By Jessica Brodie
GREENVILLE—One resolution included in pre-conference materials is calling for South Carolina to disaffiliate from the denomination.
“Resolution for the Realignment of the South Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church and Its Disaffiliation from the Structures of The United Methodist Church” was submitted by the Rev. Keith Sweat, pastor of the Mount Bethel-Kings Chapel Charge in the Greenwood District.
Among other rationales, the resolution notes that because “schism is not separation from a church body but separation within a church body” and because amid our divisive debates, all attempts at unity “have failed,” the bishop shall appoint a Task Force on Realignment to develop a plan to disaffiliate the South Carolina Conference from the UMC and present that plan at Annual Conference 2018.
Read the resolution in full in pre-conference materials, which can be found here (see Page 71).
The Rev. Steve Simoneaux, chair of the South Carolina Conference’s Committee on Resolutions and Appeals, said his understanding is that the resolution might be out of order. According to the Discipline and affirmed by the Judicial Council, only General Conference has the right to grant a disaffiliation; an annual conference does not have that right.
Sweat said he expects an out-of-order challenge to the resolution at Annual Conference.
“I’m prepared for that,” Sweat said.
Sweat said he submitted the resolution because of the chaotic separation that has already begun happening in the UMC over divisive issues such as human sexuality and more.
“Chaos is not a friend of the church,” Sweat said. “If we’re going to do this (separate), it ought to be orderly. It takes a long time. This is not a withdrawal, ‘we’re out of here tomorrow, bye,’ but it says develop an orderly plan to avoid what we’ve seen other denominations go through.”
Sweat said human sexuality is by no means the only issue prompting the resolution.
“Even if we reached a resolution on that, we’d find ourselves at the next General Conference debating another Rule 44 and another fight about something else—maybe it’s divestment or how the seminaries should be conducted. There are so many things,” Sweat said.
In addition to the disaffiliation resolution, at least six other resolutions will also be presented at Annual Conference 2017. Read all the resolutions here.