With all the turmoil we’ve experienced this past year in our denomination — and the conflict created by the decision made by the called General Conference last February, it may seem only logical to ask, Should we wait to find out what our denomination is going to do after GC2020 to move forward with our Next90 Building Expansion program?
As Senior Pastor Dr. Tim Bruster has emphasized again and again, while the turmoil and conflict and decisions pending at the global level of our not-that-united Methodist denomination, here at home in our First Church Faith Community, it is and will remain “business as usual” for who we are as a church, our mission, and ministries.
Regardless of what goes on at the General Conference level, we are the same church, doing the same ministries together, and sharing the same commitment to Love God, Serve People, and Transform Lives — in Fort Worth and around the world.
We continue to pursue the goals we identified in the Focus First Process:
- Facilities that serve our mission.
- Everyone in a life-giving group.
- The spiritual home for youth in Fort Worth.
- A Church as diverse as the Kingdom of God.
“Our Focus First goals have provided us with a clear direction on programming, staffing, and every major decision we make as a church,” adds Rev. Lance Marshall, FUMCFW Co-Pastor, who led the Focus First Strategic planning process.
“As far as our place in the denominational issues, we are a church of compatibilists,” adds Dr. Bruster. “We have experienced for generations being part of a ‘big tent’ congregation — a community that knows how to be together even with our disagreements and to love one another and to serve together.”
Another question bandied about earlier this year — and one that concerned some with regards to the Next90 expansion program was, What about property? If “something new” is indeed formed, is our church property our own? Could this be like other denominations in which churches that don’t agree with the denominational decisions are left without a building to call their church home? Doesn’t the Trust Clause outlined by The United Methodist Book of Discipline mean that the conference owns our real estate?
In short, the answer to this very legitimate question was settled in an April meeting with the Judicial Council. In that meeting, the Judicial Council modified an earlier decision and upheld legislation that simplifies the process for churches to leave the United Methodist denomination with their property.
While this “gracious exit” legislation takes effect immediately, Dr. Bruster emphasizes that it is extremely important to remember that our church has no immediate plans for disaffiliation. “Disaffiliation is not in my vocabulary,” he says. “We’re not going to disaffiliate and become an independent church. We are Methodists and Methodists are connectional. If we cease to be UNITED Methodists, we will be affiliated with some new expression of Methodism. This legislation opens up more avenues for new Methodist expressions without the conflicts and legal challenges we have seen in other denominations.”
So now, with the trust clause question of property firmly settled (property remains with the local churches regardless of denominational decisions), and a workable phasing plan in place, there’s no time like the present to move boldly forward. And, because we have done the extensive work of discerning through our Focus First strategic planning process where and how our church needs to grow in terms of facilities to our support ministries and transform our reach into the rapidly growing downtown community around us, we also know the time is now to begin making the Next90 vision a reality.
Our faithful FUMCFW family can rest assured and trust that, “We are who we are as a church and that is who we will continue to be,” Dr. Bruster adds, “and it is time for us to focus on and respond to our own calling in this city for the Next 90 years.”