Eighteen churches disaffiliate at the March 2023 Special Session of the UNY Annual Conference
The first 2023 Special Session of the Upper New York (UNY) Annual Conference was held virtually on Saturday, March 25. This was the first time that Upper New York Area Resident Bishop, Héctor A. Burgos Núñez presided over a Conference. GNTV was the audio-visual provider.
This Special Session included a brief worship service followed by voting on the agenda, equalization members, organizational motion, and local church disaffiliations.
Bishop Héctor’s message centered on Mark 8: 34-35:
“And having summoned the crowd with His disciples, He said to them, ‘If anyone wants to be following after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and be following Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it. But whoever will lose his life for the sake of Me and the good news will save it.’”
Bishop Héctor conveyed how this scripture is telling us to recenter our souls and lives on God, that we need to deny ourselves—take up our cross and follow Jesus.
Bishop Héctor said, “We are all created in the image of God…following Jesus leads to abundance…Denying ourselves opens space for God’s purposes. In Mark’s time, following Jesus was risky business…What is God calling you to do to take a stand for Jesus?”
Click here to watch Bishop Héctor’s opening message.
After Bishop Héctor’s message, co-conveners of the Conference Commission on Religion and Race,
Dr. Scott Johnson and Georgia Whitney, described the process of recording demographic data of everyone who comes to the virtual conference floor. Each person must state their gender, ethnicity, and whether they are laity or clergy.
Dr. Johnson explained that women and People of Color have historically been under-voiced at UNY Annual Conferences.
Before the Conference began, Conference Secretary, the Rev. Carolyn Stow, presented the list of equalization members up for election
The elections were approved by 99.4 percent of the conference body.
Rev. Stow then presented the Organizational Motion, which was approved by 99.2 percent of the conference body.
The agenda was then voted on and approved by 99.2 percent of the conference body.
The Rev. Pam Klotsbach, President of the Board of Trustees, and Pastor Jack Keating, also on the Trustees committee, presented the fact that there are 18 resolutions from local churches that would like to disaffiliate. These 18 churches all completed a process of church-wide discernment and a church-wide conference where at least two-thirds of the congregants voted to disaffiliate. They were also able to meet full-payment owed to the UNY Conference.
The Rev. Mike Weeden, Dean of Cabinet and District Superintendent (DS) of the Northern Flow District explained, “All DSes had conversations with the churches choosing to disaffiliate and these conversations have been conducted with integrity and fairness.”
A question was raised from the virtual floor about where the money from the disaffiliating churches was going.
Bob Flask, UNY Conference Treasurer, said, “The money is going into a few different categories:
- The pension liability goes toward future needs related to pension.
- The 12 future months of Ministry Shares goes toward reaching the gap of budget loss.
- And the rest sits in a reserved account until final disaffiliation.”
The conference body then began to vote on whether to ratify or not ratify the church disaffiliations presented to them. These votes were divided by region.
The first region resented was the Northeast Region, which had the following two churches choosing to disaffiliate:
- AuSauble Forks UMC in the Adirondack District: approved by 92 percent
- Colton UMC in the Northern Flow District: approved by 92 percent
Conference lay leader, Jessica White, said a prayer for these churches referencing Jeremiah: 29-11 that the plan God has made for these churches is for them to prosper and not be harmed.
The conference body then had to vote on the requests to disaffiliate from the Lakes Region:
- Mount Pleasant UMC from the Crossroads District: approved by 93 percent
- New Hope: Midlakes UMC from the Finger Lakes District: approved by 92 percent
- Sparta Center UMC from the Genesee Valley District: approved by 92 percent
- Indian Falls UMC from the Niagara Frontier District: approved by 91 percent
Rev. Stow prayed for these churches for God’s will to preside.
The Southern Tier had the largest number of churches requesting disaffiliation—they were presented in two groups.
Southern Tier group 1:
- Candor McKendree UMC from the Binghamton District: approved by 92 percent
- Germany Hill UMC from the Binghamton District: approved by 93 percent
- Presho UMC from the Mountain View District: approved by 93 percent
- Waverly UMC from the Mountain View District: approved by 91 percent
- Schenevus UMC from the Oneonta District: approved by 92 percent
- West Davenport UMC from the Oneonta District: approved by 92 percent
Rev. Weeden prayed for theses churches asking God to pour out the Holy Spirit upon these congregations, and also prayed for God’s heavenly peace to walk with them through this process.
Southern Tier group 2:
- Bemus Point UMC from the Cornerstone District: approved by 89 percent
- Charlotte Center UMC from the Cornerstone District: approved by 93 percent
- Dewittville-Hartfield UMC from the Cornerstone District: approved by 92 percent
- Findley Lake UMC from the Cornerstone District: approved by 90 percent
- Gerry UMC form the Cornerstone District: approved by 93 percent
- Sinclairville: Park UMC from the Cornerstone District: approved by 92 percent
Rev. Gottschalk-Fielding prayed for these churches thanking for God’s presence in good times and bad times and for guidance as the congregations seek their next faithful steps.
Bishop Héctor closed the session in a passionate prayer about the fact that nothing can separate us from God. He asked for God’s grace to sustain us in the work ahead. He asked for God to open our eyes to those who need God’s love, hope, and mercy and for those who need to experience God’s healing justice.
Rev. Stow presented the motion to adjourn, which was approved by 99 percent of the conference body.
Click here to watch the recorded livestream of this Special Session.