On November 19, 2022, Bishop Palmer convened a special session of the West Ohio Annual Conference. The purpose was to release 80 congregations from being part of the United Methodist Church—a process called disaffiliation. These 80 congregations must meet the requirements of Paragraph 2553 of the UMC’s Book of Discipline. This provision allows a congregation to leave the UMC—with its property—due to differences concerning human sexuality, if certain requirements are met by the end of 2023. In general, a congregation’s property legally belongs to the denomination, and if a congregation disaffiliates, it cedes its property to the denomination. Paragraph 2553 temporarily allows gracious exceptions to this rule. The requirements, as implemented by West Ohio Conference, include:
a 2/3 vote of the congregation’s professing members in favor of disaffiliation (Congregations wishing to remain part of the UMC do not need to vote at all.)
payment in full of apportionments for the current year and following year
payment of a sum of money (determined by a financial formula) to ensure that the UMC pension fund remains solvent
repayment of any recent grants from UMC entities.
Approximately 50 additional West Ohio congregations have inquired about this process, so more congregations likely will disaffiliate before the end of 2023. In addition, approximately 35 clergy members of West Ohio Conference also disaffiliated from the UMC on November 19. Similar processes are taking place in annual conferences all around the United States. Some entire conferences in other countries may disaffiliate en masse.
There is sadness in this splintering of our denomination. It is a failure to live out Jesus’ prayer that we all be one (John 17:20-21) and the admonition in Ephesians to “keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (4:3). Yet after decades of United Methodists arguing and struggling with one another, surely it is time for every congregation to be free to follow Christ as God is calling it to do. May those who are disaffiliating find new energy and fruitfulness. Some disaffiliating congregations are joining a new denomination called the Global Methodist Church while others are choosing to become independent congregations.
And may those of us staying in the United Methodist Church experience renewed vitality and unity for making disciples and growing in grace. It remains to be seen how many congregations—nationally and globally—will eventually disaffiliate. The UMC will soon be numerically smaller. The potential is that we can be greater in spirit—able to focus more on mission and ministry as we focus less on internal disagreements.
Here is some information about the impact of the current disaffiliations on West Ohio Conference:
The 80 disaffiliating congregations represent 8% of congregations in West Ohio Conference. The 15,700 members in those congregations are 12% of UMC members in our Conference.
The 80 congregations represent 14% of dollars apportioned for the 2022 budget of West Ohio Conference, and about 10% of apportionments actually paid in 2021. (Each United Methodist congregation is assigned “apportionments”--an amount of money to support ministries beyond the local church and around the world.)
These disaffiliations will not affect the 2023 budget of West Ohio Conference, because disaffiliating congregations must pay their 2023 apportionments before leaving. The Annual Conference treasurer reports that apportionments will not rise after 2023 due to disaffiliations because budget adjustments are already being made.
Detailed information about the disaffiliation process is available for those looking for more indepth coverage.
Please know that the staff and Leadership Board of Bethel International UMC remain committed to the local mission and the global presence of the United Methodist Church. The founder of Methodist, John Wesley, said, “If your heart is as my heart, take my hand.”
In the spirit of Wesley and in the name of Jesus, I say the same to all who want to worship, serve, and witness with us the love of God in Jesus Christ.
Below is a video from Bishop Palmer and his thoughts on disafiliation.