May 10, 2022
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Council of Bishops (COB) of The United Methodist Church is expressing gratitude following the declaratory decision from the Judicial Council which stated that an annual conference may not vote to separate from the denomination.
The denomination’s top court agreed with the Council of Bishops that while an annual conference has the reserved right to vote on disaffiliation, the General Conference must first enact enabling legislation to establish the right to withdraw but has not done so for conferences in the United States.
“The General Conference is the only body that can regulate the process and set the conditions for an annual conference in the United States to leave the United Methodist connection,” the court said, adding that “there is no basis in Church law for any annual conference to adopt stopgap policies, pass resolutions, take a vote, or act unilaterally for the purpose of removing itself from The United Methodist Church.”
In response to this decision, Council of Bishops President Thomas J. Bickerton stated, “We are grateful for the ongoing work of the Judicial Council who continue to serve the church tirelessly with significant attention and care. This decision has affirmed the connection “as the universal thread out of which the temporal and spiritual fabric of the Church is providentially woven,” andprovided clarity and direction as we move forward through these unprecedented days of challenge and change.
As a result of this decision, it is time now for us to move forward in the work of renewing our primary focus on the mission and ministry of our church. The bishops of our church are deeply committed to expanding our witness in every local community and throughout the world as we seek to lead The United Methodist Church in the next expression of who God is calling us to be. We must continue our work with a spirit of grace and reconciliation even in the midst of splintering and separation.
While we understand that some of our siblings will leave The United Methodist Church, our prayer is that we will continue to provide a spirit of welcome for everyone. Let us work hard each day to have hearts, minds and spirits that extend the love of God even when we disagree. As your bishops, we pledge that we will lead our beloved church in the days ahead with a Wesleyan spirit of God’s abundant grace, anchored in Scripture, centered on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, and leaning always on the continuing movement of the Holy Spirit in our midst.”
In its decision, the Judicial Council noted that “absent General Conference legislation, any vote and actions taken by an annual conference to separate are unconstitutional, null and void, and of no legal force or effect.”
Click here to read the full decision from the Judicial Council.
Rev. Dr. Maidstone Mulenga
Director of Communications – Council of Bishops