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Summary of the 2023 Indiana Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

Now is the time to be searching your memory of friends, families and acquaintances who, personally, have been disaffiliated, and invite them to a congregation that is committed to the Word of God and it's eternal truths.

In this summary of the 2023 Indiana Annual Conference, I will be drawing heavily from a friend, Rev. Beth Ann Cook, a leader in the Indiana Confessing Movement, and one of the pastors who participated in this year’s Annual Conference as a departing clergy member, pastoring a church that disaffiliated this year.

Regarding the disaffiliation vote, Beth Ann writes:

I was incredibly grateful and relieved that the vote on Disaffiliating Churches went well. 174 churches were approved by a 95% margin including Poseyville St. Paul where I serve. They were voted on in one group without debate. (Unlike some places like North Georgia and Arkansas where it has been ugly.) Indiana remained more collegial than some.

A complete list of disaffiliating churches will be posted on the Conference Website when finalized.

Regarding the expected shift to the left, Beth states: “If you need evidence of just how much the Conference has changed, take a look at the voting. All of the petitions and motions supported by the most radical progressives in the Indiana Conference easily passed. You can read details on the votes here: Annual Conference 2023 Summary.”  She continues, “Indiana went on record as supporting the change in Book of Discipline language on gay marriage/ordination and is calling on General Conference delegates to vote that way.

Beth Ann points out, “Resolution 5, the most onerous resolution for traditionalists, passed by a wide margin. This Cabinet Resolution makes sure that any retired pastor who works for a disaffiliated church loses their conference relationship.” Needless to say, this is a resolution that would have profoundly impacted yours truly, had I stayed in the United Methodist Church. She continues: “The harm done by this petition is that it gives the Cabinet and Board of Ordained Ministry the ability to strip Retiree Benefits paid for by the AC from these retirees. (Via Health Benefits and a $39,000 death benefit to surviving spouse).”

I grieve with those who have or will lose their benefits. Within this context, I cannot overstate my deep gratitude to the Global Methodist Church for welcoming me into their denomination. Not only was I able to maintain my benefits, but I learned too late that I would be losing a significant portion of my benefits due to retiring from the United Methodist Church just a little too soon. And had I stayed in the United Methodist Church, there was nothing I could do to access them. When the Global Methodist Church recognized me as an Ordained Elder, suddenly those funds, in excess of $100,000 were freed up. Praise the Lord who meets all of our needs!

Beth Ann summarizes the Annual Conference,

My heart goes out to the clergy and laity who are remaining in INUMC. Some feel strongly called to do so as a witness. I’m reminded that God told the prophet to “buy a field”. Others are nearing retirement and plan to serve a couple more years to secure their benefits. (I suspect that some retirees who feel their spouse will need to rely on the death benefit payout will feel trapped into staying as well.) Other clergy and laity are part of a divided congregation that they love that could not reach the necessary super majority to disaffiliate. Some took votes and failed while others simply chose not to vote.

Other business, in addition to the 174 disaffiliating churches, the following have closed their doors this year:

        1. Central: Monrovia, Woodside
        2. East: Spiceland
        3. North: South Bend Faith
        4. North Central: Frankfort Trinity, Point Isabel
        5. Northeast: Andrews, Columbia City Oak Grove
        6. Northwest: Twelve Mile Bethlehem
        7. South: Crawford Consolidated, Pilot Knob
        8. Southeast: Deputy, Burney
        9. Southwest: Evansville St. John
        10. West: Hickory, Lena, Waveland Covenant

A word about the Indiana Confessing Movement, which represented Evangelical United Methodists within the denomination, Beth Ann remarks, “The National Confessing Movement office has closed and our INUMC Confessing movement group is also wrapping up at the end of this month.” There will no longer be a voice for traditionalist members of the Conference.

One of the outcomes of the disaffiliation process is that there will be many traditionalist Christians who will no longer have a church that reflects their beliefs. Now is the time to be searching your memory of friends, families, and acquaintances who, personally, have been disaffiliated, and invite them to a congregation that is committed to the Word of God and its eternal truths. As Jesus stated, “Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest” (John 4:35).

In service to Christ

Pastor Mark Eastway

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