General Conference 2024
May 29, 2023
Dear Fredericksburg UMC Family,
Blessings to you! As many of you are aware – or may have recently become aware – several United Methodist churches in Virginia and elsewhere have elected to depart the denomination (and have recently been given permission to do so) over theology and the role of LGBTQ+ people within the church. Given the reporting of, and discussions surrounding, these departures, your Church Council feels it important to remind you of FUMC’s position.
In a letter provided to the church on August 30, 2022, we stated: “[a]t this time, after prayerful consideration, meetings, a rereading of our founding articles and statements of faith, our conversations with congregation, and learning more about the disaffiliation process, we as the Church Council do not intend to initiate the process to leave the United Methodist Church.” The full letter can be found at the FUMC website: General Conference 2024 | Fredericksburg United Methodist Church (fumcva.org) (https:vaumc.org/gc24/)
We continue to encourage our family here at FUMC to hold tight to our mission and our values, sharing in our love of Christ as we worship together even if we interpret portions of the Bible differently. We believe we are truly a church that seeks to include and love all those God sends our way.
Consistent with this belief, your Church Council recently voted unanimously to become a Bridge Church for people whose churches have chosen to disaffiliate. As the Virginia Annual Conference explains, “Bridge Churches are United Methodist faith communities … [that] will provide pastoral support, nurture, and opportunities for connection during this time of grief and transition, always in response to each individual’s needs, timing, and sense of God’s call.” The full description of a Bridge Church, and the mission and ministry opportunities it may include, can be found here: https://nextsteps.vaumc.org/bridge-churches/
As part of this resolution, FUMC commits to “[p]rovide a welcoming place to belong during this time of grief and transition, which might be for just a season, or forever.” (The full text of the resolution can be reviewed here: LINK). This is in keeping with our mission to Seek, Serve, Grow, and Connect. Indeed, an opportunity to fulfill this mission has already occurred, as we have had several visitors from at least one disaffiliating church in recent weeks. We hope that you will join us in welcoming those from all points of view who wish to remain faithful and devoted members of the United Methodist Church.
We will continue to follow further denomination developments as they occur leading up to the General Conference 24. If you have questions for the pastors or Church Council, please email us at .
Your Church Council
Matthew Zurasky, Chairman
August 30, 2022
Dear Fredericksburg UMC Family,
Blessings to you. As your Church Council, we recognize that the past few years have been particularly tumultuous for the larger United Methodist Church, particularly as it relates to LGBTQ+ issues. The biblical and theological debate regarding LGBTQ+ marriage, ordination, and language in the UMC Book of Discipline has sown considerable discord. Decisions made (by vote) at the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference regarding consequences for clergy performing same-sex marriages and a disaffiliation process for churches to leave the denomination “for reasons of conscience” brought this discord into stark relief. The process defined by the conference stipulates that the Church Council is the body to initiate the process to disaffiliate, or leave, the United Methodist Church. (For additional information on these issues, please review the FAQ page on the General Conference page of our website). The postponement of the next General Conference until 2024 leaves the disagreement and concerns surrounding the treatment and resolution of LGBTQ+ issues in the UMC unresolved. In advance of a resolution, a small percentage of congregations have already decided to leave our denomination.
We understand that you may have questions regarding where FUMC stands on these issues and the intentions of FUMC’s leadership. We have been praying and discerning for many months around these questions and want to address them as transparently as possible.
Any decision we make as a congregation about our denomination must begin with remembering who we are as United Methodists. To this end, the Church Council has spent time rereading our founding articles and statements of faith. The United Methodist Book of Discipline affirms that we are anchored in Scripture and a theology of grace, and our mission at FUMC reflects this: Seek others in our community, Serve their needs, Grow the love of Christ, Connect with each other. We are disciples committed to making disciples, focused on what Jesus says is most important: loving God with all that we are and loving our neighbors as ourselves. As United Methodists, we agree on the core tenets of our faith while embracing the diversity of scriptural interpretation. We are a church where the Holy Spirit is active, where people ‘do life’ together, showing the light and love of Jesus to all in our neighborhood and community.
At this time, after prayerful consideration, meetings, a rereading of our founding articles and statements of faith, our conversations with the congregation, and learning more about the disaffiliation process, we as the Church Council do not intend to initiate the process to leave the United Methodist Church. We feel that joining a different denomination would alienate a large portion of our congregation and render us unable to fully live into our mission to love and welcome everyone – even those who interpret portions of the Bible differently.
We realize that this news may be a relief for some and disappointing for others. We also recognize that some of you wish to discuss these issues further. Please know that whether you agree or disagree with our reasoning, you are a beloved part of FUMC, and your point of view is valued. We welcome your thoughts. We firmly believe that we all share a love for Christ and can worship together and serve our community as people who think or feel differently on these questions; this is who we have been and already are as FUMC.
We will continue to follow and share further denominational developments as they occur. More information about recent General Conference decisions is also available on our website General Conference 2024. If you have questions for the pastors or Church Council please email us at .
As Pastor Gina said in her letter about the General Conference moving to 2024, we on the Church Council encourage our family here at FUMC to hold tight to our mission and to our values in life joined in Christ together. We see daily that God’s Spirit unites us and does amazing things through this diverse Body of Christ serving in downtown Fredericksburg and outward into the world. We believe that we are truly a church that seeks to include and love all those that God sends our way. We also believe and see in practice that we seek to do no harm, as we minister.
We believe the future of Fredericksburg United Methodist Church is one of hope, purpose, and service, and we invite us all to navigate it together.
Your Church Council
Chair, Matt Zurasky
Vice Chair, Trish Vaughan
Lay Leader, Anna Billingsley
Lay Leader, Joelle Gotwals
Board of Trustees, Blair Mitchell
Foundation Chair, Rob Billingsley
Staff Parish Relations Committee, Co-Chair, April Wynn Reif
Finance Chair, Mike Sienkowski
Connect Chair, Martha Sheffield
Connect Vice-Chair, Anne Blosser
Grow, Michelle Wagaman
Serve, Carol Knott
Rev. Gina Anderson-Cloud, Lead Pastor
Rev. Ohhwan Kim, Associate Pastor
Rev. Mary McGhee-Pasternak, Associate Pastor
Rev. Jerry Mills, Associate Pastor
Rev. Chelsea Morse, Associate Pastor
May 10, 2022
Dear Church Family,
I wish to take a moment to address the delay of the United Methodist General Conference until 2024, as well as the formation of the new split-off denomination, the Global Methodist Church (GMC). I hope this letter will be the beginning of renewed dialogue and prayer for us as a church as we navigate our way forward at this time in history.
As I mentioned previously, I believe our work together is always best to focus on our mission before us, which is “to make disciples of Jesus for the transformation of the world.” With much before us at this juncture: pandemic recovery, weakened attendance/participation in church, instability in the economy, increasing political polarization, the reality of poverty and homelessness locally, the war in Ukraine, and so much more, our work is urgent. The world needs Jesus Christ, and I believe, as our church Discipline states, that the local church is the greatest means to connect people to Jesus. Therefore, at this time, we must all lean in and seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance to remain relevant and faithful to our calling.
We must do this in the light of a delayed General Conference, which many hoped would offer a resolution to our denomination’s division over marriage and ordination of LGBTQ+ individuals. The delay sparked the formation of the GMC as a “traditionalist” denomination, which many fear will bleed people and financial resources from our beloved UMC. The GMC began officially on May 1, 2022. In response, our bishop and her cabinet have worked to allow an exit process for churches seeking to leave soon. In their plan, a special session of the Virginia Annual Conference will be held for this in October 2022.
I know for some these events sound very confusing. Currently, things are complex for the UMC. Moreover, the hierarchical way denominations work complicates the matter. Our church works within a process of governing that are very much akin to and were modeled after the US governmental structure. So, delegate voting and alignment of the process can take much time, particularly when we are divided, and when we maintain a commitment to working as a worldwide church in the reality of an ongoing pandemic.
With all this, I mentioned before, in my previous letter about the UMC’s General Conference, that our FUMC Church Council delegated the work to review the news and effects of General Conference proceedings to a group now known as the “General Conference Committee” in the fall of last year. This group has been meeting since November and sharing information about their work back with our Church Council.
The Church Council has approved the attached documents provided by the Committee to help begin an information-sharing process and to raise congregational awareness about all that is before the United Methodist Church at this time. It is the hope of our church leadership that will we continue our work on behalf of Jesus Christ in this place, not getting distracted as the GMC works to gain membership, and that we will be strong as our UMC denomination weathers change.
The members of the General Conference Committee at FUMC are; Bob Pickett, facilitator; Gina Anderson-Cloud, lead pastor; Katherine Counsell; Mark Earnesty; Joelle Gotwals; Mona Lamb; George Long; Paul Prewitt; Florence Ridderhof; Martha Sheffield; Mike Sienkowski; and Carrie Szlyk. You may contact the group with questions or concerns at: .
This new/refreshed section of the website will provide information about the current status of General Conference 2024 and our church’s work to communicate and discern in response. This group expects to provide ongoing information following the VA Annual Conference in June, which will include some group gatherings and times to share information and answer questions at FUMC. The General Conference Committee is not a decision-making body. It is simply working as a resource group to help the Church Council and pastors navigate through this time within the UMC and provide a means of communication to the congregation, a place/face to ask questions and seek information.
Please look at these attached three documents that provide further information as it currently stands.
Updates will be on this webpage.
Thank you for your dedication to the Body of Christ here at Fredericksburg UMC.
Grace and peace,
Rev. Gina Anderson-Cloud