On August 23, 2022, the Judicial Council, The United Methodist Church’s top court, issued a strong and clear ruling that churches seeking to disaffiliate over matters of human sexuality must do so under Paragraph ¶ 2553 of the Book of Discipline. The 2019 General Conference enacted ¶ 2553 which, as stated in the Book of Discipline, pertains to “Disaffiliation of Local Churches Over Issues Related to Human Sexuality.”
For such churches, the Judicial Council said, “It stands to reason that, if disaffiliation of local churches could be accomplished under Paragraph ¶ 2548.2 or any other provision of The Discipline, the special session of General Conference in 2019 would not have gone through the trouble of enacting ¶ 2553.”
The Judicial Council’s ruling was in response to issues and questions raised May 12, 2022 by the Council of Bishops about whether ¶ 2548.2 could or should be used for those churches that want to disaffiliate. Some have claimed ¶ 2548.2 can be used to transfer church assets and membership to the recently launched Global Methodist Church. The Judicial Council rejected these claims in clear language.
Paragraph 2548.2 states that a property transfer must take place “under an allocation, exchange of property, or comity agreement.” While The United Methodist Church has long standing agreements with several other denominations, no such agreement exists with the Global Methodist Church at this time.
The Judicial Council also noted any such agreement must also be in writing and must be approved by the General Conference, which cannot happen until at least 2024 when the General Conference meets again. Importantly, even if the General Conference approves the use of ¶ 2548.2 in 2024, three other conditions need to be met before this provision can be used by churches.
To view the Judicial Council decision click here. The press statement from the Council of Bishops is here. A related UM News story is here and an earlier, comprehensive communication from the Virginia Annual Conference about disaffiliation on April 18, 2022 is here.