A Message From Bishop Carter
August 17, 2022
By: Bishop Ken Carter
Dear Clergy and Laity of the Western North Carolina Conference:
Over the past week, we have become aware of 31 churches who, with the encouragement of the Wesleyan Covenant Association – Western North Carolina (WCA-WNC), have engaged with a Florida law firm and are demanding transfer into a new denomination. We are deeply grieved by this action, as we seek to be a church united and engaged in making disciples of Jesus. As you read a sample of the letters we have received as well as the response of our conference chancellor (below), here are some important thoughts to keep in mind:
The Western North Carolina Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church is committed to providing a “gracious exit” for those churches that wish to depart, pursuant to our common process outlined in The Book of Discipline, paragraph 2553. We have been trying to engage these churches in that process, but they have refused to follow that approved disaffiliation path, choosing to engage this law firm instead.
This law firm that claims to represent dozens of Western North Carolina United Methodist churches is demanding a short-circuit to the church’s commitments and immediate disaffiliation. That is vastly different from our open and transparent processes which occur in church conferences and at our annual conference session.
We ask that, despite their haste, these groups seeking to break away live up to the responsibilities established by the General Conference in 2019, and that they not cause pain, damage, or disparage other United Methodist churches, other members in their churches, or other pastors, or the Conference.
Much of this is about fairness and the responsibilities churches have to each other. For instance, an abrupt separation creates significant issues that could damage benefits and pensions for retired pastors and their spouses who devoted their lives to service. Another example is the apportionment churches give to support our camps, campus ministries, natural disaster response projects, and missions abroad.
From the perspective of the Western North Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church, our doctrinal standards have not changed and will not change, even as we continue on a journey to be a church that serves all people.
In all this, our overarching goal is to move through this process in a spirit where we can support, bless and love each other. A tenet of our faith is that we embrace a Church built in loving relationships rather than uniformity in thought and action. As John Wesley is quoted “though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike?”
Thank you for your faith in Jesus Christ and our connection as United Methodists.
The Peace of the Lord,
Bishop Ken Carter
Resident Bishop, Western North Carolina Conference
The United Methodist Church