Discernment

Finding our path forward

January 2023 Update

Where are we in the discernment process?

When is the next meeting?

When do we vote?

Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street?

Most of these questions will be answered below.

The DPUMC Discernment Process

There has been a lot of confusion about our discernment process. This has been caused by some people hearing stories about what other churches have done and assuming ours would be the same. Some have said there is a particular way the discernment process should be done because "someone" said it's supposed to be done this way.

While several groups have put processes online and presented them as "THE WAY" the discernment process had to be done, the United Methodist Church did not issue a particular process to be used. This was discussed at the Church Council meeting in August and again at the September meeting before our process was approved.
The DPUMC Approved Discernment Process
At the September Church Council meeting, Pastor John brought a proposal for a discernment process for DPUMC to use. After much discussion, and the addition of a 40 day prayer focus, the plan was approved by a vote of the Church Council with only one objection. A pdf of the Approved Plan is available here.

Approved DPUMC Discernment Process

 
Based on three questions
  1. Who is God calling us to be as a church?
  2. Can we live out the Church’s Call in the United Methodist Church?
  3. If not, which Wesleyan denomination will allow us to live out our Church’s Call?

40 Days of Prayer

  • A daily devotional will be made available to everyone in our church family so we can join together seeking God’s will for Deer Park United Methodist Church.

3 Questions

Who is God calling us to be as a church?
  • Use Consensus Model rather than voting model.
  • Small groups meet to discuss various aspects of the call we each hear for the church to follow Jesus’ commands.
    • Groups should be less than 12 people to allow for discussion for everyone.
    • The groups can be held at the church, people’s houses, or other places.
    • The pastor and Lay Leader attend all small groups.
  • At the conclusion of the meetings, church council will look over the reports of the groups and find the common threads. These threads of agreement will be woven into our church’s call.
  • The proposed Church’s Call will be published in the newsletter, the website, and made available in print form.
  • Town hall meetings will be held to discuss the proposed Church’s Call.
  • After the town hall meetings, the Church Council will adopt the Church’s Call, including any amendments that were agreed on at the Town hall meetings.
Can we live out the call of the church in the United Methodist Church?
  • Church Council will ask the question and if they agree we can live out the Church’s Call in the United Methodist Church, this ends the discernment process.
Which Wesleyan denomination will allow us to live out our Church’s Call?
  • The Church Council will explore the different options with regard to their beliefs, their structure, and our possible fit within their structure.
  • The Church Council will make a recommendation to the church with Townhall meetings for discussion.
  • A Church Conference will be called for the church to seek disaffiliation with the United Methodist Church and to join with the new denomination. This ends the discernment process.

Where are we in the process?


The 40 Days of Prayer for Discernment was conducted in October and November of 2022.
Pastor John and Brenda Cothran (our Lay Leader) held 11 different small group meetings with nearly 100 people in attendance. This gave people the opportunity to ask questions and discuss who we are called to be as a church. 
  • During these meetings, our church's Call or vision statement was brought up and discussion often centered on how we live out this call, both currently and into the future.
  • The vision statement of Deer Park United Methodist Church had been previously approved by charge conference vote during the Vibrant Church Initiative process in 2019. Our vision statement is "Because God welcomes us, we welcome all to a community of love."

At the November meeting of the Church Council, Brenda Cothran and Pastor John made their report to the Church Council.
  • They shared with them that the purpose of the meetings had been to find the church's call or vision but that the church already had that vision in place. While not everyone could quote the vision statement, the lives of our church members showed them living out the vision in numerous ways.
  • They reported lively discussions and many questions without anyone being aggressive or mean-spirited during the meetings.
  • They reported an overwhelming consensus for affirming God's call for our church as stated in our vision statement.
  • Only three people out of nearly 100 who attended the meetings brought forth serious concerns about our church's future within the United Methodist Church.
A discussion about scheduling the town hall meetings was held, and it was decided not to have them during December because of all the activities and holiday travel plans of our church members. The decision was made to have two town hall meetings in the sanctuary during January. (Sunday, January 8, 2023, after church service and Thursday, January 12, 2023, at 6:30 pm)

When is the next meeting?

The Discernment Town Hall Meetings have been scheduled for two different times and days to allow everyone a chance to attend one of the meetings.
 
First Meeting
Sunday, January 8, 2023, after the morning worship service.

Second Meeting
Thursday, January 12, 2023, at 6:30 pm

Both meetings will be held in the sanctuary.
 
These meetings will include discussion about our church's call or vision statement. Everyone will have opportunities to ask questions and share their thoughts on the issues we are facing as a church.

People who do not wish to ask questions aloud will have an opportunity to submit written questions before and during the town hall meetings.

We expect these meetings to take less than an hour, but because of the open format, we can not assure you that we will be done in the expected time.

When do we vote?

 
Our approved plan does not have a full church vote unless the second question (Can we live out the Church’s Call in the United Methodist Church?) has been answered by the Church Council with a "no".

The main goal of using the consensus model of discernment, not victory. By its very nature, a system that includes voting has winners and losers. This breeds animosity among people who have different ideas. As our society has shown in the past few years, when something is stripped down to winning and losing, there's little place for love and grace. By having discussions and making plans based on our common call, we build unity of purpose, even if our thoughts on particular issues are different.

This is why our discernment plan is based on questions of finding our joint call rather than on what each of us sees wrong with someone else's thinking.

Some people have said having a full church vote is required. That is not true. A vote is required if a church is deciding to leave the United Methodist Church. However, if a church has reached a consensus to stay in the United Methodist Church, there is no need for a vote.

Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street?

 
No answer given.

What happens after the Town Hall meetings?


Church Council will focus on the second question (Can we live out the Church’s Call in the United Methodist Church?) as part of their regularly scheduled monthly meeting on January 23. If they answer the question with a "Yes", our discernment process will be concluded and an announcement will be made to the church that we will be continuing our journey of faith with the United Methodist Church. If the answer to the question is "No", then the Church Council will start the process of investigating other options for our church affiliation. At that time, the discernment process will continue as outlined in the plan the Church Council approved in September.

End of January 2023 Update

How did we get here?

Pastor John shares the history of how the United Methodist Church got to the place where dissension is causing churches to leave the denomination. He also explains the procedure the Deer Park United Methodist Church is using to discern God's call for our church to move forward.

Discernment Plan for Deer Park UMC

Who is God calling us to be as a church?
Can we live out the Church’s Call in the United Methodist Church?
If not, which Wesleyan denomination will allow us to live out our Church’s Call?

Who is God calling us to be as a church?

Use Consensus Model rather than voting model.
Small groups meet to discuss various aspects of the call we each hear for the church to follow Jesus’ commands.
Groups should be less than 12 people to allow for discussion for everyone.
The groups can be held at the church, people’s houses, or other places.
The pastor and Lay Leader attend all small groups.
At the conclusion of the meetings, church council will look over the reports of the groups and find the common threads. These threads of agreement will be woven into our church’s call.
The proposed Church’s Call will be published in the newsletter, the website, and made available in print form.
Townhall meetings will be held to discuss the proposed Church’s Call.
After the townhall meetings, the Church Council will adopt the Church’s Call, including any amendments that were agreed on at the Townhall meetings.

Can we live out the call of the church in the United Methodist Church?

Church Council will ask the question and if they agree we can live out the Church’s Call in the United Methodist Church, this ends the discernment process.

Which Wesleyan denomination will allow us to live out our Church’s Call?

The Church Council will explore the different options with regards to their beliefs, their structure, and our possible fit within their structure.

The Church Council will make a recommendation to the church with Townhall meetings for discussion.

A Church Conference will be called for the church to seek disaffiliation with the United Methodist Church and to join with the new denomination. This ends the discernment process.

Christian Conferencing

Wesley lists Christian Conference as one of only five instituted means of
grace.

Christian Conference
Searching the Scriptures
Prayer
Holy Communion
Fasting

Instituted means of grace are the special category for the outward signs, words, or actions ordained of God for all times and places by which God conveys grace to people created in the image of God. They are grounded in commandments from Jesus in Scripture. In other words, these are practices that are not limited by the particularities of cultural context, historical era, etc. We believe Christ has instructed us in Scripture to seek him in this way.

Christian Conferencing follows these guidelines in an attempt for each person to learn from others, not to convince others.

Respect

Respect others as Jesus would have done when he was here on earth.

Pray

Pray for others as well as yourself, especially those with whom you disagree.

Listen

Listen to others before thinking about what you want to say in response.

Understand

Understand what others are saying so clearly that you could accurately state their view.

Share

Share your own point of view with grace and humility, as well as honesty and candor.

Focus

Focus your comments on issues being discussed not on persons expressing them.

Commit

Commit yourself to the unity of the Spirit seeking consensus whenever possible.

Give

Give the time needed to work through the process in which you are engaged.

Acknowledge

Acknowledge that you may be wrong, even when you think you are tight.

Fruit of the Spirit

Allow the Fruit of the Spirit to permeate your way of interacting with others.

Love – Joy – Peace – Patience – Kindness
Generosity – Faithfulness – Gentleness – Self-Control

Guidelines for Effective Dialogue

The act of dialogue is intentionally seeking to understand by listening deeply, inquiring, and advocating in order to uncover meanings, revealing assumptions and walking in another person’s shoes. It is a process of seeking new ways to understand each other and create a shared sense of meaning through conversation. It is not debate, which is the process of arguing opposite sides of a question and usually assumes a right or wrong answer. The objective and result of dialogue is shared meaning, not influence on a certain outcome.

Listen actively and without judgment

Listen intently to what is said and to the feelings being expressed beneath the words. Listen to the stories behind the views. Listen to yourself and others. Affirm the rights of others to hold their perspectives by listening intently and avoid preparing your rebuke when listening to another. Be aware of and set aside your judgments.

 

Practice self-focus (speak your understanding of the truth from the “I” position)

Speak your truth authentically, expressing your thoughts, feelings, and experiences by making “I” statements rather than “you,” “we” or “one” statements. As you pay attention you will see how much more powerful using “I” statements will be. Speak only for yourself, not for a community as a whole, not for the person sitting next to you.

 

Invite others to speak so each person is heard

Be certain each person has the opportunity to speak and be heard. Be encouraging of others who do not readily participate in the conversation. Honor both the desire to speak and to not speak.

 

Disagree but do not shame, blame or attack

Disagree with each other; it is absolutely OK to do so. Let go of the need for people to be, think or act the same. Dialogue is undermined by invoking shame for what one believes to be true, blaming someone for experiences or for thinking or feeling a particular way, attacking another because of anger, or feeling offended due to another person’s perspective. Be open and respectful of disagreements. Hold each other accountable for behaving as Christians should.

 

Accept messiness and practice non-closure

Be messy. Complex issues will not be resolved in one dialogue. You don’t have to have your statements worked out before you start talking or have any answers – your perspectives and thoughts are enough. A common fear is that you will offend someone – but we are here to learn from one another and offer as much as we can to the dialogue. Please accept that both your thoughts and the thoughts of others will be disorganized and share as openly as possible.

 

Focus on learning and approach the dialogue with the assumption the “other” view may be right

Intend to learn from others, to expand your view and understanding, not to evaluate others or determine who has the “best” view. Verbalize your thoughts, feelings, opinions and ideas openly and listen actively to others so you may learn. Ask questions for clarification; be curious. Avoid giving advice and attempting to change anyone else’s beliefs or behavior.

 

Maintain discretion and respect others' situations and views.

We must agree that what is shared will not be used against anyone in any way. It will be important when you see each other beyond this context to respect that people may or may not want to discuss these issues after they leave.

Be aware that neither one person’s nor our collective understanding of God’s vision can ever come close to the fullness of God’s vision. No human being “owns” God’s final word on any particular issue. Participate in the dialogue with both a sense of humility and an openness to the presence and work of the Holy Spirit among us.

A Future with Hope

Rev. Adam Hamilton

Cornerstone UMC

Bishop Scott Jones

Differing Opinions on the Future of the United Methodist Church

Staying United Methodist

Options other then United Methodist Church and Global Methodist Church

Global Methodist Church