabinet, the annual conference treasurer, the annual conference benefits officer, the director of connectional ministries, and the annual conference chancellor. The terms and conditions, including the effective date of disaffiliation, shall be memorialized in a binding Disaffiliation Agreement between the annual conference and the trustees of the local church, acting on behalf of the members. That agreement must be consistent with the following provisions:
  1. Standard Terms of the Disaffiliation Agreement. The General Council on Finance and Administration shall develop a standard form for Disaffiliation Agreements under this paragraph to protect The United Methodist Church as set forth in ¶ 807.9. The agreement shall include a recognition of the validity and applicability of ¶ 2501, notwithstanding the release of property therefrom. Annual conferences may develop additional standard terms that are not inconsistent with the standard form of this paragraph.
  2. Apportionments. The local church shall pay any unpaid apportionments for the 12 months prior to disaffiliation, as well as an additional 12 months of apportionments.
  3. Property. A disaffiliating local church shall have the right to retain its real and personal, tangible and intangible property. All transfers of property shall be made prior to disaffiliation. All costs for transfer of title or other legal work shall be borne by the disaffiliating local church.
  4. Pension Liabilities. The local church shall contribute withdrawal liability in an amount equal to its pro rata share of any aggregate unfunded pension obligations to the annual conference. The General Board of Pension and Health Benefits shall determine the aggregate funding obligations of the annual conference using market factors similar to a commercial annuity provider, from which the annual conference will determine the local church’s share.
  5. Other Liabilities. The local church shall satisfy all other debts, loans, and liabilities, or assign and transfer them to its new entity, prior to disaffiliation.
  6. Payment Terms. Payment shall occur prior to the effective date of departure.
  7. Disaffiliating Churches Continuing as Plan Sponsors of the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits Plans. The United Methodist Church believes that a local church disaffiliating under ¶ 2553 shall continue to share common religious bonds and convictions with The United Methodist Church based on shared Wesleyan theology and tradition and Methodist roots, unless the local church expressly resolves to the contrary. As such, a local church disaffiliating under ¶ 2553 shall continue to be eligible to sponsor voluntary employee benefit plans through the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits under ¶ 1504.2, subject to the applicable terms and conditions of the plans.
  8. Once the disaffiliating local church has reimbursed the applicable annual conference for all funds due under the agreement, and provided that there are no other outstanding liabilities or claims against The United Methodist Church as a result of the disaffiliation, in consideration of the provisions of this paragraph, the applicable annual conference shall release any claims that it may have under ¶ 2501 and other paragraphs of The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church commonly referred to as the trust clause, or under the agreement.

A few things should be noted about paragraph 2553.

First, there is a time limit on when local churches can leave. This paragraph “times out” on December 31, 2023. Second, a called Church Conference must be held with advance notice given to all members (our word is “partners”) with a 2/3rd majority vote. Third, the “fee” for disaffiliation includes payment of the current year’s and next year’s apportionments as well as full payment of the local church’s fair share of the unfunded liability. As a denomination, there are pension liabilities for clergy who served prior to our denomination’s robust and healthy pension program was instituted. The Florida Annual Conference has given us a “fee” of approximately $300,000. All properties would be owned by Grace Church following disaffiliation. At a the 2021 Session of the Florida Annual Conference, 17 churches left under paragraph 2553.

The reason paragraph 2553 is so important is that upon completion, churches are released from what is known in The Book of Discipline as “The Trust Clause.”[[i]] This unique feature of UMC polity mandates that all UMC properties are held in trust in the name of the denomination. They are not owned by the local congregation.

[[i]] The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church – 2016; ¶ 2501. “Requirement of Trust Clause for All Property”

The 2020 General Conference that would discuss and decide the above issues had to be postponed due to the global COVID pandemic. It was rescheduled for the Fall of 2022. An unofficial group of progressive, centrist and traditionalists began meeting during the delay and formulated a plan for amicable separation called “The Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation”. This plan was widely endorsed by leaders from across the theological spectrum. Many believed that the 2022 rescheduled session of General Conference had the potential to pass this widely agreed upon plan. This plan would have provided an opportunity for churches to leave the denomination without facing punitive action or large payouts to re-purchase property. The draft of this plan also included a time of “abeyance.” This meant that all charges for clergy currently violating The Book of Discipline would not be acted upon. The agreement was that since Traditional Churches would be able to leave in the near future, no complaints would be acted on for violations. In anticipation of the 2022 General Conference, a new term began to emerge across the UMC: “In the spirit of the Protocol.” This served as a temporary peace-treaty between progressive and traditionalist groups.

In March, 2022, however, citing long wait times for visas, The Commission on General Conference (the group charged with planning General Conferences) announced that The United Methodist Church’s top lawmaking assembly must wait until 2024. This decision was criticized by many traditionalists as unnecessary and a move by “institutionalists” to protect the denomination from splitting.

This decision triggered the launch of a new denomination, The Global Methodist Church (GMC). This denomination emerged out of The Wesley Covenant Association, an advocacy group founded in 2016 committed to “upholding scriptural authority and the Lordship of Jesus Christ.” Churches throughout the connection, including in Florida, began making plans to align with this new denomination.

Since the launch of the GMC, as was stated above, 17 Florida United Methodist Churches began making plans to exit the UMC and join the GMC under paragraph 2553. Also, 106 additional churches filed a lawsuit against Bishop Carter and The Florida Annual Conference Cabinet and Trustees seeking to invalidate the Trust Clause and leave with no financial penalty.[[i]] These actions were already in process as The Florida Annual Conference convened in Lakeland for our first in-person gathering since 2019 on June 9-11, 2022. At that gathering, further controversy emerged.

At the opening 2022 Clergy Session of the Florida Annual Conference (also called “Executive Session), 16 “provisional candidates” were presented for approval as pastors in the Florida Conference. It was widely known among those attending the clergy session that two or perhaps three persons in the group were non-celibate gay persons. Debate was held whether to vote on the candidates individually or the 16 as a group. After a long debate, the body voted to consider the group as a whole, and not vote on the candidates individually. A 75% approval was needed for commissioning of the candidates based on our rules. The vote was held on the group of 16 provisional candidates and they were not approved as the vote garnered 72% approval. A reconsideration of the vote was immediately held and this failed as well. None of the sixteen were allowed to proceed. This action created great anxiety across the whole Annual Conference gathering.

In a later session, Florida Annual Conference delegates approved a resolution apologizing to these 16 candidates and urging the Bishop to allow the candidates to proceed in their credentialing. Bishop Carter stated: “I do want to say to those who would have been commissioned, each of you, that I would have gladly appointed you and gladly commissioned you.”

The leaders of the Florida Annual Conference invited clergy and lay delegates at our meeting in Lakeland to take time to discern the future they feel called to embrace. Bishop Carter announced his intention of having a “called” session of the Annual Conference this winter to allow churches who want to exit under paragraph 2553 to do so. Immediately after that, he indicated he would hold another vote for the 16 candidates in hopes that they will pass if enough pastors who voted “no” leave the denomination. As stated above, Bishop Carter pledged to commission the entire class in violation of The Book of Discipline.

The pastor and Church Council of Grace Church have been having conversations about the divisions and shifts taking place in the United Methodist Church and The Florida Annual Conference for three years. These conversations are built on decades of covenant and trust with one another. In recent months, we have prayed, shared our perspectives, sorrows, and even pain with what is taking place around us. Similar to what we are seeing in our political landscape, clear lines are being drawn on two sides of an increasing number of issues.

While certainly important and at times painful, the debate about human sexuality has been something that has not significantly distracted our day-to-day ministry at Grace Church. While “traditionalists” and “progressives” have fought at denominational gatherings, our church has stayed in alignment around the current language in The Book of Discipline and gone on with our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ and our vision of a church of growing Christ-followers learning to Love God, Love Others and Change the World. There were no new decisions or changes that impacted Grace Church’s ministry.

However, as the debate becomes more contentious on every side, splits are occurring at an increasing rate. This is a time for great discernment as we watch and pray, determining what, if any, movement must be made on the part of Grace Church as the divide widens on each side.

There are three issues which have our attention.

The first is regarding the battle around the extent of LGBTQ inclusion. This is by far the largest and currently most contentious and divisive. The Florida Annual Conference leadership has clearly stated that they will continue to work for and where possible seek full-inclusion of persons who identify as LGBTQ regardless of their personal lifestyle practices. For many advocates and allies, this simply comes down to a justice issue. Grace Church has historically held to and taught a historic Judeo-Christian understanding of celibacy in singleness and fidelity in marriage between one man and one woman which is presently affirmed in the Book of Discipline and has always been the official teaching of the United Methodist Church. It seems that this first issue has become the prevailing issue but has opened the floodgates and fueled the next two.

The second issue we want you to be aware of is a shift in Florida Annual Conference in particular and the UMC at large toward addressing issues of public life like racism from a political position rather than addressing them as disciples of Jesus. For example, five years ago, our District and Conference leaders were emphasizing accountability and holding pastors responsible for metrics around professions of faith, small groups, and service. Presenters at Annual Conference awarded churches for evangelism efforts and pastors attended workshops on preaching, Wesleyan-style small groups, and other personal discipleship issues. Today, the focus of our Annual Conference has shifted to efforts such as voter registration and efforts to influence public policy. For example, The Florida Annual Conference has established a Public Policy Task Force. This group has most recently campaigned against Florida legislation HB7 commonly referred to as “The Stop Woke Act.”[[i]] The Task Force has taken action against potential voter suppression and calls for all clergy in the Florida Conference to sign an anti-racist pledge. Over the years, The Annual Conference has many times veered off the course of disciple-making into the realm of social, justice or political issues. In the past 3 years, however, the focus has shifted more than ever before.

The third area we want to inform you of are the blatant violations of our covenant as outlined in The Book of Discipline. The most recent actions of the Florida Annual Conference Board of Ordained ministry to commission 3 non-celibate gay persons is the most obvious disregard of The Book of Discipline. Some Judicial Council rulings are also being ignored. For example, while Judicial Council decision #886 on May 9, 2020, states that “annual conferences may not legally negate, ignore, or violate provisions of the Discipline with which they disagree,” in practice Annual Conferences, including the Florida Conference, are finding creative paths forward.[[ii]] Other indifference to our covenant has occurred around the recent Supreme Court overturning of Roe v. Wade at the denominational level. The United Methodist Council of Bishops, United Methodist General Board of Church and Society, the United Methodist women’s group, General Commission on Women in Society, and the General Board of Global Ministries all condemned the court ruling, many using the term “reproductive justice.” This is despite the General Conference’s decision that revoked United Methodism’s official support for Roe v. Wade in 2016.

The elected leaders comprising the Church Council of Grace Church has been discussing and praying over these matters for the past three years or more. In the summer of 2022 they called a Town Hall meeting to open the discussion with the Grace Church family, present findings and answer questions. A period of prayer and discernment was established at that Town Hall gathering for our church family.

In January of 2023, a second Town Hall was held to discuss the developments which had taken place in our denomination, and an exploratory commission on disaffiliation brought information as to the costs and timeframe necessary if the church family were to vote to leave the denomination. A survey was taken at the Town Hall and revealed that 86% of the membership of Grace Church would vote to disaffiliate from the UMC.

On Monday, January 23rd, 2023, the week following our Town Hall meeting, the Council met for prayer and discussion and made a motion to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church. The vote was unanimous, and every member of Church Council was in attendance.

Grace Church does not make this decision lightly. We have loved our relationship with our denomination and its leaders, but the culture of our Conference in these days distracts us from our primary mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ.

The Church Council is recommending that initially Grace Church remain an independent church and join a network of like-minded Wesleyan churches for accountability, resources and connectionPastor Rick Thompson has been in conversations with a relational network of churches and their leaders in the Wesleyan heritage who are passionately committed to making disciples and reaching unreached people with the gospel of Jesus Christ. This group longs to be a part of a new Methodist/Wesleyan movement that recovers our focus on church planting and multiplication through a deep emphasis on disciple-making which leads people to fully sanctified lives.

If Grace Church votes to disaffiliate from the United Methodist denomination, the Council and Pastor Rick recommend we enter a time of prayer and discernment before deciding to join another denomination. We have time to explore the benefits and drawbacks of becoming part of a denomination while existing as an independent but not isolated Wesleyan church family focusing our efforts on discipleship and evangelism as our primary mission.

We absolutely understand there will be some for whom remaining in the United Methodist Church is important for a variety of reasons. We are in ministry together no matter which local church body each of us serves. The Body of Christ is not captured by any one denomination or local church. We know some people will leave Grace Church, and this saddens all of us.

But we acknowledge there are many ways in which God calls His children out of one spiritual family into another. Physical moving, leading to a new mission, and even agreeing to disagree are all ways in which He moves His children. All these may happen without sin and with a full and righteous leading of the Spirit.

We would gladly share with you the names of United Methodist churches in Gainesville, Florida.

Absolutely! Grace Church is known for being a welcoming church for all people. Those in the LGBTQ communities who are part of Grace know this is a safe place to hear a dangerous message, the gospel message that is for all of us, for we are all in this together and Christ is for all of us. This is because we believe everyone is a child of God and a person of inestimable worth, for every one of us has been made in the image of God.
Grace partners love God and love others, and everyone is welcome here.


On Sunday, February 26th, Grace Church held a church conference to vote on disaffiliating from (leaving) the United Methodist Church with our district superintendent, the Rev. Dr. David Allen, presiding. With over 200 in attendance, 186 Partners in Ministry cast votes, and a 2/3 super-majority was required for the church to disaffiliate. The results revealed 159 voted to disaffiliate with 1 abstention and 26 voting to remain in the UMC. This was 86% of the voting membership indicating a desire to leave the denomination.

A special called Annual Conference is scheduled for Saturday, April 22nd via Zoom, to be led by our bishop, Rev. Tom Berlin, for the purpose of ratifying those churches in our Florida Annual Conference who have voted to disaffiliate. Once ratified, Grace Church will pay its portion of funds required to satisfy the requirements of paragraph 2553 of the Book of Discipline which allows disaffiliating churches to leave the denomination while retaining its property. June 1, 2023 is the effective date of complete disaffiliation.

The Finance Committee of Grace Church is working to determine the best way of funding our required costs, which are approximately $300,000. While we have ample reserves to pay this “exit fee,” consideration is being given to financing some or all of the amount with a low-interest loan. A special campaign is another option to offset these expenses. Most likely a combination of these three options will be decided upon.

It has been a difficult journey leading to separation from the denomination which birthed Grace, the United Methodist Church. We are committed to being the church God has raised up to make disciples of Jesus Christ in our children, youth and families, among the oppressed and hurting in our community, and to those who have not yet heard and received the gospel of Jesus Christ in the nations around the world where we are operating. We do not desire to lose any of our family members over these issues of distrust with the denomination’s leadership that has led us to becoming an independent church. We do not relish being mischaracterized as unwelcoming to segments of our population over issues related to human sexuality.

Rather, while facing these challenges common to the 2000 UM churches which have disaffiliated to date, we are confident God is doing something new in our day, leading us to fully engage in this ministry of full-devotion to God and radical love of our neighbors. People from all over the city, throughout the nation, and in places as far away as southeast Asia, Europe, Africa, South America and Cuba are praying specifically for this church family. There is an awakening taking place, and we eagerly seek the presence and power of God in his Holy Spirit’s work among us in these days. As we fast and pray in this season of Lent leading to Easter, let us draw close to Jesus together as we offer ourselves as vessels to be poured out as he sees fit. There is much work to be done in Gainesville and around the world, and as we give ourselves to the One who gave himself for us, we believe our latter days are going to be even better than the former ones.


(Once you open each question, simply click/tap anywhere in the box to collapse the question again)

Church Conference

It’s Time to Vote

Sunday, February 26th, 2023 2PM

Our denomination, The United Methodist Church, has been struggling for many years with our official policies surrounding several issues connected to human sexuality. Our Church Council has discussed these matters for the past two and half years, and our church family has met for two Town Hall meetings to discuss what we should do going forward.

We acknowledge the complexity surrounding the understanding of human sexuality. The larger issues our Council has struggled with, however, have centered around the actions our denominational leaders have taken in repeated violations to our common Book of Discipline. The result has been a breakdown of trust among many United Methodist churches with the denomination with which we have been in covenant relationship.

In 2019, the General Conference made a provision that any local church wanting to leave the denomination may, “disaffiliate from the denomination for reasons of conscience regarding a change in the requirements and provisions of the Book of Discipline related to the practice of homosexuality or the ordination or marriage of self-avowed practicing homosexuals as resolved and adopted by the 2019 General Conference, or the actions or inactions of its annual conference related to these issues which follow.” To date, more than 2000 United Methodist Churches have disaffiliated from (left) the denomination.

At our most recent Town Hall meeting in January, we conducted a survey to better learn what the church family would prefer to do, and the results revealed that 86% of Grace Partners would vote to Disaffiliate, and 14% would vote to remain in the UMC.

The following week the Church Council met and furthered the discussions, and a motion was put forth, voted on and unanimously approved to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church. The district leadership and Church Council believe Grace Church should move forward on this motion immediately to hold a churchwide vote.

On Sunday, February 26th at 2:00 pm in the Worship Center of Grace Church, all registered Partners in Ministry (PIM, our word for “members”) are invited to attend a Church Conference to vote on disaffiliating from the United Methodist Church. Only registered Partners in Ministry have a “voice and vote” at this meeting, and only in-person votes can be accepted. No absentee ballots or on-line voting is permitted. A super-majority vote of 67% is required for the motion to disaffiliate to pass.

Please come early because we have to confirm your partnership status with Grace Church. Partners are:

  • Those persons who have gone through our Partners in Ministry classes,
  • Those who were members prior to the PIM classes,
  • Those youth who have completed the Confirmation class and have been baptized as members of the church, or
  • Those who have transferred their membership to Grace Church in the past.

If you do not know whether you are a Partner in Ministry at Grace Church, please email Meagan Helms at for inquiries.

We are not seeking to join another denomination at this time. We currently plan on becoming independent but not isolated. We are exploring like-minded Wesleyan churches to be in network connection with in order to have accountability and share resources. Grace will take a time of prayerful discernment before deciding to join a denomination or to remain independent. Our mission work will continue with our current partners, Pastor Rick will continue as the Pastor of Grace Church, and we will focus our efforts on making disciples of Jesus Christ as he has commissioned us.

If you have questions, please feel free to reply to email us at and we will respond as quickly as possible.

Please be in prayer for this important decision. Grace is an amazing church family carrying out vital ministries to our children, youth and adults, and we are making incredible impact in the world for the sake of the kingdom of God. We remain committed to all that our Father is calling us to be as the hands and feet of Jesus Christ in Gainesville and around the world today.

We May Need a 2nd Vote

On Sunday, February 26th, Grace Church is holding a Church Conference to vote on disaffiliating from the United Methodist Church. If the church family votes to leave the denomination, the financial obligations due the Conference amount to approximately $300,000 in order to exit while keeping our facilities. If Grace votes to disaffiliate, we will hold a 2nd vote during the Church Conference to give approval to the Finance Team to be able to take out a loan for these expenses.

This does NOT mean that we will utilize this option, but only that we will be prepared by securing said loan should the Church Council decide this to be the best course of action.

At the last Town Hall meeting, Teresa Kelly, our church accountant, shared that we have sufficient reserves to pay this “exit fee” but that the church has other options, including a full or partial loan and/or holding a campaign to raise all or part of the amount owed. We have until May 2nd to make the required payment in order to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church denomination.

As a reminder, the Church Conference is open to all Grace Partners in Ministry (Members) and all who call Grace Church their church home. However, only Partners in Ministry (Members), are given a voice and a vote to disaffiliate, and only those Partners (Members) in attendance at the Church Conference can vote. A super-majority of 67% is required for Grace to disaffiliate.

January 10, 2023:

Grace Church and the Future of the UMC

In an August article entitled, The Center Cannot Hold, pastor Cabe Matthews of Montgomery UMC in Montgomery, Texas, writes:

The United Methodist Church is dividing. Amid a flurry of opinions and information of wildly varying quality, a group loosely identified as ‘traditionalist’ is making its way to the exit — most often into the Global Methodist Church — while those planning on remaining do their best to try to plug up the denominational leak.

Of course the headline issue is that of human sexuality: should the church maintain the classical understanding of Christianity … on same-gender sexual relationships, or is this traditional view now properly understood as retrograde, oppressive, and offensive?

Meanwhile, many traditionalists insist that matters of human sexuality are not their primary concern. Instead, they often suggest that orthodox Christian doctrine is what is at stake. The post-separation UMC, some claim, will not only be progressive in its sexual ethic, it will quickly abandon classical Christian teachings like the virgin birth, the atoning death of Christ, the Trinity, or the bodily resurrection of Christ. …

On the other side there are a number of self-identified centrist pastors and leaders who advocate staying in The United Methodist Church and claim to be entirely orthodox. These women and men are skeptical of the danger of progressive theology, arguing that the post-separation UMC will not change one iota on its official doctrine. While many of them personally hope to be fully inclusive in their own churches and pastoral practices (and they all promote a big-tent, agree-to-disagree approach to human sexuality), otherwise they claim to be orthodox in their doctrine all the way down the line. And they claim to represent the mainstream of The United Methodist Church.

Our Grace Church Leadership Council has been meeting and discussing these matters over the past two years, and we held a Town Hall in July 2022 wherein we committed ourselves to a season of prayer and fasting to discern what our Father is calling us to do as the denomination is dividing. General Conference is not meeting until the spring of 2024, and the process for congregations seeking to disaffiliate from the UMC is coming to an end in December 2023. We have much to discuss as a church family about our future, whether we believe it is best to remain in the UMC as it undergoes changes or else to depart and either join another Methodist denomination (e.g., The Free Methodist Church, The Global Methodist Church, or some other) or to declare independence from denominations altogether. One thing is clear—this is a great church family, one that has learned to grow in our love for God and for our neighbors, and we are changing the world. We do not intend to move from that commitment. Our guiding principle is to ask which decision will best support the vision and mission of Grace Church.

We are holding a Town Hall meeting Wednesday, January 18, 2023 at 6:30pm to discuss these matters and report on what each of us is sensing our Father would have us do. In preparation, we are providing a number of helpful articles, web links and video resources from different groups representing different viewpoints with which to familiarize ourselves. You can access them here.

We are committed as a church family to prayer about the best decision forward as we study the many dynamics causing us to determine our course of action. The United Methodist Church is one expression of Methodism, and to consider choosing to leave the denomination is not the same as choosing to no longer be Methodists. Likewise, to choose to continue as United Methodists is not to be more committed to the denomination than we are to our Lord. Let’s move forward respecting the views and desires of each other in a spirit of love as we come together to discuss the best path for Grace Church into our future.

Grateful to be in Ministry with You,

Rick Thompson


Read this first:

Articles from People Need Jesus website

Articles from Firebrand website

Video Resources

Other Articles