Last week, DFW-area media outlets reported that White’s Chapel United Methodist Church will be voting to disaffiliate from The UMC on Nov. 7. While it is accurate that a church conference will be convened at White’s Chapel UMC on Nov. 7 to vote on disaffiliation, it is not accurate that the decision to separate from the United Methodist connection has already been reached. That will be determined by the vote on Nov. 7.
This news did not come as a surprise. The Cabinet, in particular our East District Superintendent Rev. Philip Rhodes and I have engaged in many conversations with the clergy and lay leadership of White’s Chapel and encouraged them to remain in connection - as we have with all churches that have prayerfully discerned and elected for a called church conference to vote on disaffiliation.
We have discussed the divisions facing the UMC with the White’s Chapel leadership. While the media and others may characterize these issues as divisions that are too deep to overcome, I see this inflection point in the life of our denomination as an opportunity to give faithful Christian witness to the gospel as reflected in our Wesleyan heritage.
That churches are expending great efforts and using precious missional resources to disaffiliate at a time when there are so many important and pressing issues in our communities and world that call Christ’s Church to address is disappointing.
The Central Texas Conference and White’s Chapel United Methodist have benefitted from a strong and mutual missional partnership over the years. It is my and the entire Conference leadership’s desire that the people of White’s Chapel, along with all other congregations discerning disaffiliation, will choose to remain in connection with the churches that comprise The United Methodist Church as we can do more in mission for Christ together.
Our oneness in Christ, our faith, our baptism, and our oneness in God and Father of all is more important than what tears us apart. Churches that stay in relationship with other sister churches that may not be of the same mind on all things are beacons of hope to a divided world. Connected churches, like connected Christians, can better carry out Christ’s mission in unity and strength, putting their collective faith into action toward the salvation, health, and peace of all people.
Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr.
Resident Bishop of the Central Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church