There seems to be a good bit of inaccurate information swirling. We hope this page will help you get answers to questions you may have as well as find links to accurate information.
From DS Sarah Calvert
Disaffiliation is the process by which churches that can no longer spiritually, theologically or structurally continue to reside within the greater United Methodist Church connection. Disaffiliation of an entire church, with its buildings and resources, has not generally been available to churches in the UMC, however after the 2019 Called General Conference that took up issues of the ordination of LGBTQ+ individuals and same-gender weddings, there was a call for such an ability to leave the denomination. This work was codified in the Book of Discipline under paragraph 2553. After Judicial Council decisions made in 2021, it was determined that any church, noncompatible traditionalists or noncompatible progressives, could use this paragraph to disaffiliate. The deadline for completion of this kind of disaffiliation is December 31, 2023.
Churches may choose to leave by following the process outlined in paragraph 2553, with specifics of the procedure determined by the Virginia Annual Conference Bishop and Cabinet. The process is the same for each church. We want all of our churches to continue to be part of the UMC, however for those that must leave, we wish them to go in peace following the process provided by the General Conference.
The process begins with an information session from the District Superintendent, to answer all your questions and review the process. DS Sarah Calvert has received a few questions over the last few months. Below are some of the most frequently asked questions.
If my church is not interested in leaving the denomination do we need to do anything?
No. No votes need be taken, nothing need be done to stay UMC.
Can we just find out information from the DS, and then go no further for now?
You may stop or pause the process at any time. This should not be rushed – this is a decision to change, in many cases, decades or even centuries of relationship; take all the time you need.
If we decide we need to discuss this as a congregation, how do we do that?
The District is developing some suggestions for this. Please contact Michelle Holmes Chaney for some of her work in this area with other churches.
If we move forward with this process how long will it take?
If everyone moves at top speed the process should take 2-3 months but allow yourself plenty of time to fully discern.
What if we can’t get this done by December 31, 2023?
It is expected that there will be other arrangements similar to this paragraph available for churches that desire to leave after December 31, 2023. No one will be forced to stay if they have discerned they need to leave.
If we leave do we have to join the Global Methodist Church?
There is no requirement for you to do so. Most of the churches that are leaving the Virginia Annual Conference (13 in October of 2022) are becoming independent, not GMC.
Will there be additional called Annual Conferences to allow more churches an opportunity to leave?
The Paragraph 2553 legislation, approved by the denomination and the Virginia bishop and Cabinet for disaffiliation, has a sunset date of December 31, 2023. Churches in the Virginia Conference have two additional opportunities to move toward disaffiliation in 2023 before this deadline. These are May 6 and October 7. Contact your district superintendent if you have questions. Annual Conference members will receive more information about these events closer to their respective dates.
Will our pastor come with us if we leave?
Your pastor will make their own decision as to whether or not to stay connected as a pastor in the United Methodist Church. If they do not leave with you, you cannot have another UMC pastor. You will need to find your own pastor.
What is involved in the costs of disaffiliation?
Generally, unpaid pension liability, apportionments, legal fees, and if you pastor does not leave the denomination, pastoral salary, benefits and housing for the reminder of the appointment year. All this can be more clearly outlined in detail at the initial meeting with the DS. If your church chooses to proceed with the process the actual draft of costs will be calculated upon the initiation of your spiritual discernment period.
Have many churches in the NOVA District started this process?
As of March 1, 2023 two have started the process and five have requested information meetings from the DS in addition to that. At this time none have been completed.
Is the UMC Really …
As members of The United Methodist Church debate the church’s stance on human sexuality, some congregations are considering whether they wish to leave the denomination. During this challenging time, misinformation about the church’s official positions, how a church can exit, and what the future holds is causing added stress for many. Ask The UMC has created this series of FAQs designed to help dispel false information and provide accurate answers to the questions we are receiving. Jump to the index of questions and articles.
Paragraph 2553/¶ 2553, Page 776 of the Book of Discipline
[This paragraph became effective at the close of the 2019 General Conference.]
Section VIII. Disaffiliation of Local Churches Over Issues Related to Human Sexuality ¶ 2553. Disaffiliation of a Local Church Over Issues Related to Human Sexuality—
1. Basis—Because of the current deep conflict within The United Methodist Church around issues of human sexuality, a local church shall have a limited right, under the provisions of this paragraph, to disaffiliate from the denomination 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 as resolved and adopted by the 2019 General Conference, or the actions or inactions of its annual conference related to these issues which follow.
2. Time Limits—The choice by a local church to disaffiliate with The United Methodist Church under this paragraph shall be made in sufficient time for the process for exiting the denomination to be complete prior to December 31, 2023. The provisions of ¶ 2553 expire on December 31, 2023 and shall not be used after that date.
3. Decision Making Process—The church conference shall be conducted in accordance with ¶ 248 and shall be held within one hundred twenty (120) days after the district superintendent calls for the church conference. In addition to the provisions of ¶ 246.8, special attention shall be made to give broad notice to the full professing membership of the local church regarding the time and place of a church conference called for this purpose and to use all means necessary, including electronic communication where possible, to communicate. The decision to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church must be approved by a two-thirds (2/3) majority vote of the professing members of the local church present at the church conference.
4. Process Following Decision to Disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church—If the church conference votes to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church, the terms and conditions for that disaffiliation shall be established by the board of trustees of the applicable annual conference, with the advice of the cabinet, the annual conference treasurer, the annual conference benefits officer, the director of connectional ministries, and the annual conference chancellor. The terms and conditions, including the effective date of disaffiliation, shall be memorialized in a binding Disaffiliation Agreement between the annual conference and the trustees of the local church, acting on behalf of the members. That agreement must be consistent with the following provisions:
a) Standard Terms of the Disaffiliation Agreement. The General Council on Finance and Administration shall develop a standard form for Disaffiliation Agreements under this paragraph to protect The United Methodist Church as set forth in ¶ 807.9. The agreement shall include a recognition of the validity and applicability of ¶ 2501, notwithstanding the release of property therefrom. Annual conferences may develop additional standard terms that are not inconsistent with the standard form of this paragraph.
b) Apportionments. The local church shall pay any unpaid apportionments for the 12 months prior to disaffiliation, as well as an additional 12 months of apportionments.
c) Property. A disaffiliating local church shall have the right to retain its real and personal, tangible and intangible property. All transfers of property shall be made prior to disaffiliation. All costs for transfer of title or other legal work shall be borne by the disaffiliating local church.
d) Pension Liabilities. The local church shall contribute withdrawal liability in an amount equal to its pro rata share of any aggregate unfunded pension obligations to the annual conference. The General Board of Pension and Health Benefits shall determine the aggregate funding obligations of the annual conference using market factors similar to a commercial annuity provider, from which the annual conference will determine the local church’s share.
e) Other Liabilities. The local church shall satisfy all other debts, loans, and liabilities, or assign and transfer them to its new entity, prior to disaffiliation.
f) Payment Terms. Payment shall occur prior to the effective date of departure.
g) Disaffiliating Churches Continuing as Plan Sponsors of the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits Plans. The United Methodist Church believes that a local church disaffiliating under ¶ 2553 shall continue to share common religious bonds and convictions with The United Methodist Church based on shared Wesleyan theology and tradition and Methodist roots, unless the local church expressly resolves to the contrary. As such, a local church disaffiliating under ¶ 2553 shall continue to be eligible to sponsor voluntary employee benefit plans through the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits under ¶ 1504.2, subject to the applicable terms and conditions of the plans.
h) Once the disaffiliating local church has reimbursed the applicable annual conference for all funds due under the agreement, and provided that there are no other outstanding liabilities or claims against The United Methodist Church as a result of the disaffiliation, in consideration of the provisions of this paragraph, the applicable annual conference shall release any claims that it may have under ¶ 2501 and other paragraphs of The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church commonly referred to as the trust clause, or under the agreement.
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The May 31 Conference session on this topic was recorded and can be found here.
Find out more information on the Virginia Conference Website HERE.