Bishop Héctor meets with clergy discerning disaffiliation
On Thursday, May 11, 2023, via Zoom, Upper New York (UNY) Area Resident Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez met with over 50 clergy members seeking clarification about disaffiliation from The United Methodist Church (UMC). The purpose of the meeting was to provide information and support to clergy still discerning their next steps. The bishop emphasized that the meeting was not intended to be a theological debate and thanked the attendees for investing their time to converse with him.
After prayer, Bishop Héctor provided background information on the longstanding disagreement within the UMC regarding ministry with and by LGBTQ persons. He mentioned that in 2019, the Special Session of the General Conference approved the Traditional Plan, which led to the creation of legislation, including a protocol for separation. However, the agreement fell apart due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other missional factors, and a new denomination called the Global Methodist Church (GMC) was launched. The GMC and the Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA) are actively recruiting UMC congregations and clergy.
The current disaffiliation process for congregations involves a time of discernment guided by the cabinet, legal work with the Board of Trustees, and the ratification of the Annual Conference session.
Bishop Héctor acknowledged that some clergy and other interest groups are going around UNY congregations advocating for disaffiliation, many spreading misinformation, and half-truths, creating confusion and harm within communities. He urged clergy to rely on firsthand information and official United Methodist sources when wanting more information about our official beliefs rather than solely trusting the information provided by the WCA and GMC.
Bishop Héctor addressed two scenarios: clergy who had already decided to leave the UMC and clergy still discerning.
For those who had decided to leave and are serving a church that voted for disaffiliation, the bishop requested them to formalize their intent to leave by emailing his office at firstname.lastname@example.org. He also asked clergy not to encourage others to leave and to respect people's space to make their own decisions.
For clergy who were still discerning, Bishop Héctor advised them to refrain from advocating for disaffiliation within their congregations. Congregational and clergy discernment is separate and different. He emphasized that their responsibility as pastors is to serve all congregation members and avoid taking sides, as it could cause harm and disfranchise people.
Throughout the meeting, the clergy had the opportunity to ask Bishop Héctor questions they had. Click here to view some of the questions and answers.
The bishop expressed his hope for a United Methodist Church that welcomes all and allows them to grow and develop to their full God-given potential. He clarified that welcoming all included conservatives, centrists, and progressives. He also emphasized the value of diversity, theological reflection, and the need to honor different cultures and contexts to reach more people for Christ. Bishop Héctor acknowledged that divisions within the denomination were not necessarily about specific beliefs but differing visions of missional unity.
Bishop Héctor assured the clergy that they would be treated with respect and fairness regardless of their decision. He said, “I don't hold anything against those who are discerning to move outside of The United Methods Church, and my only request is that we commit not to harm each other and stay committed to doing good.” For those that ultimately decide to stay in The United Methodist Church, he assured, “There will always be a place for you in the Upper New York Conference – we will work together towards a vision of missional unity that honors diversity, does not expect uniformity, and acknowledge our differences, all for the love of God and the sake of the gospel.”