Total Number of Pages: 7
Suggested Title: Disaffiliation of Annual Conferences Outside the U.S.
Discipline Paragraph or Resolution Number, if applicable: New Paragraph 576
General Church Budget Implications: None
Global Implications: Yes
Add a New Par. 576
¶ 576. Disaffiliation of Annual Conferences in the Central Conferences Over Issues of Conflict—1. Basis— The United Methodist Church and its members acknowledge fundamental differences regarding our understanding and interpretation of Scripture, our theology, and our practice, particularly as related to the level of participation of LGBTQ persons in the life of the Church. The official position of the Church continues to evolve, creating conflicts of conscience for some. Because of the impasse created by these differences and conflicts, individual members as well as the Church at large have been injured, and the Church’s witness and mission are being impeded.
Until 2024, United Methodists outside the United States have not had the same ability to choose disaffiliation as provided in the Book of Discipline for the U.S. under ⁋ 2553.
Conferences outside the United States that wish to disaffiliate based on the differences and conflicts enumerated above and become independent shall continue to use the provisions of ⁋ 572 to become Autonomous Methodist churches.
Conferences outside the United States that wish to disaffiliate based on the differences and conflicts enumerated above and join another Wesleyan denomination shall have the right to use the provisions of this ⁋ 576. Such annual conferences would not seek to become autonomous or independent but would shift their alignment from United Methodism to another Wesleyan church.
For the purposes of this paragraph, a provisional or missionary annual conference shall be considered the same as a regular annual conference and be governed by the same provisions in this paragraph.
2. Authority—Under ¶ 16 of the Constitution, the General Conference has “full legislative power over all matters distinctively connectional.” The impasse over the nature and condition of the inclusion of LGBTQ persons arises from deep theological disagreements and is impeding the work of the Church. An impasse that has impeded the work of the Church for so long resulting in an agreement to provide for separation qualifies as a distinctively connectional issue.
The General Conference’s legislative power extends not only to the subject matters listed in ¶¶ 16.1-15 of the Constitution, but to “such other legislation as may be necessary, subject to the limitations and restrictions of the Constitution of the Church” (¶ 16.16). This legislative power includes providing for the organization, promotion, and administrative work of the Church outside the United States (¶ 16.4). In addition, the Judicial Council has already held that annual conferences have the right under ¶ 33 of the Constitution to vote to withdraw from The United Methodist Church, but this right is subject to the General Conference’s authority under ¶ 16.3 and ¶ 33 to regulate the process and set conditions for an annual conference to separate from The United Methodist Church (Judicial Council Decisions 1366, 1444).
Any certification required in this paragraph is provided for in ¶¶ 45-49 and 403f and is ministerial and administrative only; it does not delegate any discretionary power to the Council of Bishops, a College of Bishops, or a resident bishop.
3. Effect on Other Provisions—This new ¶ 576 supersedes any other provisions of the Book of Discipline not in the Constitution that might conflict with the processes addressed in this paragraph.
4. Definition of a Wesleyan Denomination—For the purposes of this paragraph, another Wesleyan denomination is one that is a member of the World Methodist Council or has historical roots in a Methodist denomination. This definition explicitly includes, but is not limited to, the Global Methodist Church.
5. Effective Date—Notwithstanding other provisions in the Book of Discipline outside the Constitution, this paragraph shall take effect for conferences outside the United States immediately upon the adjournment of General Conference.
6. Time Limits—The choice by an annual conference outside the United States to disaffiliate from 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, 2029. The provisions of ¶ 576 expire on December 31, 2029, and shall not be used after that date.
7. Decision Making Process for Annual Conferences—a) An annual conference considering disaffiliation under this paragraph shall engage in a minimum of ninety (90) days of prayerful discernment and sharing of information. The discernment process may be initiated by the bishop with the consent of a majority of the district superintendents or by a vote of the annual conference. Meetings shall be held in order to share information with all members of the annual conference. The process of discernment leading up to the annual conference vote shall include reasonable and substantially equal opportunities for both advocates of remaining United Methodist and advocates of disaffiliating to present information to the annual conference and answer questions.
b) The annual conference motion to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church and align with another Wesleyan denomination must be approved by a two-thirds vote of all clergy and lay members of the annual conference present and voting in an annual conference session for which notice shall be given no less than sixty (60) days in advance. Abstentions shall not be counted in the total of which the two-thirds margin must be reached.
c) The vote to align with another Wesleyan denomination constitutes the adoption of that denomination’s constitution and Discipline. The annual conference is responsible for preparing the necessary bylaws and other legal documents to change its incorporation or registration within its country.
d) The annual conference’s disaffiliation shall become effective upon the affirmative vote of a simple majority of the next regular or special session of the central conference to which the annual conference belongs. The central conference shall schedule a session for such approvals to be held no later than twelve (12) months after any of its annual conferences vote to disaffiliate. The approval of the General Conference for an annual conference’s disaffiliation under this paragraph shall not be required, since the central conference has authority “to determine the boundaries of the annual conferences within their respective areas” (⁋ 31.4). Under this constitutional authority, the central conference shall redraw annual conference boundaries to include any local church remaining United Methodist from a disaffiliating annual conference.
e) A decision by an annual conference to separate from The United Methodist Church to join another Wesleyan denomination shall include all its local churches unless a local church affirmatively votes to stay United Methodist (see below section 6g). All real and personal, tangible and intangible property owned or titled by the annual conference or one of its districts shall remain with the annual conference or district in its new alignment. 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 annual conference.
f) Other Liabilities. The annual conference shall satisfy all other debts, loans, and liabilities, or assign and transfer them to its new entity, prior to disaffiliation. No other payments or costs shall be required of the disaffiliating annual conference.
g) Local Churches Remaining United Methodist. Any local church of a disaffiliating annual conference that desires to remain United Methodist may do so by a two-thirds vote of all professing members present and voting at a regular or special church conference within twelve (12) months after the annual conference’s vote to disaffiliate. A vote on any such motion shall occur in a church conference held not more than ninety (90) days after the written request for such a vote is made by the church council, the pastor, or ten (10) percent of the professing membership of the local church to the district superintendent. Notwithstanding other provisions in the Book of Discipline, such church conference shall be held in consultation with the district superintendent, who shall without exercising discretion authorize such church conference according to the process laid out in ¶ 246. No payments shall be required of such a local church voting to remain United Methodist. Its decision to remain United Methodist, and therefore to cease being part of its annual conference, shall be effective as of the effective date of the annual conference’s disaffiliation or the date the local church votes to remain, whichever is later. Approval by the annual conference for the local church to remain United Methodist shall not be required. A remaining local church shall retain its real and personal, tangible and intangible property. Local church property owned by a district or annual conference shall be transferred to the local church upon completion of the process. All transfers of property shall be made prior to the effective date. The local church shall retain legal responsibility for all its debts, loans, and liabilities. All costs for transfer of title or other legal work shall be borne by the annual conference.
h) Clergy—Clergy shall by default remain members of their annual conference as it disaffiliates unless they choose otherwise. Clergy wishing to remain in The United Methodist Church following a vote by their annual conference or local church to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church shall so notify their District Superintendent, who shall make arrangements for their transfer into a portion of the church remaining United Methodist and facilitate the necessary change in appointment. This notice must occur prior to the effective date of the disaffiliation of the conference or local church, although the bishop may continue the current appointment of the remaining pastor for up to six months past that date until such transfer can be effectuated.
i) The Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters may provide advice and resources to assist an annual conference’s discernment process, but it shall have no authority to determine the process or ratify or block an annual conference’s decision.
j) Disaffiliating Churches Continuing as Plan Sponsors of the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits Plans. The United Methodist Church believes that an annual conference disaffiliating under ¶ 576 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 annual conference expressly resolves to the contrary. As such, an annual conference disaffiliating under ¶ 576 shall continue to be eligible to sponsor voluntary employee benefit plans through the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits under ¶ 1504.2, including the Central Conference Pension Initiative, subject to the applicable terms and conditions of the plans. 8. Severability—If any provision of this paragraph is ruled unconstitutional, the rest of this paragraph will remain effective to the maximum e