After years of “do as I do, not as I say” practices by anti-gay caucus groups in The United Methodist Church, the truth finally comes out as the Wesleyan Covenant Association officially calls for the withholding of apportionments, in violation of the Discipline they claim to uphold.
The truth has finally come out.
For years, this blog has detailed and unveiled churches that have withheld their apportionments (church tithe) from The United Methodist Church. For years, traditionalist caucus groups and leaders have denied such tactics with a wink even as churches they support violate the Discipline by their withholdings.
However, the shift in leadership at the Wesleyan Covenant Association has finally revealed withholding apportionments is an intentional strategy of disgruntled churches. Jay Therrell became the new Wesleyan Covenant Association President in 2022, and the loss of the disciplined messaging and strategic leadership from former President Rev. Keith Boyette is already being seen.
Therrell penned a blog post today (August 12, 2022) on the official WCA website calling for the withholding of apportionments by churches in particular annual conferences to apply pressure to reduce the withdrawal costs of these churches that seek to disaffiliate, and for all churches everywhere to cease paying for their bishops. In black and white pixels, we see laid bare the same strategy I’ve uncovered for years (see posts here and here and here)
However, this isn’t a big deal because these churches have done so before, but it does mark a new turn in this conflict in The United Methodist Church.
In the hitlist, Jay Therrell calls on Florida churches to withhold their church tithes. But since Jay Therrell was a DS in the Florida Annual Conference before he resigned, numerous churches have signed onto a 100+ church suit against the annual conference, seeking to disaffiliate without paying any money at all.
However, statistics show many of these churches have already been withholding apportionments for years. I checked four of those churches for their apportionment giving in 2019 and 2020 (2021 numbers aren’t out yet), giving the data for the years following the 2019 General Conference. For example:
- Beach UMC, Jacksonville Beach: 2019/2020 Shortfall of $238,455
- Pine Castle, Orlando: 2019/2020 Shortfall of $278,924
- First UMC, Oviedo: 2019/2020 Shortfall of $133,471
- First UMC, Zephyrhills: 2019/2020 Shortfall of $61,169
In total, just these four churches alone have withheld $712,000 in apportionments in 2019 and 2020 alone (probably the same story for 2021 and 2022).
Therrell is calling upon churches to do exactly what many of them have done all along. But it won’t matter much to Florida because many of these churches have been withholding for years, violating the Discipline, and the AC budgets have already adjusted to their ecclesial disobedience.
Messing with Texas
Therrell didn’t target the Texas Annual Conference, but the churches there have followed this same tactic.
We recently reported on the disaffiliation process of Faithbridge church in Spring, Texas, and The Woodlands in Houston, Texas. Those are large churches that will have a lot to pay in even the minimal costs in Texas (Texas’s traditionalist hierarchy is covering the pension liability loss of disaffiliating churches…sigh). But even then, these two churches have already withheld an incredible amount of money. From the Journals:
- Faithbridge withheld $285,018 in apportionments in 2020, and $310,173 in 2019.
- The Woodlands withheld $564,951 in 2020 and $467,472 in 2019.
So two megachurches, just two, in Texas already withheld $1.6 million dollars in church tithes in two years. Double that for 2021 and 2022, and they have already withheld from the denomination much of their costs for disaffiliation. They don’t deserve any breaks, but their compliant Bishop and conference leadership have rolled over conference reserves to make sure they do.
Edited to add: I should also mention The Woodlands has on staff a retired UM Bishop (my former bishop in Oklahoma, Bishop Robert Hayes), who I presume they pay to pen articles about leaving United Methodism. However, The Woodlands hasn’t paid their Episcopal Fund apportionment for their own bishop (Bishop Scott Jones) since at least 2019. So they will pay for their own staff bishops, but not their appointed ones. Good riddance!
The gloves are off and it’s now clear that the WCA has turned from being a like-minded caucus group operating within United Methodism to being an extremist group intent on dismantling United Methodism by exiting property, people, and funds from United Methodism–and breaking church law in doing so.
It’s time. United Methodist is an institution, and institutions have power too.
- United Methodist bishops should take action: if churches refuse to pay their church tithes and do not publicly rebuke their extremist leadership, then there should be a change in congregational leadership before the end of this year.
- Annual Conferences should publicly rebuke the WCA, and deny the WCA annual conference resources, announcements, etc. Conference and district social media shouldn’t publicize local church announcements that feature these organizations or leadership.
- Churches that disaffiliate should have their pastors withdraw too, not staying in The UMC where they can continue to burn down the house that they grew up in.
- Finally, there are layers of conference staff who have enabled these local churches to withhold hundreds of thousands of dollars each year while small and medium sized churches gave sacrificially to be 100% in accordance with the Discipline. Bishops, District Superintendents, Conference Treasurers, and other leaders. Conference accountability processes should be exercised to see who needs to go and who looked the other way as we move forward as a denomination.
This blog will continue to report on these shenanigans and welcomes your feedback or on-the-ground reporting of such violations of our common life together that cause far more harm than two men marrying each other has ever done.
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