There were several frequently asked questions (FAQs) during the June 21, 2022 webinar with Bishop Webb. Here are some of those FAQs. This list will be updated as more questions are answered. If you have a question that isn't featured on this page, please submit it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please explain unfunded pension liability.
When a local church separates or disaffiliates from the UMC, it is leaving behind all of its responsibility and risk for the Annual Conference’s obligation to fund pension benefits that were earned in the past. Instead, the Annual Conference and its remaining churches continue to be responsible and at risk. This means that the separating/disaffiliating local church is transferring its pension responsibilities and risks to the Annual Conference and the Annual Conference’s remaining churches. As such, in the context of church disaffiliations or separations, ¶1504.23 of The Book of Discipline calls for a withdrawal liability payment to be made by the separating church and, as part of that, requires Wespath to calculate Pension funding status in a specified manner—one that is appropriate for the transfer of one party’s pension responsibilities and risk to another party. Based on that required calculation, pension benefits owed are not fully funded. This process helps to account and assess for potential prolonged poor market performance or unforeseen increases in lifespans. If either of these things happen in the future then there is more burden placed on fewer churches left in the Annual Conference. This assessment helps to alleviate some of that burden from the remaining churches in the denomination as churches that leave will have paid a portion of the reduced funding process.
Wespath does the re-calculation of the pension funds based on a market annuity rate and then allocates a pro-rata share to each conference. The Conference then uses that number to then assess a pro-rata share to each church pursuing disaffiliation from the United Methodist Church.
If a lot of churches disaffiliate, does this have any effect on the pensions of clergy and laity or is it still handled through Wespath?
Anyone moving to another denomination would maintain what’s in their current pension, but there would be no further pension contributions by either the Conference and/or the church on their behalf. The person disaffiliating does have the option of participating in another pension program if offered by the new denomination. Click here for more information from Wespath regarding disaffiliation.
If a large number of churches in my region choose to disaffiliate but I personally choose to #BeUMC, will there be church plantings established in such areas?
The Upper New York Conference will continue to make planting New Faith Communities a priority. New congregations will continue to form and there will be opportunities for others to join.
Please explain the reference to some leaders withdrawing their support of the Protocol, including Reconciling Ministry churches and others.
A handful of progressive and moderate leaders circulated a letter in early June asking for signatures, claiming they could no longer support the Protocol. Some of these leaders included the Director of Reconciling Ministries, UMNext leader, and others.
How can the Global Methodist Church launch prior to the decisions being made at the General Conference?
The Global Methodist Church incorporated and launched prior to General Conference, postponed until 2024. This did not need General Conference approval. If the Protocol is approved at the 2024 General Conference, it will create pathways for United Methodist clergy and congregations to join the Global Methodist Church if they want to.
COVID may be with us forever. When do you think we will have an in-person Annual Conference?
The Upper New York Conference hopes to gather for an in-person Annual Conference in 2023. An in-person gathering was planned for 2022, but this had to be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, the 2022 UNY AC will be held virtually Oct. 6-8, 2022.
When is General Conference?
General Conference is scheduled for May 2024.
If a church disaffiliates, do they give up their property?
If a church disaffiliates, they do not give up their property. The church must pay all the costs affiliated with transferring the property to a new corporation.
If a local church decides to disaffiliate with The United Methodist Church, would the Global Methodist Church allow for the transfer of assets?
The Global Methodist Church does allow the transfer of assets.
Is the church schism worldwide?
The United Methodist Church is a global church. This is affecting all congregations, clergy, and laity around the world.
What if a local church wants to disaffiliate but does not have the funds to pay the cost?
That’s a very difficult reality; the only process right now for disaffiliation is paragraph 2553 in the Book of Discipline. And there are minimum payments that must be made. Those are the payments that the UNY Board of Trustees have made as conditions to disaffiliate in the UNY Conference.
Since there was only a 30-percent response rate to the survey sent last fall, can another survey be sent out this fall?
There is no plan for another survey right now. Right now, the focus is on providing resources for those churches that want to at least explore the option of disaffiliating. We want to help them to be able to have a time of discernment in the most genuine way.
Is there a time limit to disaffiliate?
According to paragraph 2553, which describes the only option for disaffiliation right now does have a time limit. That process ends on Dec. 31, 2023. The UNY Conference has set two different timelines. The first is if your church wants to disaffiliate and you want the Conference to vote on your disaffiliation at our Annual Conference in October, you must submit your application for disaffiliation by July 1, 2022.
Any applications submitted after July 1 will miss the window to be voted on in October. There will be another window whereby applications for disaffiliation must be submitted by March 1, 2023 and those will be voted on in at the 2023 Annual Conference.
If the UMC splits and the Protocol is adopted, how is the selection of pastors decided?
Pastors just like congregations must decide whether to remain a member of the United Methodist Church or surrender their membership and become clergy in another denomination or become independent.
In our Conference, we appoint pastors, and we will appoint pastors going forward from a pool of pastors who have decided to remain in the United Methodist Church.
Will all Bishops be assigned at Jurisdictional Conference?
Yes, all Bishops are eligible for assignment effective Jan. 1. If there are any new Bishops elected at Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference; the current Bishops and the new Bishops will be eligible for assignment. For example, at the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference in November, Bishop Webb could be reassigned for the UNY Conference from Jan. 1, 2023 to Aug. 31, 2024. In November, he could be assigned to serve a new area from Jan. 1, 2023 to Aug. 31, 2024 and a new Bishop could be assigned to UNY.
Since the Traditional Church would be the one to create a new Conference and our church chose to remain in the traditional format, would this be considered disaffiliating from the existing Conference and require all the payments that a full disaffiliation from the Conference?
Yes, whether you choose to join the Global Methodist Church, or any other denomination, or to become independent, you will be required to fulfill all payments.