When *Barbara’s church decided to disaffiliate, she wasn’t surprised. This church which nurtured her faith no longer wanted to be called United Methodist. This is the community where she was actively involved in activities such as mission trips and Stephen Ministry. Many friendships were made over the years.
During this time, Barbara moved and began searching for a faith community. “It’s the core of who I am. It is essential to begin that connection, create relationships with like-minded believers and be able to serve in the community,” she said. She found a place to call a church home, becoming active in ministry and creating relationships with people with shared interests, like reading and gardening. After two years, this church voted to disaffiliate.
“I never considered when I joined, they would walk the same path,” said Barbara of her second church. Although some relationships have remained after disaffiliation; others are strained. “I feel like I’m starting all over again,” she said.
Barbara was not alone. Others from that church desired to remain connected as United Methodists. After working with the West Ohio Conference Office of Fresh Starts and New Beginnings and the district superintendent, they were able to create a new church that launched recently.
Although Barbara is excited now, it took some time to grieve and mourn the losses of her former faith communities.
The process of disaffiliation at both churches was frustrating and hurtful. Before the vote, there wasn’t space available at either church to discuss the issue. Barbara said, “There was just this unspoken cloud hanging over us at all times. There was a feeling the leadership knew the direction they wanted to take the church and only included people in conversations who thought like them and agreed with them.”
The impact on members who wanted to remain United Methodist when the church they love votes to disaffiliate didn’t seem to be a consideration.
“What makes us unique as United Methodists is we welcome all thoughts and opinions and we don’t all have to think alike to worship God together,” she said. “Our diversity makes us stronger and more effective witnesses for Jesus. I love that about The United Methodist Church.”
The gift of grace she learned growing up in church is why Barbara remains United Methodist. “I love that we are affirming, are aware of social injustices and work hard to help relieve pain and suffering,” she said.
Barbara and others like her have hope. Their new worshiping community gathers for bible study, worship and has created connections to begin mission outreach in their local community.
“It’s very exciting! I’m thinking God may have had this plan all along!” Barbara said.
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*Name of the subject has been changed.
Written by Amy Graham, Communications Specialist