Disaffiliation Process Resources
A diverse group of representatives from United Methodist advocacy groups and several Bishops from around the world collaborated on the Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation, which was made public in 2020.
The Protocol addresses the decades-long disagreement concerning same-sex marriage and the ordination of self-avowed practicing homosexuals in The United Methodist Church by allowing traditionalist churches and Conferences to leave the denomination with their properties to join another denomination. The United Methodist Church would remain intact.
Voting on this Protocol was on the docket for the 2020 United Methodist Church General Conference, which was postponed to 2022, and now further postponed to 2024 due to concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic.
During the Upper New York (UNY) Annual Conference held virtually in June of 2021, the body passed Resolution UNYAC2021.7 which created a Study Commission to examine the readiness in the UNYUMC for the Implementation of the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation.
Last fall, the UNY Study Commission issued surveys to clergy and congregations in the UNY Conference about the Protocol. Despite there only being a 30 percent response rate, some congregations and clergy did report that if the Protocol passes, they will leave the United Methodist Church. Click here to read the survey report.
Earlier this month, the Global Methodist Church announced that it will launch on May 1, 2022. Click here to read the announcement.
Given these changes, the Conference Board of Trustees, anticipating there would be congregations who now desire to explore disaffiliation, updated its previous disaffiliation policy to address these new circumstances.
The revised policy seeks to balance two important commitments. First, it seeks to support congregations who, after a time of careful and prayerful churchwide discernment, seek to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church and the Upper New York Conference for reasons of conscience as outlined in paragraph 2553 of Book of Discipline. At the same time, the policy seeks to safeguard the interests of the conference by ensuring all disaffiliating congregations fulfill certain financial and legal obligations prior to exiting. The board will work diligently to establish disaffiliation agreements with local churches which honor these two commitments.
To achieve this, the board updated the existing policy in three ways. First, the board understands congregations seeking disaffiliation may do so for a variety of reasons of conscience. Congregations will only need to acknowledge these reasons exist as per paragraph 2553 to begin the disaffiliation process. As noted in the policy, “[a]ssuming that the application to proceed has been fully completed and signed by the Local Church representatives, the Conference Board of Trustees will accept the Local Church’s statement of its “reasons of conscience” in its decision to disaffiliate without further inquiry.”
Second, the board decided that no financial consideration with respect to the transfer of real and personal property to the local church would be required. Disaffiliating congregations will be allowed to take their buildings and other property, both real and personal, with them. At the same time, the board affirmed exiting congregations must settle all required financial obligations as set forth in paragraph 2553 as well as pay any direct bill arrearages and all closing costs associated with the transfer of property.
Third, the board established three opportunities for congregations to submit requests for disaffiliation. A handful of churches had submitted disaffiliation requests under the old policy. These will be considered during this year’s Annual Conference session (June 2-4, 2022). Congregations who are able to complete the disaffiliation process by September 1 will be eligible for consideration at a proposed special session of Annual Conference to be held this fall. A third group of congregations will be considered at next year’s Annual Conference. This third group would need to complete the disaffiliation process by May 1, 2023.
As the Board’s policy states, “[t]he decision to disaffiliate from the denomination is solemn and consequential; as such, the process to be followed must be careful, thoughtful, respectful, and prayerful.” Prior to completing an application to begin the process, a congregation should engage in churchwide reflection, conversation, prayer, and discernment to determine if disaffiliation is its next faithful step. If this is determined, the congregation must then seek permission from the Conference Board of Trustees and congregation’s District Superintendent to begin the formal disaffiliation process. The steps in this process include holding a duly called church conference to consider the resolution to disaffiliate. To be adopted, this resolution must pass by a 2/3 majority. If adopted by the church conference, the request to disaffiliate must then be approved by the Annual Conference, in this case, by a simple majority. Prior to the Annual Conference vote, the exiting congregation must form a new corporate entity and make all required payments to the Conference. The disaffiliation becomes final once New York State courts approve the decision and the property is formally transferred.
Click here to learn more about how to disaffiliate from the UNY Conference.
Questions can be addressed to the Rev. Pam Klotzbach, the Chair of the UNY Board of Trustees, at email@example.com.