Affiliation Update: Transitional Independence

November 10, 2022 | Read Time: 3 mins

By: Rev. Mark Sorensen

As we enter this season of Thanksgiving, I want to express my sincere gratitude for your participation, prayers and support of our ministry at The Woodlands Methodist Church. 2022 has been an exceptional year in so many ways, and I praise God for your faithfulness through everything we’ve experienced this year.

Before we turn our focus to the approaching holidays, and because so many of you have requested it, I want to share an important update on our affiliation discernment process, as well as the results of our Forward in Faith Member Survey.

First, the affiliation update: While we are making good progress on necessary business matters that formalize our disaffiliation from The United Methodist Church by year’s end, we are still very early in the study of our best options for future affiliation. For this reason, our discernment leadership team has voted unanimously to enter a period of transitional independence in the coming year. What does this mean, exactly? I’m glad you asked!

On January 1, 2023, through next spring, The Woodlands Methodist Church will begin to operate as a self-governing Wesleyan Methodist congregation until we gather more facts and build consensus for joining another Methodist denomination or a network of other large Methodist churches.

While we are committed to maintaining strong connections with other traditional, Wesleyan Methodist congregations, we are also committed to further educating ourselves and our congregation with more details before making an official recommendation and calling for a churchwide affiliation vote sometime next spring. (Yes, another vote — and since we will be self-governing for the first half of 2023, we have the ability to set our own rules for more flexible member participation this time. Count on it!)

You’ll be pleased to know our church’s executive staff, working with lay members of our Pastor Parish Relationship Committee, has secured pension and benefits for our clergy team. Rest assured, your pastors will be well cared for and supported even after they leave the UMC clergy connection.

Honestly, self-governance is not new for The Woodlands Methodist Church, due to the vitality and strength built over decades during Dr. Robb’s leadership. And today, we are well prepared for independence thanks to the wise counsel and diligent oversight of so many on our lay governance committees, ministry staff, members like you and stakeholders across Methodism.

Simply put — affiliation is a big decision, and one that I do not want to repeat during my tenure as your senior pastor. There are so many reasons to make this historic decision free of assumptions and haste. Chief among them is church member involvement and buy-in — which brings me to the Member Survey results. This feedback alone underscores our need to take as much time as we need before calling a vote for future affiliation.

More than 1,500 of you shared your opinions in our Forward in Faith Member Survey, and we are taking every bit of your feedback into consideration:

• The majority of you expressed high interest and high investment in the affiliation
process — a decision that you said will affect your participation at TWMC.

• There is high preference to affiliate with another Methodist denomination, followed by
remaining an independent Methodist church. The choice to affiliate with an alliance or
network of Methodist churches was least desired.

• It’s important to mention that many of you said you did not know enough about the options
to have an opinion on many of the questions — a good indicator that more information and
education is needed, and we will provide that.

• While the Global Methodist Church was the most recognized denomination, the Survey
results reflect a strong desire for more information and the opportunity to hear directly from
denomination representatives, as part of the discovery process. This feedback validates my
desire to host another round of live community forums next spring.

I’m thrilled with the number of responses and how our church membership is speaking into to this next phase of discernment. Please visit to view the results of our Member Survey. We will offer another survey next spring, after we provide more detailed information about each option. Our affiliation website continues to be the best and most complete source of updated information on this process.

What we are learning is, this process is just as much about casting and living into a future vision as it is about navigating the nitty-gritty details. Both are important, and by not rushing the process, we are able to fully imagine and help build the future of traditional, Wesleyan Methodism. On the other side of this process, my hope is that we will make a Kingdom impact that reaches the next generation and future generations to come. Lord, let it be so!

For now, know I am committed to leading this process with diligence and daily prayer. Stay tuned; I will share more information as it becomes available.

— Mark