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Informational Sessions

Next Steps - the Journey Continues
March 2023

From the Hillside Discernment Team
Dear Hillside Family,
As we continue to pray for our church and go about the daily ministry life that we’re called to, there are those in leadership in Hillside and among other churches who have been diligently continuing to try to resolve the conflicts that continue within the United Methodist Church.

Realizing that the opportunity to vote to disaffiliate from the UMC will not be available to us for much longer, a large group of church representatives in North Georgia have been exploring the next steps. Efforts have been made to reach out in writing and in person to newly-installed Bishop Robin Dease, the Conference Board of Trustees and District Superintendents. None of these efforts have brought any response beyond a repeat of the statement that “during this season of pause, the appointive Cabinet will not hold any church conferences for purpose of disaffiliation”.

On January 31, five of our lay leaders joined with representatives from more than 100 other churches from North Georgia in a Zoom call with the Wesley Covenant Association that introduced the National Center for Life and Liberty, a legal ministry with nationwide experience in church issues and with the UMC disaffiliation process around the United States. Subsequently the Hillside Leadership Council and Board of Trustees all voted unanimously to approve a resolution to become a “Premier Partner” with NCLL and to join the North Georgia Litigation Block.

This action authorizes the NCLL to pursue a resolution with the North Georgia Annual Conference of the UMC to:
  • Discontinue the “pause” and put the disaffiliation process back on track within the previously-agreed timeframe.
  • If North Georgia leadership refuses to cancel the “pause”, then the NCLL is authorized to pursue litigation toward a settlement on our behalf in concert with a group of 167 churches from North Georgia.

Since we are part of such a large group of churches in North Georgia with the same objective, the cost to pursue this path is nominal. We have paid $1000 to become a “Premier Partner” with the NCLL, and should further action become necessary, we will pay another $2500 for litigation. Each church that has joined is under the same requirement.

None of these actions are requiring Hillside to leave the UMC, but are recommended solely for the purpose of providing our church members with the right to have a church vote regarding disaffiliation.

We are all saddened by the need to take these actions, but believe that this is the only possible response at this time to the decisions of the Conference. As decisions and developments are ongoing at this time, we’ll continue to keep you informed as things progress.
As always, if you have any questions or comments, you can email and one of our lay leaders will be in touch.

Information, and a Journey
February 2023

From the Hillside Discernment Team
The information:
            As you know, for the last year and more we’ve been exploring the possibility of disaffiliating from the UMC and looking toward a church-wide vote that should have taken place early in 2023. On December 28, 2022, the Bishop and the North Georgia Annual Conference Leadership declared an indefinite “pause” on all disaffiliation decisions, citing unspecified “disinformation” being communicated to churches regarding the process. Please be assured that we at Hillside have shared information with you representing many perspectives on this issue, and that all we have shared has been well-documented.
                On January 5, 2023, Hillside UMC sent a letter to Reverend Beth Sanders, District Superintendent of the Northwest District. We noted in that letter that we believed that the “pause” was in direct violation of the Book of Discipline, and demanded that the District Superintendent set the date for the church conference as requested and provided for in Paragraph 2552 of the 2019 General Conference actions. Since then, the District Superintendent has responded that she had received the letter, and that no further action would be taken to schedule votes for disaffiliation.
                We believe that the actions taken by the Bishop and Conference Leadership have denied our congregation the right to vote on these issues. For this reason, the Finance Committee and Leadership Council have approved that we will set aside and defer all scheduled apportionment payments to the North Georgia Conference, pending action on the demands included in the letter of January 5, 2023. These actions have been taken in communication and cooperation with other like-minded congregations in North Georgia, and many of them are also making this decision. In light of the above, what is our responsibility as we move forward?

The Journey:
The future of Hillside lies before us. Please know that our Hillside leadership continues to work diligently through this process. Our church is a living and active part of our community and our ministry reaches far. It is up to all of us to be faithful despite whatever is going on around us.
In acknowledgement of these times and knowing that our greatest comfort and power lies in prayer, we invite you to be part of a church-wide prayer journey, beginning February 1.
Have you ever been part of a guided prayer journey? If not, or if so, we invite you to be a pray-er, together with the rest of the Hillside family, as we together seek first the Lord, the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, knowing that “all things will be added unto us” Matthew 6:33
Each month, there will be posted an article on prayer, together with daily exhortations to pray over specific concerns.  The format is ideal for individual or group prayer (family, small groups, Bible studies, etc.).
Why are we embarking on this journey? As a church, we long to grow in faith, to persevere in prayer, to seek wisdom from God, and seek God himself.
“The wonderful thing about praying is that you leave a world of not being able to do something, and enter God’s realm where everything is possible.  He specializes in the impossible.  Nothing is too great for His almighty power.  Nothing is too small for His love.” -Corrie TenBoom
February Prayer Focus
The Posture of Battle is PRAISE

  • Is prayer a battle? It is!  In order to pray, we have to fight against ourselves, the pull of the world, and the enemy of our souls.  Ephesians 6:10-20 showcases the armor of God and shows us that we fight spiritual battles with things that seem ordinary: truth, faith, righteousness, the Word of God, and PRAYER!
  • Is Praise a battle weapon? It is!
Genesis 38 tells the story of Judah, one of the 12 sons of Jacob, who then became one of the 12 tribes of Israel.  “Judah” means Praise, specifically hands and arms raised in praise and surrender.
When Israel was conquering other countries, God said that Judah should be the first tribe marching into battle (Judges 20:18). Can you imagine?  Watching the tribe of praise leading the soldiers into battle must have been an amazing sight! Praise to God must be first.  If you are going to be victorious, praise must be first!
Begin each time of prayer with praise.
  • For who God is.
  • For who you are in Him.
  • For what He is doing today, tomorrow, and forever, in your life, in this world, and in the Church.
  • Praise Him for “bending low to listen to you” and for answering your prayers.
  • Praise Him for making a way in everything that concerns you and for being the God of the impossible!
In January, 2022, the Wesleyan Covenant Association International Prayer Network introduced a series of prayer guides under the banner, "The Way to the Kingdom". They are delivered monthly to use as a daily prayer guide, to pray for God's will to be done, and for His Kingdom to come on earth as it is in Heaven.

On February 1, 2023, Hillside Church is launching a church-wide prayer program, using the WCA Prayer network as our prayer guide.
“Surely, we are all after the same thing. We are searching for the way that leads to the Kingdom of God. That is our great quest. United Methodists are also searching for a way through our present theological impasse, which is a more finite quest. And so we wonder: does the way to the Kingdom also lead through this impasse? Surely our best prayers allow these two roads to converge, and surely our best prayers will lead us both to and through. As we pray our way through to a workable solution to our impasse that allows everyone to move on with ministry, we must begin in our prayers where our spiritual fathers and mothers (and even importantly, Jesus) counseled us to begin. We must begin with our hearts, and we must aim for the Kingdom.
Will you begin to pray from a Kingdom perspective for our great goal? May our prayers together pray through not just this present time but to the very Kingdom of God.

A Suggested Pattern of Prayer:
  • As you pray through the following prayer points, invite the presence of the Lord into your time of prayer. Each day’s prompt has a Scripture reference for you to pray through.
  • As you pray, allow time to also listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying to you. When you have prayed through the Scripture and prayer point, you may be led to add your own prayers.
  • Pray and consider what action steps you might take in response to the Lord’s leading. Repeat this prayer pattern weekly for the month.”

Daily Prayer Points
Sunday: Pray through our cultural differences, and toward genuine religion, which James defines as having a living compassion toward those in distress and refusing to let the world corrupt us (1 Cor. 12:12-30).
Monday: Pray through our anxieties, fears and prejudices, and toward righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-31).
Tuesday: Pray through pragmatism, and toward true wisdom and a deep desire to see only the will of God accomplished — nothing less, nothing else (1 Cor. 1:18-31).
Wednesday: Pray through tolerance, and toward the kind of joy that comes with knowing ourselves as children of God, so that we might know ourselves as God knows us (John 1:9-14).
Thursday: Pray through self-justification, and toward an awakening to our own sins, corruptions, foolishness, and shadows (Romans 3:20-28).
Friday: Pray through any impediment to the spirit of the Protocol, and toward a creative and life-giving solution that honors Christ and gives a winsome witness to the world of what can be (Matt. 5:11-16).
Saturday: Pray through “small religion” in your own heart, and toward the kind of religion Jesus came to establish on earth (1 Peter 3:15-18). “This repentance, this faith, this peace, joy, love, this change from glory to glory, is what the wisdom of the world has voted to be madness, mere enthusiasm, utter distraction . . . be thou moved by none of these things.” (John Wesley, The Way to the Kingdom)

Update 1/5/23

Dear Hillside Family,

Since May of 2021 we have been keeping you informed through letters and emails of the current news of the United Methodist Church, the controversies and differing opinions, and our options as we go forward. In the past few months we’ve conducted large group meetings with speakers from each perspective, then hosted 15 small-group Listening Sessions that allowed you to voice your concerns, opinions and your vision for Hillside.

This process culminated in a vote by our Leadership in August to ask our District Superintendent, Rev. Beth Sanders, to call a special Church Conference so that our entire membership could vote on the question of disaffiliation from the UMC. According to the North Georgia Conference web site at the time, we would have been informed of that date in early 2023, at which time we would have informed you and prepared for a vote.

On December 28, however, outgoing Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson, the Cabinet, and the Board of Trustees for the North Georgia Conference changed the process and declared a “pause” on all disaffiliations. This news came as a great surprise to all of us, especially after we had carefully followed all of the guidelines that had been dictated by those same people and groups who now have caused the delay. The conference statement concludes that the cabinet will not accept disaffiliation requests in January as announced and the conference board of trustees will not negotiate disaffiliation agreements as previously announced. Therefore, the conference will not schedule church conference votes in the coming months as previously promised.

The statement reasons that because of (unspecified) “misleading, defamatory, and false statements and materials shared with local church members by certain organizations as well as clergy and lay members of various churches and outside groups, we do not have confidence in the validity of upcoming church conference disaffiliation votes.” (The full statement can be found on the North Georgia Conference web site at

We understand that the action of the conference is terribly upsetting and will cause us unnecessary harm. Many of you have expressed frustration with how long this process has taken and the delays we have already encountered. Please realize that Hillside UMC has done nothing to violate the Book of Discipline and is in good standing as defined at Annual Conference 2022.  Additionally, we have done nothing to engage in any of the negative conduct outlined in the December 28, 2022 statement from the conference.

So where do we go from here?
First, we will send to the District Superintendent our letter requesting the church conference vote, and we will continue moving forward with the 2553 process.  Should any change in policy occur or legal action be initiated in the future, this will put our church in a good position. Second, we ask you to trust our lay and clergy leadership.  We believe God put them here for such a time as this.  For now, let’s remember who we are and not fall prey to the temptation of fear or anger. God is in charge and He will be faithful to fulfill the ministry to which we have all been called. Let’s walk in unity with confidence and assurance of that fact.

Please know that Hillside’s leadership is well aware of all of the implications of this action and that all of the options for moving forward are being explored. Those we have elected and appointed as leaders for Hillside have a difficult, and sometimes exhausting and discouraging, responsibility during this period. At the same time, the traditional leadership of our Conference is hard at work discerning and implementing a coordinated response to this latest action from the Bishop, Cabinet, and Trustees. Please continue to pray for our leaders and our church, and in the next few weeks watch for more about a focused, intentional time of prayer that we can all join in together.

Our ongoing and vital responsibility is to continue to be faithful to our calling to make Hillside a beacon of light in our community and world. In the past months we have seen growth in membership numbers, in our children’s and youth ministries and participation in adult ministries. We had a record-breaking 19 baptisms in 2022, and 49 people joined the vision of Hillside as new members. We continue to see God at work among us, and we know that His Plan and Truth will prevail over all difficulties. Let’s focus on our local church, our local ministry, our mission and outreach, and our love for one another.

Please watch your mail and email for further updates. As always, if you have questions or comments, please email One of your lay leaders will be happy to answer emails or talk on the phone.
Below is the contact information for the Conference Board of Trustees. As you know there is often much influence in numbers, and we encourage you to truthfully, diplomatically, and respectfully share your opinion and ask them to reconsider.
Board Of Trustees of the North Georgia Annual Conference:

Eric Lee (C-21)
Stacey Rushing (C-20)
Bert Neal (C-17)
Carolyn Stephens (C-17)
Laity – Women:
Cathy Huffines (L-21)
Sonja N. Brown (L-16)
Julie Childs (L-17)-Chair
Ginger Smith (L-18)-Archives and History
Laity – Men:
Ernest Cooper (L-21)
Mathew Pinson (L-16)
John Lawrence (L-16)
Harold Tarpley (21)
Ex-Officio Conference Treasurer – Allison Berg

August 2022 update

Dear Hillside Family,

As we continue the process of discernment regarding the present issues facing the United Methodist Church, we want to let you know of a recent and significant development. Many of you have attended our 2 congregational meetings and 11 Listening Sessions and we have heard your opinions, questions, and advice.  On Tuesday, August 16, at a specially-called Leadership Council meeting where a detailed report from those previous meetings was given, our lay representatives voted unanimously to ask our District Superintendent, Rev. Beth Sanders, to call an official Church Conference where all of the members of Hillside can vote on whether to remain with, or disaffiliate from, the United Methodist Church.

Due to the rules set by our Bishop and the North Georgia Annual Conference, this vote will not take place until March or April of 2023. At that time all members of Hillside will be given the opportunity to vote in person, and a 2/3 vote of those present at the meeting will be required in order to separate from the United Methodist Church. That decision would allow us to exit with ownership of our property and require a payment to the Annual Conference under a pre-agreed formula, the amount of which we will know before the meeting.

If you attended one of our Listening Sessions you are familiar with the process we have gone through so far and what the future might look like whether we stay with the UMC or disaffiliate, and the timeline and costs involved. If you still have questions or were unable to attend one of those meetings previously, we will continue to offer monthly Information Sessions, including updates, throughout the Fall season. You can check our web site and your email for those dates. This decision by the Hillside leadership has not been made lightly, and has come with much prayer, thought, and consultation. Though Hillside is a young church compared to some, we still have 40 years of history in the United Methodist Church. Long-standing conflicts as well as recent decisions from the UMC leadership nationally have led us to take this step now, but it will ultimately be up to the members of Hillside to decide our future.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, please attend a future Listening Session or email If you’re not receiving news and updates, go to and sign up for our weekly enews. As the Leadership Council of Hillside, we ask for your continued prayers for our church as we continue through this process and seek to follow Jesus above all.

Nick Cawood
Leadership Council Chair

Information Sessions

Information Meeting 1 (6/12/2022) - Randy Hardy, a representative of the District Superintendent
CLICK HERE for your questions answered by Randy Hardy.
Information Meeting 2 (6/26/2022) - Dan Parr, a representative of the Wesleyan Covenant Association
CLICK HERE for your questions answered by Dan Parr.
All of the information provided on this page is given to help you to make an informed decision as we consider the various perspectives that are before us regarding disaffiliation and their possible impact on the future of our church. They represent the opinions and views of those who are presenting them, and they may not represent the views of Hillside leadership. We encourage you, as a concerned member of Hillside’s family, to do your own research and hope that you will use these and other resources as you prayerfully make your own choice.