Frank E. Lockwood of the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette writes that Arkansas’ largest United Methodist congregation has come to an “Amicable Reconciliation and Separation Agreement” and will split into three new, separate assemblies.
The Central Church will continue to affiliate with the United Methodist denomination, while the South Fayetteville Genesis Church will become independent. A third congregation will form in the coming months. Dissatisfaction across the united congregation had been an ongoing issue for the past year, and the agreement avoids possible legal action over how to divide assets.
Central has agreed to provide $500,000 in seed money for the startup congregation, which will meet temporarily in the Fayetteville Town Center, with $200,000 due on April 1; $100,000 on July 1; $100,000 on April 1, 2024; and $100,000 on April 1, 2025.
The Wesley campus ministry, which serves students at the University of Arkansas, will “continue to be an important part of Central’s ministry efforts,” the document states.
Genesis Church will be allowed to buy its campus — the old Wiggins Memorial United Methodist Church property — for $1.
Members of the Central church council overwhelmingly approved the agreement at a specially called meeting Sunday night presided over by Blake Bradford, the district superintendent for Northwest Arkansas.
By finding a compromise, Central members avoided the need for a lengthy discernment process and a divisive congregation-wide vote on whether to “disaffiliate.”
Under the agreement, disaffiliation efforts have been dropped.
In an interview, Vaughan portrayed the outcome as a potential model for other congregations.
“God has been at work throughout this process. There’s no way we could have done it without that,” he said. “I really do believe that God is going to bless what’s happened here.”
Genesis Church’s pastor, Jody Farrell, said the agreement has created “beauty out of brokenness,” and credited Brock Gearhart, chair of Central’s board of trustees, with helping to bring people together.
“We were headed towards a zero sum game where there’s a winner and a loser. … Brock came up with an idea that would basically make it a win-win-win situation,” he said.
Moving forward, Genesis Church will continue its focus on “education of young people, poverty alleviation and addiction recovery” as it works “to bring people to faith in Jesus,” Farrell said.