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Discernment at Mt Hebron UMC

Church council voted in May, 2023 to move forward with Discernment regarding potential separation from the United Methodist denomination and has chosen a 40-day discernment period beginning September 17, 2023 through October 26, 2023. Church Council’s goal is to provide information to the congregation for the purpose of gaining knowledge in order to seek wisdom through our 40-day discernment period. It is our hope in the coming weeks, to provide the congregation with key information and answer any questions that our Hebron Family has regarding the direction of our church and affiliation.

 

Discernment question boxes have been placed in both gathering areas. We are requesting a name and contact information to be provided with your questions, so we may reach out directly if we need clarification of the question (names and contact information will not be published). 

 

Please Note: We will only be able to provide factual information. Sources and links will be provided. 

 

After the formal discernment period is over, we will gather for a church-wide vote to either separate or stay within the United Methodist denomination. We anticipate this to occur sometime in January with a date to be released. We will be working to provide relevant information, questions and answers, and other resources below. 

 

The goal is to provide the Mt Hebron Family with information that will assist each member to make a well informed and faith-based decision on the direction of our church.

Mt. Hebron UMC's Discernment Process:

  • Sunday, September 17 at 3:00 pm in the Family Life Center: Listening Session 1 - What is Discernment? Beginning Conversation with One Another

  • Sunday, September 24 at 3:00 pm in the Family Life Center: Listening Session 2 - Why Stay UMC? Why Separate from the UMC?

  • Sunday, October 1 at 3:00 pm in the Family Life Center: Listening Session 3 - "Reality Check"

  • Sunday, October 8 at 3:00 pm in the Sanctuary: Prayer Service in the Sanctuary

  • Sunday, October 15 at 3:00 pm in the Family Life Center: Final Listening Session (until January Session when financial info is available to complete the Discernment Process.) "What now?"

The History of Mt Hebron

Mt. Hebron has been a strong presence in the community for more than 200 years.

Mt. Hebron was founded in 1800 by the pioneer pastor, Rev. Henry Sechrist, in the home of Martin Hook.  A small log church was erected at the Half Way Ground, which was located near the present-day intersection of Interstate 20 and Leaphart Road in West Columbia. The first church on the present site was built in 1837.  The second church building was erected in 1907 and a Sunday School Annex was added in 1930.  In 1947, Mt. Hebron was made a station appointment and a parsonage was built that year.

 Did you know?

Since the beginning of Mt. Hebron, we have been part of four connective bodies.

  • Methodist Episcopal – early 1800’s

  • Methodist Episcopal South – 1844

  • Methodist – 1939

  • United Methodist Church – 1968

We did not have a full-time pastor until 1947. Before this time, we had Circuit Pastors who were traveling pastors.

Discernment Questions & Answers

QUESTION 1:   DO WE KNOW HOW MUCH IT (SEPARATION FROM DENOMINATION) WILL COST? WHEN WILL WE KNOW? ARE THERE OTHER GROUPS AVAILABLE TO JOIN IF WE SEPARATE? WHAT ARE SOME OF THE OTHER COLUMBIA AREA CHURCHES THAT VOTED TO SEPARATE DOING?

There are several components in determining the total cost. One is a tithe equal to 10 percent of the appraised value of all church property and liquid assets. A church committee approved unanimously by Mt. Hebron’s Church Council is presently engaging an appraiser to provide these numbers. We should reasonably expect an answer in September. Second, is a component of any unpaid apportionments together with an additional 12 months worth of future apportionments. These numbers should be available before December 31, 2023. Third, is our Church’s share of unfunded pension obligations. The District Superintendent indicates this number should be available in mid-January 2024.

There are other groups to potentially join: The Global Methodist Church (GMC), formed in 2023. The Foundry Network is another. Or join any other existing denomination.

A total of 6 churches have left the UMC from the Columbia District:

  • Columbia Korean, Columbia

  • Rehoboth, Leesville

  • Lebanon, Eastover

  • Pond Branch, Gilbert

  • Mount Horeb, Lexington 

  • Chapin, Chapin

A complete list of churches can be found https://advocatesc.org/articles/churches-seperate

Mount Horeb has joined the Global Methodist Church and Chapin has joined the Foundry Network.


QUESTION 2:   IF THE CONGREGATION VOTES TO LEAVE THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH DENOMINATION WHO WILL BE IN CHARGE? WILL THE REMAINING CONGREGATION VOTE ON LEADERSHIP? HOW WILL THE NEW CHURCH GET A MINISTER? WHO WILL CHECK OUT HIS/HER BACKGROUND? WILL THE CONGREGATION GET A VOICE IN THE DECISION?

If there is a 2/3 majority voting to leave, then any affiliation with the United Methodist Church denomination would end at midnight on June 30, 2024. The new entity and its membership would take over the church and must then secure pastor(s) and staff as of July 1, 2024.

The new entity and its membership would have to decide on its clergy, lay leadership, structure, and rules regarding all the specifics raised in this Question # 2.

QUESTION 3:   DID ALL 5 JURISDICTIONAL CONFERENCES PASS RESOLUTIONS ABOUT LGBTQIA+ PERSONS IN THE UMC? IF SO, WHAT RESOLUTION DID OUR SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE PASS ABOUT LGBTQIA+?

Yes, all 5 conferences passed resolutions regarding LGBTQIA+ persons. At the Southeastern Conference, it was one of 3 resolutions brought forward. The text of all 3 resolutions may be found here:  https://www.sejc4i.org/resolutions

The resolution regarding LGBTQIA+ persons was amended during the Conference. A summary of the conference proceedings may be found here: https://www.flumc.org/newsdetail/17115217

 

QUESTION 4:   WHAT PORTION OF OUR BUDGET IS PAID BY THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH DENOMINATION? DID THEY PAY ANYTHING WHEN WE BUILT THE EDUCATION WING AND OUR NEW FAMILY LIFE CENTER?

No portion of Mt. Hebron’s budget is paid by the UMC. There were no contributions made to either building project.

 

QUESTION 5:   WHO IS THE "OUTSIDE INDIVIDUAL" THAT OUR DISTRICT SUPERINTENDENT AND REV. CYNTHIA TAYLOR HAVE SELECTED TO LEAD THE DISCERNMENT PROCESS? WHAT IS THE BACKGROUND AND QUALIFICATIONS OF THIS PERSON? ARE THEY EMPLOYED BY THE UMC? IS THIS THE SAME PROCESS THAT OTHER CHURCHES IN OUR DISTRICT HAVE USED TO CONDUCT THE DISCERNMENT PROCESS, IF SO WHICH CHURCHES?

Rev. Walter Strawther is the Congregational Specialist for the Columbia and Hartsville Districts. He is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church and is experienced in leading the Discernment Process.

 

QUESTION 6:   OTHER CHURCHES HAVE USED SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT APPROACHES WHEN FACING SIGNIFICANT DECISIONS (NOT NECESSARILY SEPARATION). WHAT APPROACH IS MT. HEBRON GOING TO TAKE?

The Discernment Process at Mt. Hebron UMC will consist of 6 church-wide meetings (one of those in January, 2024). The meetings will include the use of spiritual disciplines, providing pertinent information, and listening sessions (holy conferencing). Several models of discernment were used in preparing for it. This discernment process is intended to be interactive, allowing us to speak and listen to one another’s perspectives with grace and kindness. Roundtable discussion, prayer, devotion, and information sharing are a few of the activities that make up this discernment process.

 

QUESTION 7:

A) HOW WILL THE MISSION OF THE CHURCH CHANGE IF THE VOTE TO LEAVE UMC PASSES?

Please refer to the answer to question 2.

B) HOW WILL THE CHURCH'S BELIEFS CHANGE? WHAT WILL BE THE NEW ENTITY'S STATED BELIEFS ON HUMAN SEXUALITY?

Please refer to the answer to question 2.

C) IF MT HEBRON VOTES TO LEAVE THE UMC, WILL THE NEW ENTITY CONTINUE TO USE AND SUPPORT CHURCH CAMPS AND RETREAT CENTERS SUCH AS ASBURY HILLS AND LAKE JUNALUSKA CONFERENCE CENTER?

Please refer to the answer to question 2.

D) WILL THE NEW ENTITY SUPPORT THE WESLEY FOUNDATION AT USC OR CAMPUS MINISTRIES FOR OTHER DENOMINATIONS?

Please refer to the answer to question 2.

E) WILL THE NEW ENTITY SUPPORT THE HEBRON DAY SCHOOL AND THE HEBRON COUNSELING CENTER?

Please refer to the answer to question 2.

F) MT. HEBRON UMC, THROUGH ITS CONNECTIONAL STATUS, CURRENTLY SUPPORTS MISSIONS WORLDWIDE THROUGH APPORTIONMENTS. WILL THE NEW ENTITY CONTINUE TO SUPPORT MISSIONS BOTH LOCALLY AND INTERNATIONALLY ?

Please refer to the answer to question 2.

G) WILL EXISTING MORTGAGES, DEBTS, OR OTHER LIABILITIES BE SETTLED AND/ OR TRANSFERRED TO THE NEW ENTITY? WHEN WILL THIS OCCUR?

The local church shall either satisfy all of its debts, loans or assign or transfer to new entity. The Local Church to provide documentation to South Carolina General Conference.

H) WHAT QUALIFICATIONS AND TRAINING WILL BE REQUIRED OF THE MINISTERS ?

Please refer to answer to question 2.

I) HOW DO CHURCH MEMBERS VOTE RESPONSIBLY IF THEY DON'T HAVE SOME VISION OF THE NEW ENTITY'S MISSION, BELIEFS, AND STRUCTURE? HAVE THOSE MEMBERS WHO FAVOR LEAVING THE UMC HAD DISCUSSIONS OF THEIR VISION FOR MT HEBRON AND COULD THEY SHARE THAT VISION DURING THE DISCERNMENT PERIOD?

Our understanding is there will be an opportunity for a vision on a way forward as viewed by members wanting to separate.

J) DUE TO THE UMC TRUST CLAUSE, MT. HEBRON’S PROPERTY AND ASSETS ARE HELD “IN TRUST” FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE UMC DENOMINATION. IT APPEARS THAT SOME MEMBERS WERE UNAWARE OF THIS CLAUSE. HOW LONG HAS THE TRUST CLAUSE BEEN IN EXISTENCE, AND HAS THE CLAUSE NEGATIVELY IMPACTED MT. HEBRON UMC IN THE PAST? IF THE NEW ENTITY IS NO LONGER BOUND BY A TRUST CLAUSE AND, AT SOME FUTURE TIME, THE CHURCH SPLITS AGAIN OVER DIFFERENCES IN OPINIONS OR BELIEFS, WHAT HAPPENS TO THE CHURCH PROPERTY AND ASSETS?

The trust clause was established by John Wesley in the 1750s for 3 churches in England. It was later formalized for all Methodist polity in 1797. The trust clause has had no impact on Mt. Hebron UMC in the past. Regarding a hypothetical split in the future with no trust clause in place, we cannot definitively determine what would happen to church property and assets. 

More information about the trust clause’s history, structure, and reason for being established may be found here: https://www.umc.org/en/content/ask-the-umc-what-is-the-united-methodist-trust-clause

 

QUESTION 8:

A) CAN MEMBERS OF THE GLOBAL UMC PARTICIPATE IN SALKEHATCHIE?

Yes.

B) CAN A LOCAL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH SAY THAT THEY DO NOT WISH TO ACCEPT A PARTICULAR MINISTER WHO IS BEING APPOINTED TO THEIR CHURCH BY THE UNITED METHODIST CONFERENCE?  OR DO LOCAL UMCS HAVE TO ACCEPT WHOMEVER THE UNITED METHODIST CONFERENCE APPOINTS TO THEIR CHURCH?

Yes, a local United Methodist Church can refuse an appointment.

 

QUESTION 9:   ARE THERE ANY CURRENT OPENLY GAY BISHOPS IN THE UMC? IF SO, WHEN WERE THEY ELECTED AND WHERE DO THEY SERVE?

Of the 155 bishops in the UMC (66 active, 89 retired), 2 are openly gay. Bishops Karen Oliveto (2016) and Cedrick Bridgeforth (2022) both serve in the Western Jurisdiction. More information about them and other bishops may be found on the Council of Bishops website: https://www.unitedmethodistbishops.org/bishops

 

QUESTION 10:   IF THE VOTE IS TAKEN AND WE LEAVE THE UNITED METHODIST DENOMINATION WILL ANOTHER CONGREGATIONAL DISCUSSION BE NEEDED TO DETERMINE WHETHER TO JOIN ANOTHER DENOMINATION OR OPT TO STAY AS INDEPENDENT AS MT. HEBRON CHURCH?

Yes and two churches in our area actually had a church wide vote to determine which group they were going to join.

 

QUESTION 11:   WILL THERE BE A CHURCH WIDE INFORMATION PRESENTATION ABOUT THE REASONS FOR THE PURSUIT OF SEPARATION? IF NOT WHY NOT?

Our understanding is that this discussion will happen during the discernment process.

 

QUESTION 12:   IF MOUNT HEBRON LEAVES THE UNITED METHODIST DENOMINATION WILL WE REGAIN THE OWNERSHIP AND RIGHTS TO OUR PROPERTY AND FINANCIAL ACCOUNTS?

Yes

 

QUESTION 13:   IF WE VOTE TO LEAVE THE CONFERENCE WILL WE REMAIN A METHODIST CHURCH? WHAT DOCTRINE/ DISCIPLINE WILL BE ADOPTED? WHO IS GOING TO MAKE THESE DECISIONS?

Please refer to answer to question 2.

 

QUESTION 14:   SINCE DISCERNMENT IS OVER IN OCTOBER, WHY ARE WE WAITING UNTIL JANUARY 2024 TO HAVE THE VOTE?

We will be waiting on the pension number from Wespath that administers the pension program for the UMC ministers. This information will not be available until after January 1, 2024. This number or cost is an integral part of the cost to leave the UMC and must be communicated to the congregation before the vote can be held.

 

QUESTION 15:   CAN CLARIFICATION BE MADE TO THE CONGREGATION THAT THOSE WHO WISH TO LEAVE THE UMC DO NOT DISLIKE HOMOSEXUALS? THEY SIMPLY DO NOT WANT HOMOSEXUALS AS A PASTOR/BISHOP.

We understand this is a complicated issue and concern. Our hope is that we may have clarity during the 40-day discernment process.

QUESTION 16:

A) WHY IS THE DISCERNMENT PROCESS NECESSARY?

Church Council voted in May 2023 to enter into the Discernment Process owing to the variety of opinions and convictions within the church. This process is therefore intended to allow a time for information gathering, gracious conversation, listening, and Holy Conferencing so that each church member may make an informed decision. This Discernment process is also one of the required steps in order to hold a church-wide vote.

B) ARE THERE CONFERENCE GUIDELINES AS TO HOW TO RUN THE DISCERNMENT PROCESS?

Yes, the conference guidelines may be found on the conference website. This page contains an overview of the process as well as links to further information concerning things like Holy Conferencing and templates for discernment discussions: https://www.umcsc.org/discern/

C) WERE SPECIFIC PERSONS FROM OUR CONGREGATION REQUIRED TO SET UP AND FACILITATE THE DISCERNMENT PROCESS? WERE OTHER PERSONS ASKED TO ASSIST? WILL THE NAMES OF THOSE INVOLVED BE MADE PUBLIC?

No one from the congregation is required to set up and facilitate the Discernment process. The facilitator, Rev. Walter Strawther, was selected by our District Superintendent to facilitate.

D) ARE THERE A SET NUMBER OF MEETINGS TO BE HELD?

There are 5 meetings scheduled to be held. These are listed on the top of the Discernment tab.

E) WHAT TYPE OF MEETINGS ARE REQUIRED… LARGE GROUP ‘LISTENING MEETINGS’, SMALL NEIGHBORHOOD MEETINGS, INFORMATIONAL MEETINGS, SHARING MEETINGS, PRAYER GROUPS?

Our facilitator, Rev. Strawther, will utilize both small group and large group discussion formats. These will include information sharing and conversations held amongst the groups. We will also have a prayer meeting on October 8th at 3 in the Sanctuary.

F) ARE THERE REQUIREMENTS AS TO WHO MUST BE PRESENT AT THE DISCERNMENT MEETINGS?

No one is required to be present.

G) WHERE DOES THE INFORMATION COME FROM THAT IS PRESENTED AT DISCERNMENT MEETINGS? WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR CHECKING ITS ACCURACY?

Rev. Strawther will provide the information that is presented at the Discernment meetings. There will be a time during the second session to ask about the information being presented.

H) HOW WILL INFORMATION BE DISSEMINATED AS TO THE PROS AND CONS OF REMAINING UNITED METHODIST OR SEPARATING FROM THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH AND THE EFFECTS BOTH DECISIONS COULD HAVE ON OUR CONGREGATION AND THE WAY THE CHURCH OPERATES?

It is our understanding that the second and third sessions of the Discernment process will be about these subjects, among other things.

I) WILL INFORMATION BE SHARED AT THESE MEETINGS ABOUT THE OPTIONS WE HAVE AS TO AFFILIATING WITH OTHER ENTITIES, IF WE SHOULD VOTE TO SEPARATE FROM THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH, AND THE EFFECTS OF JOINING THE DIFFERENT AFFILIATIONS OPEN TO US?

It is our understanding that the third session will go over these subjects.

QUESTION 17

A) WHY DO THE ANSWERS REFER TO OUR CHURCH AS AN ENTITY IF WE LEAVE AND NOT MT. HEBRON METHODIST CHURCH? THE CHURCH IS ONLY SEPARATING FROM THE DENOMINATION? WILL THE CHURCH BE INDEPENDENT?

In the event that Mt. Hebron United Methodist Church voted to leave the UMC, Mt. Hebron would become a new entity once the separation is made final at Annual Conference. It would be incumbent on the new entity to decide a name for itself, such as Mt. Hebron Methodist Church. The new entity, with whatever name that its governing body would decide for itself, would be independent following separation. The legal document pertaining to the separation process, which includes the terminology discussed above, may be found here: Agreement+to+Separate-12-19-2022-fill.pdf (d1a8dioxuajlzs.cloudfront.net)

B) DOES THE UMC DENOMINATION SUPPORT WITH MONEY THE MT. HEBRON COUNSELING CENTER OR HEBRON DAY SCHOOL?

No portion of the Mt. Hebron Counseling Center or Hebron Day School budget is paid by the UMC.

C) WHAT OTHER CHURCHES ARE DOING THE SAME DISCERNMENT PROCESS AS OURS? WHAT OTHER CHURCH HAS REV. STRAWTHER (CONGREGATIONAL SPECIALIST) DONE IN SC?

We are not able to disclose the specifics of the other churches that Rev. Strawther has worked with. Rev. Strawther wishes to honor the confidentiality and privacy of the conversations and discussions held in the churches that he has facilitated.

QUESTION 18:   MY QUESTION IS HOW QUICKLY WILL A NEW DENOMINATION OR ENTITY POSITION A NEW PASTOR INTO OUR CHURCH OR WOULD WE HAVE TO GO WITHOUT A PASTOR FOR A LONG PERIOD OF TIME IF WE CHOOSE TO CHANGE FROM THE UMC? OR COULD THE PASTOR SEARCH BEGIN BEFORE JULY 1, 2024?

If the vote results in separation, the church council could begin looking into the possible options for the church going forward. The specifics regarding pastors would be determined at that time (see also question 2).

QUESTION 19:   I REFER TO QUESTION #5 WHICH DIDN’T GIVE ANSWERS TO THE ENTIRE QUESTION. SO I WILL ASK AGAIN: “WHAT UMC CHURCHES OF THE 113 WHO SEPARATED FROM THE UM DENOMINATION THIS YEAR DID REV. STRAWTHER, WHO WAS APPOINTED BY THE DISTRICT SUPERINTENDENT AND OUR PASTOR, REVEREND CYNTHIA TAYLOR, PRESIDE OVER THEIR DISCERNMENT PROCESS?”

Our District Superintendent, Rev. Fran Elrod, was the sole person who appointed Rev. Strawther to facilitate our discernment process. For the information regarding Rev. Strawther’s past work, see question 17.C.

QUESTION 20:

A) WHAT DOES THE ANNUAL CONFERENCE DO TO SUPPORT LOCAL CHURCHES AND THE CONNECTIONAL SYSTEM?

The Annual Conference does the following for local churches, including but not limited to:

  • Camps and retreats for youth and adults

  • Campus ministries at Methodist related colleges such as Columbia College, Spartanburg Methodist College, Wofford, and state universities

  • Congregational Specialists that work with churches as needed

  • Creation of new church plants are funded by the conference

  • Equitable compensation: if a church is in financially perilous circumstances, the conference helps pay the clergy’s salary so that the church may stay afloat

  • Disaster response – United Methodist Commission on Relief

  • Training opportunities for laity and clergy

  • Safe Sanctuary training for laity and clergy

  • Promotes various ministries for justice and inclusion such as Native American ministries and Hispanic/Latino ministries

  • Lake Junaluska is supported by the Conference and other Conferences in the Southeastern Jurisdiction

  • Mission opportunities such as Salkehatchie

  • Resources and support for churches, such as the Resource Center at the Methodist Conference Center

  • United Methodist Men and United Women in Faith events, specifically those that span multiple churches and districts

  • Youth ministry events such as Revolution and Confirmation retreat centers (such as Lake Junaluska)

  • Establishment, promotion, and support of state-wide ministries such as Epworth Children’s Home, Killingsworth Transitional Housing, and the Aldersgate Special Needs Ministry

B) HAS ANYTHING CHANGED IN THE BOOK OF DISCIPLINE?

Nothing has changed in the Book of Discipline, as there has been no General Conference.

C) CAN ANYTHING CHANGE IN THE BOOK OF DISCIPLINE PRIOR TO GENERAL CONFERENCE IN 2024?

Nothing can be changed in the Book of Discipline prior to the General Conference to be held from April 23-May 3, 2024.

D) WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS FOR SOMEONE TO BE ORDAINED IN THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH?

In order to be ordained in the United Methodist Church, one must complete the following steps:

  • Receive the approval and sponsorship of their local church

  • Their District Committee on Ordained Ministry, or DCOM, must approve them as a candidate

  • Obtain a bachelor’s degree (4 years)

  • Obtain Master of Divinity degree (3 years)

  • Complete a psychological evaluation

  • Complete a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). A unit is 100 hours of education and 300 hours of work in an approved hospital/clinical setting

  • To be commissioned as a provisional elder or deacon, they must complete approximately 100 pages of theology papers and pass their interview with the Board of Ordained Ministry. The questions and paperwork requirements are found in the Book of Discipline

  • Complete a second psychological evaluation

  • To be ordained, they must be in ministry for at least 2 years, complete an additional 100 pages of ordination papers, and perform a ministry project called a Fruitfulness Project

  • Pass the final interview with the Board of Ordained Ministry

  • The final step is the ordination service held at the beginning of every Annual Conference

E) REGARDING THE ENFORCEMENT OF THE BOOK OF DISCIPLINE, IS IT TRUE THAT PUNISHMENTS FOR CLERGY AND BISHOPS ARE DONE THROUGH A CONFIDENTIAL PROCESS?

Yes, the complaint process for clergy and laity alike is kept confidential as the case progresses. The paragraph pertaining to the confidentiality of complaints against bishops, for example, is found here: Book of Discipline: ¶ 413. Complaints Against Bishops (umc.org). The progression of the complaint process mirrors the confidentiality described in Matthew 18:15-20. The process can be made public, however, at the discretion of the group assigned to facilitate the case. 

QUESTION 21: ARE THE DISCERNMENT MEETINGS BEING RECORDED FOR THOSE WHO ARE NOT ABLE TO ATTEND AND/OR HAVE HAD TO LEAVE DURING THE MIDDLE OF THE MEETING?

Yes, the meetings are recorded and available for viewing at the church in Room 103, Monday-Thursday at 12:30. If those times do not work, you can contact the church office to schedule a different time.

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