Disaffiliation Process Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
The following Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the disaffiliation process are adapted from the The United Methodist Church series, Ask UMC. You can see the full series here. Additional questions and answers will be added to this page. For disaffiliation process resources, including the Conference's policy, forms, and more, click here. To view FAQs by Wespath and additional resources, click here.
State of the Church around Disagreements on Human Sexuality
Clergy Pension and Benefits
State of the Church around Disagreements on Human Sexuality
Is the United Methodist Church (UMC) currently splitting?
No. The term “split” applies when there is a negotiated agreement within the denomination to divide assets and resources. No such agreement has been made in The United Methodist Church. The earliest point at which such an agreement could be made would be at the next General Conference in 2024.
What is happening is that some traditionalist leaders have decided to create a new denomination (the Global Methodist Church). Leaders of that denomination and other unofficial advocacy groups, such as the Wesleyan Covenant Association, which created it, are encouraging like-minded United Methodist congregations and clergy to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church and join their denomination instead.
Is the UMC about to alter its doctrine to deny the virgin birth, the divinity of Jesus Christ, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, or salvation through Christ alone?
No. United Methodists worldwide, including in Upper New York, remain committed to the mission, our confessions and articles of faith, our polity, and the Wesleyan Way. You can learn more about the beliefs of The United Methodist Church by visiting the links below.
Does the UMC intend to change the Bible?
No. The United Methodist Church has no official translation of the Bible and has never sought to alter the Bible. United Methodists of all theological persuasions have always had various views about interpreting specific passages of Scripture and likely always will.
Is the UMC or Upper New York asking traditionalists to leave the denomination?
No! The requests for disaffiliations are coming largely from traditionalists. Keith Boyette, former president of the Wesleyan Covenant Association and now leader of the Global Methodist Church (GMC), describes why he and other leaders are asking traditionalists to leave beginning at 13:32 in this video.
Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez, resident bishop of UNYUMC, on several occasions, has made it clear that no church should be forced to leave and that in UNY, all disciples of Jesus Christ, traditionalists, centrists, and progressives are welcomed and valued as integral members of the Body of Christ.
Is the UMC dropping all prohibitions related to human sexuality now that the Global Methodist Church has officially started?
No. The creation of the Global Methodist Church has no bearing on the existing policies of The United Methodist Church. Its General Conference sets the policies of The United Methodist Church. The General Conference is the only body that can change them. The General Conference is scheduled to meet in 2024.
Is the UMC going to drop all prohibitions related to human sexuality at its next General Conference in 2024?
Probably not. The 2024 General Conference will consider legislative proposals that would drop several existing prohibitions. The keywords are consider and proposal. The General Conference must consider all legislative proposals it receives. All legislative items before a General Conference are proposals only. They have no force unless the General Conference approves them.
Will the UMC require its clergy and clergy candidates to agree to offer same-sex weddings as a condition of candidacy, status, or appointment?
No. There are no such proposals before the 2024 General Conference, nor have there ever been such proposals.
Can the UMC or UNY allow congregations to sidestep the requirements of Paragraph 2553 in the Book of Discipline by using Paragraph 2548.2 as an alternative path to disaffiliation?
No. The Judicial Council Decision 1449 is clear: “[T]he process in ¶ 2548.2 may not be used as a pathway for local churches to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church.”
The Judicial Council decision clarifies what has always been the case about this paragraph. It has nothing to do with local congregations disaffiliating from the denomination. It has to do solely with the transfer of property. The only paragraph in the Discipline that provides a means for a local church to become disaffiliated from The United Methodist Church while retaining its property and assets is Paragraph 2553.
Is the UMC allowing local churches that refuse to pay apportionments (as the Wesleyan Covenant Association is now directing) to “get away with it?”
No. The Book of Discipline states: “Payment in full of these apportionments by local churches is the first benevolent responsibility of the church.” (Paragraph 247.14) If the local church is incapable of fulfilling its first benevolent duty, this begins to call into question whether it remains viable as a local church or whether it is able to afford the appointment or appointments it may currently have.
How to respond to such situations lies with each District Superintendent. District Superintendents know and, as pastors themselves, can relate to the financial pressures some congregations may face that limit their ability to pay their apportionments in full or, sometimes, at all. District Superintendents also understand the difference between hardship and refusal. The Discipline gives them the tools to respond accordingly.
Is the UMC allowing congregations that disaffiliate to retain their current appointed pastor or deacon?
The answer depends on whether the current clergy disaffiliates as well. United Methodist bishops are authorized to appoint clergy to United Methodist congregations. When a congregation is disaffiliated, it is no longer a United Methodist congregation. Thus, United Methodist appointments to a congregation that disaffiliates terminate on the Annual Conference's effective date of disaffiliation. In the case of UNY, this would be the date the State of New York courts approves the property transfer.
If the current clergy disaffiliate with the congregation, it is up to the congregation or a decision by a denomination it may join whether the current clergy continues to serve them. United Methodist deacons and local pastors may or may not be accepted as clergy by other denominations. If the current clergy remain United Methodist, they will no longer be appointed to the disaffiliated congregation and can no longer function as clergy for them. The United Methodist bishop will seek to appoint these clergy elsewhere as soon as possible. The congregation will need to seek new clergy leadership.
Is the UMC ending United Methodist Church memberships of those whose local church disaffiliates?
Yes. When a local church disaffiliates, the Judicial Council has made it clear that all its members depart the denomination with it. “Disaffiliation… under ¶2553 involves both church membership and property… the membership departs from The United Methodist Church.” (Decision 1449, Question 5) From the standpoint of The United Methodist Church, it is impossible to simultaneously be a member of The United Methodist Church and a member of another denomination (or an independent church) (Paragraph 241 of the 2016 Book of Discipline).
If your congregation has voted to disaffiliate, and you wish to remain a member of The United Methodist Church, you will want to find another United Methodist congregation to join before the effective date of disaffiliation set by the Annual Conference. You may ask your district office for assistance in this process.
Is the UMC asking all local churches to vote whether to remain in The United Methodist Church or join the Global Methodist Church?
No. No leaders in The United Methodist Church are asking or expecting any United Methodist congregation to take any vote on this question. Congregations may choose to do so. But nothing compels any United Methodist congregation to hold such a vote. Some local churches have taken the initiative to seek disaffiliation themselves. Many local churches are also being urged to disaffiliate by other organizations, such as the Wesleyan Covenant Association, that are not part of the structure of The United Methodist Church.
If a congregation wants to consider disaffiliation and follows the Conference's process to request a called Church Conference for a vote, the only question at that called Church Conference will be whether that local church approves a motion to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church. The called Church Conference will not consider whether to join any other denomination. That vote does not complete the process of disaffiliation. The local church still has to complete the preliminary terms in a disaffiliation agreement it signs with the Conference, be approved by the Conference for disaffiliation, and fulfill any remaining terms in the disaffiliation agreement that can only be addressed after Annual Conference approval.
The process of disaffiliation is complete when the New York state court system has authorized the transfer of all property to the new congregation. At that point, a congregation is an independent congregation from the standpoint of The United Methodist Church. It may choose to remain independent. Or it may choose to join any other network, association, or denomination willing to receive it under the terms that the network, association, or denomination may set. The choices are many, not limited solely to the Global Methodist Church.
No vote on disaffiliation should be understood as a forced choice between The United Methodist Church and the Global Methodist Church.
Is the UMC allowing clergy and laypersons elected as delegates to General or Jurisdictional Conference to serve if they have disaffiliated?
No. The General Conference is the ultimate legislative body of The United Methodist Church. The Jurisdictional Conferences are the bodies that elect the executive branch of the denomination, the bishops. One must be a clergy or lay member of The United Methodist Church to serve as a delegate to the General or Jurisdictional Conferences.
Is the UMC forcing or going to force congregations that do not want a self-avowed practicing homosexual as a pastor or deacon to accept one?
No. Bishops work to appoint clergy to congregations for a match that is likely to work for years to come. Should the Discipline at some point in the future permit self-avowed, practicing homosexuals to serve as clergy, bishops are most likely to appoint them to congregations where they would be welcomed and avoid appointing them where they would not.
Is the UMC telling local churches considering disaffiliation not to seek legal counsel?
No. Competent legal counsel may be very helpful throughout the disaffiliation process. Every Annual Conference supports and encourages congregations to seek legal counsel when it may be helpful to understand the legal implications of disaffiliation and to make a smooth transition if the church disaffiliates.
Is the UMC prohibiting disaffiliating local churches and United Methodist individuals from retaining assets in United Methodist credit unions?
No. The United Methodist Church has no legal means to make any such prohibitions. United Methodist-related foundations and credit unions are independently incorporated non-profit entities. They are governed by their own rules and membership agreements, as well as by their articles of incorporation and how corporation law works where they are incorporated.
Is the UMC allowing Annual Conferences and their Boards of Trustees to set their terms for disaffiliation over and above those outlined in Paragraph 2553?
The answer is yes. From Paragraph 2553.4: “If the Church Conference votes to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church, the terms and conditions for that disaffiliation shall be established by the Board of Trustees of the applicable Annual Conference.” From Paragraph 2553.4.a: “Annual Conferences may develop additional standard terms that are not inconsistent with the standard form of this paragraph.”
Is the UMC requiring retired clergy who hold charge conference membership in churches that vote to request disaffiliation to move their charge conference membership?
Yes. While clergy do not become professing members in a local church, they retain their membership in the clergy session of the Annual Conference. Instead, they take a seat in a charge conference and become active in a local church that is part of that charge and have most of the rights of professing membership in that local church. (See Paragraph 357.5 of the 2016 Book of Discipline). The key here is that church and charge may overlap but are not necessarily identical.
Is the UMC providing for a “disaffiliation bridge” between the end of 2023, when Paragraph 2553 expires, until whatever process the 2024 General Conference may approve becomes effective?
The United Methodist Church, as such, is not doing this because it cannot. For United Methodists in the United States, the only place where Paragraph 2553 applies only General Conference can set or alter the Book of Discipline.
Is the UMC going to extend the life of Paragraph 2553 at the next General Conference?
There are two answers: Not as such, and we do not know. First, not as such. Only General Conference can alter the Discipline. General Conference does not meet until 2024, at which point Paragraph 2553 will not exist, since it set its provisions to expire Dec. 31, 2023. It is not possible to “extend” a paragraph that does not exist. Thus, if anything like Paragraph 2553 is to be approved at the General Conference, it would be new legislation, not an actual extension of then-current legislation.
Second, we do not know. To date, the General Conference has yet to receive legislation that would have the effect of re-enacting Paragraph 2553 as it currently exists but with a different expiration date. It is possible the General Conference could receive such a proposal. It is also possible for delegates to the General Conference to propose and adopt such itself. Whether either of those two things will happen remains to be seen.
Is the UMC prohibiting congregations from disaffiliating under Paragraph 2553?
The United Methodist Church as a denomination has not done so. Two Annual Conferences in the United States (the only place where Paragraph 2553 applies) have done so for different reasons.
Are the UMC and UNY going to appoint non-disaffiliating clergy elsewhere should the congregation(s) they serve disaffiliate?
Yes, when positions are available. However, availability may only be immediate in some cases, depending on when the effective date of disaffiliation falls in the regular appointment cycle.
Provisional, associate, and full clergy members of the Conference displaced by a disaffiliating congregation may need to enter transitional leave for a time. Clergy of other denominations serving under appointment by a United Methodist bishop retain their credentials from their denomination but are not eligible for transitional leave. Displaced local pastors will be without a license until they are appointed again.
Is the UMC allowing congregations to re-vote if their church conference vote to request disaffiliation failed to reach the mandatory two-thirds majority?
For the most part, no. The Book of Discipline does not provide for a re-vote on this question. Exceptions may be made at the District Superintendent’s discretion if there is evidence that an irregularity in the process of the original vote may have led to a different outcome.
Is the UMC teaching things in its seminaries that are contrary to the doctrinal standards of The United Methodist Church?
Yes, but not to undermine United Methodist doctrinal standards. Indeed, the reason for doing this is exactly the opposite. In the real world where United Methodist church members live, all kinds of beliefs, including some contrary to the doctrinal standards of The United Methodist Church, not only exist but are strongly defended by their advocates. Those preparing to be clergy in The United Methodist Church need to know that other doctrines exist, what they are, and how to articulate and support United Methodist doctrines in the face of them so they can help those they serve to do the same.
Is the UMC going to require local churches to host same-sex weddings? What if their appointed clergy are allowed to and willing to do so?
No. And no. There are no proposals before the next General Conference to require local congregations to host same-sex weddings or union ceremonies, not even if their appointed clergy are permitted and willing to do so. Existing proposals would allow clergy to choose presiding and congregations to choose to host, but neither would have control over the other’s choices.
Is the UMC endorsing critical race theory or about to endorse it?
No. The United Methodist Church has never made any statements about critical race theory. Nor have any such statements been submitted for consideration by the next General Conference (2024). The United Methodist Church has stood firmly against the sin of racism in all its forms (interpersonal, corporate and systemic) from its founding in 1968. These commitments pre-date the development of critical race theory.
Clergy Pension and Benefits
Is the UMC allowing congregations that exit the denomination to continue offering their clergy and staff the same pension and health benefits programs?
No. The Book of Discipline does not permit non-UMC entities to be plan sponsors of the Clergy Retirement Security Program. Only a General Conference can change this. Churches that disaffiliate will face changes to the benefits they can offer their clergy. Individual congregations and clergy that join the Global Methodist Church (GMC) will be eligible to participate in a retirement plan offered by the GMC.
Elders and deacons who withdraw under Discipline ¶360 will have all assets accrued in CRSP and previous programs in which they may have participated (defined benefit and defined contribution) converted into a cash equivalent and placed into their United Methodist Personal Investment Plan (UMPIP). Future retirement plan contributions may be made to the abovementioned new retirement plan. Like UMPIP, it is a personal retirement account subject to the effects of the stock market and other investments on its value.
Nor, currently, is it possible for individual congregations (whether in the Global Methodist Church or in the UMC) to be plan sponsors for the HealthFlex health insurance programs Wespath offers unless a congregation has more than 50 eligible employees until January 1, 2023. United Methodist Annual Conferences are the plan sponsors for congregations with fewer than 50 eligible employees. This means individual congregations with fewer than 50 eligible employees currently participating in these programs that exit The United Methodist Church at this time can no longer offer these benefits to their clergy and employees effective with the date of disaffiliation. They can re-enroll with HealthFlex with benefits to begin on or after January 1, 2023. In the interim between the data of disaffiliation and re-enrollment, or for longer if they choose a different plan provider, disaffiliating clergy who were covered by HealthFlex are eligible to continue on the health insurance plan by paying 100% of the costs themselves for up to 18 months. At that point, unless their church re-enrolls in HealthFlex, the HealthFlex plan is no longer available to them. Individual congregations and clergy who join the Global Methodist Church may participate in the health benefits selected by the Global Methodist Church, including HealthFlex, as of January 1, 2023.