How Did We Get Here?
Twenty-seven years ago, when Christ Church was planning its first worship service in a Jr. High School cafeteria. Our calling and desire was to launch a church that was grounded in Wesleyan theology that blended a profound experience of God’s grace with a deep commitment to intentionally live out our faith. At the same time, we believed church could be an exciting place to be, so our worship was lively, our programming was engaging for all ages, and our welcoming spirit was infectious.
As the years have passed, our congregation has grown to over 4,000 members, and our belief about what church can and should be hasn’t departed from our early years. However, some important aspects of our church have become more focused. Prayer is the cornerstone of our church’s ongoing ministry practice. Personal engagement in small groups, Bible studies, and Sunday school classes are expected of our members. Hands-on ministry with the hurting, the least, the last, and the lost is an everyday focus. Each Sunday morning features Sunday school for all ages, Bible-centered preaching, and worship experiences that reach young and old, long-time, newly, and not-yet Christians.
At our core, we strive to be warm-hearted, Jesus-loving, Holy Spirit-led people whose lives are centered on Scripture and do everything we can to make disciples of Jesus who make disciples of Jesus.
For twenty-seven years, we have been a faithful United Methodist congregation. We have fully supported our denomination in every way possible and we have helped other congregations that have not been able to fully support the UMC. We have hosted District and Conference meetings, and our members and clergy have served on Annual Conference committees and leadership teams. Our commitment to being a part of a connectional denomination has never waned. In fact, that connectional commitment is a part of our DNA.
Unfortunately, the denomination that we have supported and loved all these years has changed. As it stands today, the United Methodist Church is embroiled in a schism. We have not felt the effects of the schism at Christ Church because, through the years, we have only tightened our Biblical convictions. Yet, despite our relative insulation from the denominational strife, the fact remains that the United Methodist Church is splitting.
The main drivers for division within the denomination are a lack of accountability to the historic doctrinal standards of our church, starkly divergent views on biblical authority and interpretation, and a strident cultural appropriation into the denomination’s theological matrix that has seriously denigrated what was initially a Jesus-centered evangelical movement focused on spreading scriptural holiness across the nation.
And it has been a slow fade into the present division.
Since 1968, when the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church merged to form the United Methodist Church, there has been debate over issues of biblical authority and interpretation, theological clarity amidst diversity across the theological spectrum, and human sexuality.
For close to 50 years, the idea of a big tent denomination worked. But immediately after the 2012 General Conference reaffirmed the church’s position regarding sexual ethics, Bishop Melvin Talbert stated to a group that had gathered to hear him speak that “the derogatory rules and restrictions in the Book of Discipline are immoral and unjust and no longer deserve our loyalty and obedience. Thus the time has come for those of us who are faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ to do what is required of us.” So with several other bishops standing near him in support, he then called upon the more than 1,100 pastors who had signed a pledge to marry gay couples to do so and to “stand firm.”
That marked the beginning of open defiance of the Book of Discipline. There are currently dozens of Annual Conferences that are in schism with respect to the Book of Disciple, and at least one entire jurisdiction has committed itself to defying the church’s established doctrine. In fact, in early June of 2022, the bishop of the Florida Annual Conference determined that the UMC’s position on sexuality was no longer relevant and invited the Annual Conference to ordain self-avowed practicing homosexual pastors. The end result was a stark division in the conference and no candidates were ordained or commissioned.
The reality is that it is no longer inevitable that our denomination is going to split. It is splitting today.
Currently, in our annual conference, over 190+ churches are engaged in the process of discerning whether they will disaffiliate, and more are adding to that number each week. The Central North District in our Annual Conference that includes The Woodlands Methodist Church and Faithbridge Church, the two largest worshiping congregations in our Annual Conference, has 70 percent of their congregations are in discernment and will likely disaffiliate from the UMC.
We are very fortunate to be in an Annual Conference that has determined (at the present time) to provide a favorable atmosphere for congregations to consider disaffiliating from the UMC. Each of the Annual Conferences that border our Annual Conference –Louisiana, North Texas, Central Texas, and Rio Texas– each are currently demonstrating varying levels of hostility toward pastors and congregations that are considering disaffiliating from the UMC. Pastors who hold orthodox, evangelical theological positions are being moved from their congregations and replaced with progressive pastors. Traditionalist District Superintendents are being replaced by progressive District Superintendents. Pastors who talk to their congregations about the potential of disaffiliating from the UMC are being called into the Bishop’s offices and told to stop or face having to surrender their credentials. And the Board of Ministry in the Dallas area Annual Conference will not ordain candidates who profess their belief in the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ! All of this is happening in Texas today.
So it is time for us to have this conversation as a congregation. It had been our hope that our Annual Conference would have been able to do the heavy lifting for the local congregations in the Conference, but that will not be happening. Each local church is now left with making their own decisions about their denominational affiliation.
Between now and the middle of September, our congregation will be in a season of discernment regarding our denominational affiliation. Please take the time to read all of the information that is shared in this website. Our team of laity and staff have created this website and the information contained therein to help you become fully educated about all that is before us.
It is our sincere desire that our congregation will emerge from this season of discernment more unified than ever before. It is our hope and prayer that by the time we conclude this season, we will have crystal clarity on what we believe and what we stand on. Furthermore, it is our conviction that our congregation will be a unified body of warm-hearted, Jesus-loving, Spirit-filled believers who welcome ALL people as we seek to glorify God in everything we say and do.