Disaffiliation Loan Payoff Challenge
Dear Fairview Family:
On January 29, 2023, we came together and took a step toward the freedom of Fairview Church by voting overwhelmingly to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church denomination. Thank you to all those who participated in the disaffiliation vote.
As a requirement of disaffiliation, Fairview was required to pay to the UMC a fee to cover two years of apportionments and help fund pension liabilities. This fee amounted to $615,000. To pay this fee at the time required, Fairview had to take out a loan to cover this amount.
Now it is time to take the next step toward the freedom of Fairview Church by retiring this disaffiliation loan. We are hoping all those who attended the disaffiliation vote, as well as all other members and regular attendees, will now also help with this debt retirement effort. We are asking each person to prayerfully consider donating $1500 toward this debt retirement. While this amount is ambitious, it is within the reach of many, however it will not be achievable by all. For those, I ask you to consider a sacrificial donation toward this effort.
This is NOT a campaign to raise money with pledges over a year or two – this is an effort to raise the money to retire this loan over the next two months. Let’s retire the debt and let this be part of our celebration on Heritage/Celebration Sunday on September 24.
Recently, as part of my daily devotional time, I was prompted to read Psalm 100 – a Psalm for Giving Thanks.
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Serve the Lord with Gladness! Come into His presence with singing!
Know that the Lord, He is God! It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise! Give thanks to Him; bless His name!
For the Lord is good; His steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations.
This Psalm reminded me of God’s faithfulness to us through all generations and how we need to be faithful to Him. So, I am confident that when we share this need with all of you – that you will stand up and amaze us all – with your sacrificial giving to take this next step on our amazing journey.
Please prayerfully consider how we can demonstrate a bit of our faithfulness by quickly retiring this debt and moving forward with freedom to accept His ongoing vision for Fairview Church.
A brother in Christ,
David J Thomas
Ways you can give to the disaffiliation loan repayment:
1. Use the app or website to give, select "disaffiliation loan" in the drop down.
2. Write a check to Fairview Church and in the memo write disaffiliation loan.
3. Use the donations boxes marked disaffiliation loan for cash.
RECOMMENDATION FROM THE DISCERNMENT COMMITTEE
When it was clear in September that the congregation desired a vote on disaffiliation, the Discernment Team began exploring “where we would go” in the event the vote would favor disaffiliation. Our goal was to preserve the Fairview Values as articulated during the small group meetings, maintain a Wesleyan-Arminian connection, and avoid a Trust Clause.
1. A tradition and legacy has been passed on to us through generations spanning over a century of being a church in the Wesleyan tradition, and we therefore feel an obligation to continue that legacy and pass the same on to our children and future generations. We therefore limited our consideration to the following denominations that are recognized by the World Methodist Council as being in the Wesleyan-Arminian tradition. Those denominations are:
• Global Methodist Church – GMC • Wesleyan Church • Independent
• Free Methodist Church - FMC • Church of the Nazarene
2. To begin narrowing the list down, we first considered theology. Among the denominations on this list, being all Wesleyan-Arminian, we found that although there were some differences in points of emphasis, that they all share very common theology that would match and fit with the beliefs and values of Fairview Church. Therefore, from a theological standpoint, none of these denominations were dropped from consideration.
3. The next criteria we considered was regarding the Trust Clause. Due to the complications and financial obligations that Fairview faced in disaffiliating from the UMC, we felt it was imperative to not put this liability on future generations of Fairview Church, should they ever decide in the future to make another change regarding denominational affiliation. We found, in addition to the UMC, both the Wesleyan Church and the Church of the Nazarene also require a trust clause property ownership, and were therefore eliminated from consideration.
4. While Independence would provide complete autonomy and financial freedom from apportionments, autonomy also eliminates any theology or polity guidelines. While this may seem attractive to some, it has significant risk to “drift” in theology and polity through pastoral and leadership changes in the absence of an accountability mechanism. Independence provides no long-term assurance of tradition or legacy to be passed to future generations. Additionally, this provides no structure for finding pastors, which is not a problem in the present but certainly will be in the future. We therefore cannot recommend this option as the best path forward.
5. The GMC, while very similar in theology, polity, and structure to the current UMC, is in its’ infancy birthed out of division. The proposed structure of the GMC has the same multi-layered, multi-level polity as the UMC, and many have expressed a desire to be more simplified and streamlined. While currently operating under a Transitional Book of Doctrine and Discipline, it is not expected to hold its’ General Conference and adopt a Book of Doctrine and Discipline until late 2024 or early 2025. Consequently, there is understandable uncertainty about what the GMC will become. Also, there has been significant negative media portrayal of the GMC that potentially casts a negative light in the public view. We therefore do not recommend affiliation with the GMC.
6. Our recommendation is to begin the affiliation process with the FMC which is very similar in theology and polity to the current UMC, however much smaller in size and with a more simplified and streamlined structure. The 160 year history of the FMC has firmly established standards of belief, discipline, and accountability. While their smaller size will result in fewer local churches for connection, the simplified structure allows increased autonomy. The five core values of the FMC, expressed in The Free Methodist Way, are to be a community of believers seeking God-Given Revelation, Life-Giving Holiness, Love-Directed Justice, Christ-Compelled Multiplication and Cross-Cultural Collaboration. These values are in clear harmony with our “Fairview Values.” The FMC is very mission focused with active projects in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. The affiliation process involves a period of up to three years as an Affiliate member to gain mutual familiarity. When the decision for full membership is mutually reached by the FMC and Fairview Church, we would enter into full membership. Should we not achieve mutual agreement on full membership, we would be free to move on. While the FMC has a Trust Clause, they are not applying it to existing property of churches entering after disaffiliation from the UMC. The FMC Trust Clause would apply to any property acquired after affiliation with the FMC. Apportionments to the FMC start low and increase across the first three years of association ending at a level that would be lower than our present UMC apportionments but above what is proposed in the GMC.
Footnote: Interestingly, some of you may recall the learning team that visited Fairview about 20 years ago from Frazer Church in Montgomery AL from whom we picked up many ideas that they had found to be successful. Frazer Church, after voting to disaffiliate from the UMC has joined the Free Methodist Church.