Part 1: https://www.umc.org/en/content/ask-the-umc-is-the-umc-really-part-1

 

At Ask The UMC, we have been answering an increasing number of questions from congregations wondering about the future of The United Methodist Church and whether they should consider disaffiliating from it. Among these have been some recurrent questions that reflect misperceptions or misinformation that some congregations are receiving as they are discerning their next steps.

This is the first of a series of articles we will present to offer accurate responses to such misperceptions or misinformation. This article focuses on matters relating to theology, pensions, and benefits. The next article in the series will focus on matters relating to human sexuality.

We welcome your questions, and invite you to contribute to future articles in this series by sharing what you are hearing about the process of disaffiliation or the future of The United Methodist Church. Write to AskTheUMC@umc.org.

Is The UMC really...

1. Splitting at this time?
No. The term “split” applies when there is a negotiated agreement within the denomination to divide assets and resources. No such agreement has been made in The United Methodist Church. The earliest point at which such an agreement could be made would be at the next General Conference to be held in 2024.

A more accurate term, as suggested by the Rev. William Lawrence, retired dean of Perkins School of Theology and former member of the Judicial Council of The United Methodist Church, is “splintering.” What is happening is that some traditionalist leaders have decided to create their own denomination (the Global Methodist Church). Leaders of that denomination and other unofficial advocacy groups, such as the Wesleyan Covenant Association, which created it, are encouraging like-minded United Methodist congregations and clergy to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church and join their denomination instead.

2. Asking traditionalists to leave the denomination?
No. The requests for disaffiliations are coming largely from traditionalists. Keith Boyette, former president of the Wesleyan Covenant Association and now leader of the Global Methodist Church, describes the reasons he and other leaders are asking traditionalists to leave beginning at 13:32 in this video.

 

3. About to alter its doctrine to deny the virgin birth, the divinity of Jesus Christ, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, or salvation through Christ alone?
No. All of these positions are bedrock in the doctrinal standards of The United Methodist Church, more specifically in the Articles of Religion and the Confession of Faith. These cannot be altered without a two-thirds vote of the General Conference followed by a three-fourths aggregate approval of all annual conferences of The United Methodist Church worldwide. There is no basis to conclude such majorities can be achieved to alter the Articles and Confession for any reason.

Here is what the Articles and Confession say on these matters. And will continue to say.

Virgin Birth and Divinity of Jesus

 

Articles of Religion, Article II:
“The Son, who is the Word of the Father, the very and eternal God, of one substance with the Father, took man’s nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin.”

Confession of Faith, Article II:
“We believe in Jesus Christ, truly God and truly man, in whom the divine and human natures are perfectly and inseparably united. He is the eternal Word made flesh, the only begotten Son of the Father, born of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Resurrection of Jesus Christ:
Articles of Religion, Article III:
Christ did truly rise again from the dead, and took again his body, with all things appertaining to the perfection of man's nature, wherewith he ascended into heaven, and there sitteth until he return to judge all men at the last day.

Confession of Faith, Article II:
"Jesus Christ... was buried, rose from the dead and ascended into heaven to be with the Father, from whence he shall return." 

Salvation apart from faith in Jesus Christ
Articles of Religion, Article IX:
“We are accounted righteous before God only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, by faith.”

Confession of Faith, Article IX:
“We believe we are never accounted righteous before God through our works or merit, but that penitent sinners are justified or accounted righteous before God only by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

 

4. Intending to change the Bible?
No. The United Methodist Church has no official translation of the Bible and has never sought to alter the Bible at all. United Methodists have always had a variety of views about how to interpret specific passages of Scripture and likely always will.

 

5. Allowing congregations that exit the denomination to continue to offer the same pension and health benefits programs to their clergy and staff?
No. The Book of Discipline does not permit non-UMC entities to be plan sponsors of the Clergy Retirement Security Program. Only a General Conference can change this. Churches that disaffiliate will face changes to the benefits they can offer their clergy. Individual congregations and clergy that join the Global Methodist Church (GMC) will be eligible to participate in a retirement plan offered by the GMC, which will be a Wespath defined-contribution retirement plan similar to a United Methodist Personal Investment Plan (UMPIP). 

Elders and deacons who withdraw under Discipline ¶360 will have all assets accrued in CRSP and previous programs in which they may have participated (defined benefit and defined contribution) converted into a cash equivalent and placed into their United Methodist Personal Investment Plan (UMPIP). Future retirement plan contributions may be made to the new retirement plan described above which, like UMPIP, is a personal retirement account subject to the effects of the stock market and other investments on its value.

Nor, at this time, is it possible for individual congregations (whether in the Global Methodist Church or in the UMC) to be plan sponsors for the HealthFlex health insurance programs Wespath offers unless a congregation has more than 50 eligible employees until January 1, 2023. United Methodist annual conferences are the plan sponsors for congregations with fewer than 50 eligible employees. This means individual congregations with fewer than 50 eligible employees currently participating in these programs that exit The United Methodist Church at this time can no longer offer these benefits to their clergy and employees effective with the date of disaffiliation. They can re-enroll with HealthFlex with benefits to begin on or after January 1, 2023. In the interim between the data of disaffiliation and re-enrollment, or for longer if they choose a different plan provider, disaffiliating clergy who were covered by HealthFlex are eligible to continue on the health insurance plan by paying 100% of the costs themselves for up to 18 months. At that point, unless their church re-enrolls in HealthFlex, the HealthFlex plan is no longer available to them. Individual congregations and clergy who join the Global Methodist Church may participate in the health benefits selected by the Global Methodist Church, including HealthFlex, as of January 1, 2023.

 

Part 2: https://www.umc.org/en/content/ask-the-umc-is-the-umc-really-part-2

At Ask The UMC, we have been answering an increasing number of questions from congregations wondering about the future of The United Methodist Church and whether they should consider disaffiliating from it. Among these have been some recurrent questions that reflect misperceptions or misinformation that some congregations are receiving as they are discerning their next steps.

This is the second of a series of articles we will present to offer accurate responses to such misperceptions or misinformation. This article focuses on matters relating to human sexuality. The first article in this series focuses on matters relating to theology and pensions. Part 3 and Part 4 focus on additional questions we continue to receive.

 

We welcome your questions, and invite you to contribute to future articles in this series by sharing what you are hearing about the process of disaffiliation or the future of The United Methodist Church. Write to AskTheUMC@umc.org.

Is The UMC really…?

 

6. Immediately dropping all prohibitions related to human sexuality, now that the Global Methodist Church has been officially started?

No. The creation of the Global Methodist Church has no bearing on the existing policies of The United Methodist Church. The policies of The United Methodist Church are set by its General Conference. The General Conference is the only body that can change them. The General Conference is scheduled to meet next in 2024 at a time and venue to be announced.

 

7. Going to drop all prohibitions related to human sexuality at its next General Conference in 2024?

Probably not. The 2024 General Conference will certainly consider legislative proposals that would drop several existing prohibitions. There are items that could authorize clergy who choose to do so to preside at same-sex weddings or union ceremonies. There are several proposals to drop the statement “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” Some proposals would remove the current policy that forbids committees and boards of ordained ministry and clergy sessions to approve and bishops to license, commission, ordain, or appoint self-avowed, practicing homosexuals as clergy. Another would drop the prohibition on annual conferences and general agencies to provide any funding for any activity or publication that promotes "the acceptance of homosexuality."

The key words are consider and proposal. The General Conference must consider all legislative items it receives. All legislative items before a General Conference are proposals only. They have no force unless a General Conference approves them.

All of these kinds of proposals have come before General Conferences in the past. And all have been defeated, every time.

At present, there do not appear to be enough shifts in the makeup of the delegations to the General Conference in 2024 to conclude that any of these proposals will pass.

 

8. Going to require its clergy and clergy candidates to agree to offer same-sex weddings as a condition of candidacy, status, or appointment?

No. There are no proposals before the next General Conference to do so, nor have there ever been such proposals.

As noted above, proposals to permit clergy who choose to do so to preside at such ceremonies have come before previous General Conferences and will come before the 2024 General Conference. All such proposals have been defeated in the past. And there is no basis, considering the makeup of the delegations, to conclude this will change in 2024.

9. Ordaining drag queens and supporting worship of a “Queer God?”

No and no.

Both of these allegations are based on things that actually happened. But both of those things have been seriously misrepresented.

No United Methodist bishop has ever ordained, commissioned, or licensed a drag queen.

So what is that allegation based on?

The Vermillion River District of The Illinois Great Rivers Conference voted unanimously to approve the certification of Mr. Isaac Simmons as a candidate for ordained ministry in 2021. The Book of Discipline prohibits “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals” from being certified as candidates for ordination. Mr Simmons identifies as a gay man, but not as a practicing homosexual. He also performs under the drag name, Penny Cost, for the purposes of evangelism in audiences made up of people of many sexual and gender identities. Nothing in the Book of Discipline disqualifies persons who are gay but not practicing or who perform in drag from consideration or certification as a candidate.

The vote by a district committee to certify a candidate is one of the earliest steps in a process toward ordination. The process typically takes 5-8 years to complete.

Being approved by a district committee for candidacy is not being named clergy in The United Methodist Church. That can occur only after substantial work toward the completion of seminary educational requirements, ongoing supervision over a period of years, and ultimately approval for commissioning by a 3/4 vote of the clergy session of the annual conference. Until that time, if assigned by a district superintendent to serve a local church, candidates cannot preside at sacraments or at weddings.

The reference to supporting the worship of “Queer God” comes from a chapel service at Duke Divinity School sponsored by an LGBTQ+ student group. Duke Divinity School serves students of many denominations, not just United Methodists. And students of many denominations make up the LGBTQ group that sponsored the service in question, as that service has been described in some publications. Exactly one of the students named is identified as United Methodist, and that student is, at this point, a candidate, not yet clergy in The UMC.  Further, such “group sponsored” services represent the views of their sponsoring organization, not the Divinity School, nor its faculty. Such services are not a basis for making any statements about the beliefs or views of The United Methodist Church. General Conference establishes the official statements of The United Methodist Church and its ritual. Chapel services in a seminary do not.

 

10. Ignoring or refusing to implement the Discipline's statements, restrictions, and requirements regarding practicing homosexuals and same sex weddings?

In the majority of conferences, no. In some conferences, it may appear so. In those placing these matters "in abeyance," also no. 

Ignoring the Discipline?

The bishops of the Western Jurisdiction have publicly stated that they will not "withhold or challenge ordination based on a candidate's gender identity or sexual orientation."

The Discipline nowhere states that gender identity or sexual orientation is a basis for withholding or challenging ordination. The Discipline does prohibit district committees on ordination from certifying as candidates and bishops from licensing, commissioning, ordaining, or appointing as clergy persons who are "self-avowed, practicing homosexuals." Stating one is homosexual is not disqualifying. What is disqualifying is being or being proven to a jury of peers in a church trial to be a self-avowed, practicing homosexual. So this statement of the Western Jurisdiction bishops does not ignore the Discipline.

The statement by the bishops of the Western Jurisdiction also says, "We are unwilling to punish clergy who celebrate the marriage of two adults of any gender or sexual orientation seeking the blessing of God and the Church for their covenanted life together." Bishops do not apply "punishments" as part of the complaint process. Rather, bishops oversee the process to its conclusion. If a church trial is necessary, bishops preside at the church trial. If guilt is found in a church trial, it is not the bishop who imposes a "sentence." It is the jury of peers who both reach a verdict and set a sentence. The Discipline names a mandatory minimum sentence the jury must apply to those found guilty of having conducted a same-sex marriage or union ceremony: one year suspension without pay. No other offense has a mandatory minimum sentence. See ¶2711.3 of the 2019 revision to the Book of Discipline. Since bishops do not "punish" in the complaint process, this statement does not ignore the requirements of the Discipline. Instead, it expresses the intent of the bishops not to be punitive. 

The district superintendents in the Iowa Conference have announced they will "grant contextual permission" for clergy of the conference to preside at same-sex weddings in Iowa effective in January 2022. 

Examples such as this, in which some provisions of the current Discipline may be over-ridden through contextual permission by a district superintendent, are a rare exception. No other conference has stated this kind of policy to date. 

 

Abeyance: Refusing to Implement the Discipline?

While there are few examples that come close to "ignoring the Discipline," a number of bishops and some cabinets have indicated their commitment, in the words of the Minnesota Conference extended cabinet, to hold in abeyance all... administrative and judicial complaint processes addressing restrictions in the Book of Discipline regarding gay and lesbian clergy and/or same-sex weddings until after General Conference meets and action related to the separation of the denomination can be considered."

What is abeyance, and where did this idea come from?

The term "abeyance" means "delay." It does not mean a refusal to implement the Discipline. It means delaying further action on certain kinds of charges for a limited period of time and for particular reasons. Bishops who have announced they are placing such charges in abeyance are not refusing to implement the Discipline. They are indicating they will process such charges in light of actions that take place at a later time. 

This approach to dealing with such charges began with the development of the so-called Protocol legislation, announced in January 2020. 

 

While the Protocol legislation has no effect unless or until a General Conference approves it, the process of developing it included a commitment by all of its signers, including key leaders of traditionalist organizations and eight United Methodist bishops from across the connection. Article V of the agreement states,  "As one expression of reconciliation and grace through separation, the undersigned agree that all administrative or judicial processes addressing restrictions in the Book of Discipline related to self-avowed practicing homosexuals or same-sex weddings shall be held in abeyance beginning January 1, 2020 through the adjournment of the first conference of the post-separation United Methodist Church. Clergy shall continue to remain in good standing while such complaints are held in abeyance."

The term "post-separation United Methodist Church" referred originally to the General Conference in 2024, assuming the General Conference meeting in 2020 would have passed the Protocol or other terms of separating the denomination. Since the 2020 General Conference is now delayed to 2024, the first post-separation General Conference would be in 2028. And the term separation involves an action of the General Conference. It does not apply to the decision of the Wesleyan Covenant Association to launch the Global Methodist Church prior to the next General Conference. 

 

The part of the Protocol agreement calling for abeyance for some period of time, originally signed by eight bishops, has since also been committed to by several other bishops in the United States. Signers of this statement also included Keith Boyette, formerly leader of the Wesleyan Covenant Association and currently leader of the Global Methodist Church. Boyette has separately stated his agreement with a practice of abeyance on such charges until a General Conference can meet to decide next steps.

To those on all "sides" who indicated their support for abeyance effective in 2020, abeyance in processing such charges was not seen as a refusal to implement the Discipline. Rather, it represented and represents the hope for a less stressful time of separation leading up to and following the action of a General Conference to create such a separation.

What can we accurately say about the isolated examples noted and the wider practice of abeyance?  The Discipline's statements, restrictions, and requirements regarding self-avowed, practicing clergy and same-sex marriages are unevenly enforced in The United Methodist Church at this time. Initiatives by individual conferences or jurisdictions are one source of this unevenness. The practice of abeyance derives from a mutual agreement of United Methodists who identify as progressive, centrist, and traditionalist. Still, the provisions of the Discipline remain in force and are more widely more enforced across the whole denomination, worldwide, than not. 

 

Part 3: https://www.umc.org/en/content/ask-the-umc-is-the-umc-really-part-3

 

At Ask The UMC, we have been answering an increasing number of questions from congregations wondering about the future of The United Methodist Church and whether they should consider disaffiliating from it. These have included recurring questions that reflect misperceptions or misinformation that some congregations are receiving as they discern their next steps.

This is the third of a series of articles aimed at offer accurate responses to such misperceptions or misinformation. As the previous two, this article is based on a variety of questions we have received multiple times through email, phone calls, and live chat. The second article focuses on matters relating to human sexuality. The first article in this series focuses on matters relating to theology and pensions. 

We welcome your questions and invite you to contribute to future articles in this series by sharing what you are hearing about the process of disaffiliation or the future of The United Methodist Church. Write to AskTheUMC@umc.org.

Is The UMC really…?

11. Able to allow congregations to sidestep the requirements of Paragraph 2553 in the Book of Discipline by using Paragraph 2548.2 as an alternative path to disaffiliation?
No. Judicial Council Decision 1449 is clear: “[T]he process in ¶ 2548.2 may not be used as a pathway for local churches to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church.”

What is at stake in this question? The Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA), an independent advocacy group, in collaboration with the National Center for Life and Liberty (NCLL, an unrelated “nonprofit legal ministry”) has encouraged churches in several conferences (FloridaWestern North CarolinaEastern Pennsylvania, with “similar group actions” expected to proceed in the Western Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Peninsula-Delaware conferences) to file or threaten to join NCLL-led lawsuits against their conferences unless the conferences immediately cease to require the “onerous” conditions of Paragraph 2553 and instead allow congregations to disaffiliate under Paragraph 2548.2.

That paragraph in the Discipline has been put forward for some time now by the WCA and others to suggest that: a) there could be a lower threshold of voting (based on a simple majority of a charge conference instead of the two-thirds majority of a called church conference); b) no payments would be required; and c) the whole matter could be addressed through a transfer of the congregation, its property, and its assets to another evangelical denomination through a comity agreement that each conference could, if it so chose, simply create.

The Judicial Council decision makes clear what has always been the case about this paragraph. It has nothing to do with local congregations disaffiliating from the denomination. It has to do solely with the transfer of property. The only paragraph in the Discipline that provides a means for a local church to become disaffiliated from The United Methodist Church while retaining its property and assets is Paragraph 2553.

The decision also notes that annual conferences have no authority to create a comity agreement. The Council of Bishops develops the agreement, which must then be ratified by a General Conference to become effective. In the case of the Global Methodist Church, neither of those actions has occurred. There is no basis even for a transfer of property under any comity agreement with the Global Methodist Church because no such agreement exists or can exist at this time.

Paragraph 2553 was adopted by the special called General Conference of 2019. It was introduced through a substitute motion from an advocate for the Traditional Plan. The motion to substitute passed by a margin of two votes (402-400). The reason for the substitution was that the disaffiliation proposal before the body at the time as part of the Traditional Plan legislation had already been declared unconstitutional and on several points illegal by the Judicial Council. So, to provide for any process for disaffiliation while retaining local church property, Traditionalist leaders moved the substitution of this provision.  After debate, the substituted motion was approved 420-390. The Judicial Council subsequently affirmed its constitutionality when applied with the requirement in 2529.1.b.3 that the annual conference must provide final consent to enact a disaffiliation. Paragraph 2553 remains the only paragraph in the Discipline authorizing a process for a local church to disaffiliate while retaining its property and assets.

Meanwhile, a few annual conferences had also specified Paragraph 2548.2 as an option for disaffiliation in some way. Two in particular who had done so (Texas and Rio Texas) have now modified their policy documents to remove references to Paragraph 2548.2 as a disaffiliation pathway.

 

12. About to change its statement on abortion from life-centered to pro-choice?

No. It is true that revised Social Principles have been submitted for consideration by the next General Conference. However, the revisions made to the section addressing abortion do not alter the life-centered approach of The United Methodist Church on abortion.

“Tragic conflicts of life with life” remain the only circumstances in which abortion is considered justifiable in the revised statement. No legislative proposals submitted to the next General Conference call for any other or any lesser standard.

There is no basis to conclude the 2024 General Conference will make any change to the denomination’s life-centered commitments regarding abortion.

 

13. Allowing local churches that refuse to pay apportionments (as the Wesleyan Covenant Association is now directing) to “get away with it”?
No. The Book of Discipline states: “Payment in full of these apportionments by local churches is the first benevolent responsibility of the church” (Paragraph 247.14).

If the local church is incapable of fulfilling its first benevolent duty, this begins to call into question whether it remains viable as a local church or whether it is in a position to afford the appointment or appointments it may currently have.

The decision about how to respond to such situations lies with each district superintendent. District superintendents know and, as pastors themselves, can relate to the financial pressures some congregations may face that limit their ability to pay their apportionments in full, or sometimes, at all.

District superintendents also understand the difference between hardship and refusal. The Discipline gives them the tools to respond accordingly.

In cases where congregations are refusing to pay all or part of their apportionments, the district superintendent may take any of the following actions.

1. Require review of the local church’s potential (Paragraph 213) as a United Methodist congregation. Is the congregation serving the purpose or able to serve the purpose for which it was organized if it refuses to pay apportionments? If the conclusion of the review is that it is not, the DS, with the district board of location and building, the bishop, and a majority of the cabinet, can recommend the closure of that local church at the next session of the annual conference (Paragraph 2549.1.a, 2.b).

2. Re-align the pastoral charge (Paragraph 419.9) in consultation with the bishop.  For churches with multiple appointed clergy, this could involve making fewer appointments. For churches with one clergy, it could lead to a less than fulltime appointment.

3. Recommend, with the approval of the district committee on location and building, the bishop, and the majority of the cabinet, the immediate transfer of all property and assets of the congregation to the conference board of trustees (Paragraph 2549.3.b). In this situation, the conference board of trustees would have discretion about whether, and on what terms, to offer the property and assets to the congregation for its possible future use, or to offer the property to another buyer and direct the assets for the use of the annual conference.  

Any of these actions could be taken in response to any congregation, regardless of its interest in disaffiliation, which refuses to pay its apportionments in full. None of these actions would be taken as a means to discourage or punish congregations simply seeking to disaffiliate. Every bishop in the United Methodist Church in the United States is committed to supporting congregations wishing to disaffiliate to do so in accordance with the policies set by that conference’s board of trustees. United Methodist congregations are free to pursue disaffiliation. They are not free to sabotage the ongoing ministry of The United Methodist Church as they do so.  

 

Part 4: https://www.umc.org/en/content/ask-the-umc-is-the-umc-really-part-4

 

At Ask The UMC, we have been answering an increasing number of questions from congregations wondering about the future of The United Methodist Church and whether they should consider disaffiliating from it. Some of these questions reflect widespread misperceptions or misinformation that some congregations are receiving as they discern their next steps.

This is the fourth of a series of articles offering accurate responses to such misperceptions or misinformation. As the previous three, this article is based on a variety of questions we have received multiple times through email, phone calls, and live chat. The third article addresses the use of  Paragraph 2548.2, changes in abortion statements, and payment of apportionments. The second article focuses on matters relating to human sexuality. The first article in this series focuses on matters relating to theology and pensions. 

We welcome your questions and invite you to contribute to future articles in this series by sharing what you are hearing about the process of disaffiliation or the future of The United Methodist Church. Write to AskTheUMC@umc.org.

Is The UMC really…?

14. Allowing congregations that disaffiliate to retain their current appointed pastor or deacon?
The answer depends on whether the current clergy disaffiliate as well.

United Methodist bishops are authorized to appoint clergy to United Methodist congregations.

When a congregation is disaffiliated, it is no longer a United Methodist congregation.  Thus, United Methodist appointments to a congregation that disaffiliates terminate on the effective date of disaffiliation as set by the annual conference.

If the current clergy disaffiliate with the congregation, it is up to the congregation or decisions by a denomination it may join whether the current clergy continue to serve them.  United Methodist deacons and local pastors may or may not be accepted as clergy by other denominations. It is more likely that United Methodist elders may be. 

If the current clergy remain United Methodist, they will no longer be appointed to the disaffiliated congregation and can no longer function as clergy for them. The United Methodist bishop will seek to appoint these clergy elsewhere as soon as possible. The congregation will need to seek new clergy leadership.

15. Ending United Methodist Church memberships of those whose local church disaffiliates?

Yes. When a local church disaffiliates, the Judicial Council has made clear all of its members depart the denomination with it. “Disaffiliation… under ¶2553 involves both church membership and property… the membership departs from The United Methodist Church” (Decision 1449, Question 5).  From the standpoint of The United Methodist Church, it is not possible to be a member in The United Methodist Church and a member in another denomination (or an independent church) at the same time (Paragraph 241 of the 2016 Book of Discipline).

So if your congregation has voted to disaffiliate, and you wish to remain a member of The United Methodist Church, you will want to find another United Methodist congregation to join before the effective date of disaffiliation set by the annual conference. You may ask your district office for assistance in this process.

 

16. Permitting 10% of the professing members of a local church to sidestep conference requirements that a request for a called charge conference to vote on disaffiliation come from a church council or other leadership body of a local church?
No. But to understand the answer to that question, it is important to understand how this allegation could have been made.

Paragraph 248 of the 2016 Book of Discipline states that a church conference “may be called” by the district superintendent under several circumstances, including in response to “a written request to the district superintendent by … 10% of the professing membership of the local church.” The key language here is “may.” Receiving a request from 10% of the professing membership does not compel the district superintendent to call a church conference.  

Meanwhile, many conference disaffiliation processes require a church council or other leadership body to make the request for a called church conference for disaffiliation. Paragraph 2553.4 states “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.”

Each conference’s board of trustees sets the terms and conditions for its conference. The role of the district superintendents in that process is advisory only. Once the trustees set the terms and conditions, only they can alter them. The annual conference may provide additional standard terms. Where the terms and conditions from the trustees or additional standard terms set by the conference state that the contact to initiate a called church conference must come from the church council or equivalent leadership or administrative body, the district superintendent is bound to schedule called church conferences only for those requests that come through that channel.

And if the terms and conditions are not that specific, the district superintendent, per Paragraph 248, retains discretion about whether and when to call for the church conference. Paragraph 2553 simply notes the called church conference must occur within 120 days of the time at which the district superintendent calls for it. In all cases, the district superintendent has the authority to call a church conference. The local church does not.