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    The Upper New York Conference of The United Methodist Church


    news article

    How to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church based on decisions made at Special Session of General Conference 2019

    January 23, 2020 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    The Special Session of General Conference in 2019 adopted legislation which provides a way for churches to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church “for reasons of conscience regarding a change in the requirements and provisions of the Book of Discipline related to the practice of homosexuality or the ordination or marriage of self-avowed practicing homosexuals.” This limited right is codified as ¶2553 in the updated 2016 Book of Discipline. Throughout this article, various parts of ¶2553 will be referenced.

    The Upper New York Conference Board of Trustees has prepared a document that outlines the policies that local churches must follow in order to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church under the provisions of this new paragraph. This process would involve:

    • A local church interested in disaffiliating must complete and submit an application for consideration to the Conference Board of Trustees by Feb. 15, 2020, detailing its reasons of conscience in writing justifying its disaffiliation due to:
      • "change[s] in the requirements or provisions of the Book of Discipline" or
      • "actions or inactions of [the] annual conference" related to "the practice of homosexuality or the ordination or marriage of self-avowed practicing homosexuals as resolved and adopted by the 2019 General Conference."
    • Once this application has been received, the Board of Trustees, in consultation with the Bishop and Cabinet, will determine if the stated reasons of conscience meet these criteria and inform the congregation of its decision within 30 days.
    • If the local church’s request is approved by the Board of Trustees, the church must hold a duly called church conference for the congregation to consider the request for disaffiliation.
    • If the church conference votes to disaffiliate, the local church must submit documentation to the Conference Board of Trustees certifying the vote of the church conference, after which a vote on the Disaffiliation Agreement will be held at Annual Conference.

    The document prepared by the Board of Trustees also outlines the financial and legal obligations that will be set forth in a local church’s disaffiliation agreement. Click here to read the document.

    Upper New York Director of Connectional Ministries and Assistant to the Bishop, the Rev. Bill Gottschalk-Fielding cautions churches considering disaffiliation to consider waiting until after General Conference 2020 in May. He said, “It’s widely anticipated that in May, the General Conference will adopt new legislation that will allow churches to disaffiliate without all of the costs (currently outlined in ¶2553 of the Book of Discipline). Waiting five months could make a huge difference.”

    But, if churches do not want to wait, they must get the process started now and complete the application to proceed by Feb. 15 for their request to be ready for consideration at this year’s session of Annual Conference. Click here for the application.

    If you have any questions about the ¶2553 disaffiliation of local churches over the issues of human sexuality in Upper New York, contact the Rev. Rich Barling at 315-430-4474 or Richard.barling@yahoo.com.


    With more than 144,000 members, the Upper New York Annual (Regional) Conference of The United Methodist Church comprises 865 local churches and 91 new faith communities in 12 districts, covering 48,000 square miles in 49 of the 62 counties in New York state. Our mission is to “live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to be God’s love with our neighbors in all places."