FUMC senior pastor suspended following second disaffiliation vote

Published: Dec. 16, 2022 at 5:59 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 16, 2022 at 6:35 PM CST
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JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) – Senior Pastor John Miles of the First United Methodist Church has been suspended.

The move comes after the FUMC voted during a Thursday, Dec. 15 meeting to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church for a second time, with 635 people voting not to remain a part of UMC.

According to UMC Bishop Gary Mueller, the meeting was not authorized in accordance with UMC’s structure, thus resulting in Miles’ suspension.

“The vote, which purported to adopt new ‘bylaws’, was in violation of The Book of Discipline and illegal according to Arkansas State law,” he said in a news release.

In addition to the suspension of Miles, Mueller said the Arkansas Conference declared exigent circumstances, vesting title to all property of FUMC-Jonesboro in the Arkansas Conference Board of Trustees for “the protection of the rights of the United Methodist Church and those United Methodists wishing to continue to worship in their church in Jonesboro.”

“I am deeply saddened that we find ourselves in the current situation. No one wins, and we all lose; most of all the Body of Christ and the mission to which Jesus calls us. I want to ask you to pray that hearts of peace will prevail and that a positive way forward will be found. While it is a difficult and painful time for all involved, I remain resolute in the hope that is found in the birth of the Christ Child,” Mueller said.

Following the announcement, Miles responded on his Facebook page by saying “this is all part of the legal process”, adding he plans to be in for church services on Sunday, Dec. 18, and the following Sundays.

“They’re [the lawyers] working through all this, and they’ll get this settled,” he said. “Let’s enjoy church, let’s enjoy Christmas, let’s enjoy one another.”

Stay UMC told Region 8 News it is focused on the Advent Season and Christmas, and that “this matter is between the Arkansas Conference and their employee, John Miles.”

The meeting came after a motion to ratify the disaffiliation agreement between the board of trustees and Jonesboro FUMC was not ratified during a special session of the Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church on Saturday, Nov. 19.

According to the conference’s website, 254 voted in favor of disaffiliation, while 335 voted against it.

Region 8 News will continue to follow this story for more details.