The Way Forward: Bylaws & Pastors

United Methodist Church
After 51 years of ministry, John Wesley will officially leave our birthing denomination on December 31, 2022. The Special Session of the Texas Annual Conference of the UMC approved our disaffiliation on Saturday, December 3. Lay and clergy delegates gathered to vote to approve the disaffiliation of 294 of the 598 churches in the Texas Annual Conference during this Special Session. The measure passed with 1212 votes for and 33 votes against. The annual conference will now send John Wesley the official papers needed to move forward and become a self-governing Wesleyan Methodist church.

As the congregation of John Wesley Methodist Church, we profess the historic Christian faith in God incarnate in Jesus Christ for our salvation and ever at work in human history in the Holy Spirit. We share a common heritage with Christians of every age and nation. This heritage is grounded in the apostolic witness to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, the source and measure of all valid Christian teaching. We exist to connect people to Jesus.

The above is the opening statement of the new bylaws for John Wesley Methodist Church. Members of the Core Leadership Team and several qualified members gathered at the church for a six hours session to finalize our new bylaws. Our lawyer has a copy of the bylaws and will do the official work needed to complete this transition on January 1, 2023. Your governing body, the Church Council, will be supplied with a copy of the bylaws this week for their review. The Church Council will hold a special meeting on Wednesday, December 14, at 5:30 p.m. in the Courtyard Room. The Church Council will vote to approve the new bylaws, and then your leadership will share them with the entire church. This particular Church Council meeting will fulfill the obligation in the official resolution for disaffiliation used at the church conference on October 26. The new bylaws provide a basic legal and administrative framework for how John Wesley Methodist Church will be organized going forward.  However, the policies, procedures, and employee handbook will contain details on how the church operates and conducts its business.

Your Clergy Staff
I wanted to take a moment to inform you about the steps by the pastoral staff to remain connected to John Wesley. First, reach Pastor Trish Woodruff will retire early because of her age from the United Methodist Church. This early retirement will allow her to work at any church she deems necessary to fulfill her call to ministry. I will do the same thing. I am only 50 years old but have over 25 years of service to the UMC. There is a rule in the UMC Book of Discipline called the 20-year-rule. This option allows me to be an official retired UMC pastor and work at any church I deem necessary to fulfill my call to ministry. Executive Pastor Eric Pugh will ask for "a transitional leave of absence." Eric is a deacon in the UMC and does not have a guaranteed appointment in the denomination. Deacons are in charge of finding their employment, which is how we hired him at JW. Since not all deacons can find a ministry job, there is a particular concession in the Book of Disciple called "a transitional leave of absence." This leave of absence lets him find employment wherever he desires as he searches for a ministry job. Eric seeks to remain on our Clergy Staff, like Trish and me, for as long as the church sees fit.  

Subtle Changes
As our church disconnects from the denominational hierarchy, we will remain true to our mission, ministry, and theology. A few changes will become more evident to the congregation, and I want to share those before they occur. One change is our official name, and how we use it. The official name of our church will be John Wesley Methodist Church. We will have that on our official documents and in different signage on campus. Since we do not hide our Wesleyan Methodist heritage, the Methodist part will not be used on advertising and logos to keep things simple.  We will simply use the title John Wesley Church.  The other change will be with the new bylaws, governance changes will occur on January 1, 2023, but will not be fully in place until after May 2023. Your pastors and leaders will use the first 5 to 6 months to put the right people in place to help lead our church in new ways. These new ways are not drastic, and most will not notice them, but it is vital to take time to make these changes correctly.

We will have more information coming to you and our teams in the first months of the new year. If you feel you need to know more about something, please reach out to me or a member of the Core Leadership Team.  

In Christ,

Dr. Marty Dunbar