Methodist Voices (formerly UMVoices) is a forum for different voices within the United Methodist Church on pressing issues of denominational concern. Richard Hoffman, Ph.D. serves as Clinical Director for Christian Counseling Associates and is a contact for anyone seeking advice on beginning the disaffiliation process. Hoffman can be reached via e-mail directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org. He notes that there is still time to start on P. 2553 in the first quarter of 2023.
Disaffiliation, how did we get here? In 2016, Bishop Ough spoke for the council of bishops and promised to lead the United Methodist Church out of its “painful condition,” as was said at that assembly. The Special Session of the 2019 General Conference in St. Louis was a promise by our leaders, a covenant, that if we would assemble one more time in Holy Conferencing, they would honor and trust the process to come to a final decision about the debate on human sexuality and the authority of scripture. Unfortunately, it only took until the day following to learn that Bishop Ough’s “heart was heavy” (see the video “Bishop Ough: My heart is heavy”) and the council of bishops would not be supporting the traditional plan that was approved by the highest official governing body of the United Methodist Church (UMC). That bishop’s leadership effort failed.
The gracious exit plan was formed and abandoned after GC2020 was canceled not once but twice. The Bishops promised to lead us in a faithful process. The Bishops lied, and any chance at holding the UMC together died.
I developed my knowledge of the current crisis above as a General Church Lay Delegate for the Western Pennsylvania Conference starting in 2008. Since that time, I have continued as a General Delegate, with the exception of 2012, when I was a Jurisdictional Alternate delegate. In late 2015, I was invited to become a Steering Committee member of United Methodist (UM) Action, which is a division of the Institute of Religion and Democracy. During my 14 years of service in these ministry groups, I have been mentored and trained by many faithful Christians who have been watchful of the coming division and have served in every attempt to avoid it. Through my developing expertise, I can confidently, but with a troubled heart, state that the UMC ship is sinking.
I reflect on videos that are circulating, like “What’s up with the UMC.” Some want to believe these scenes are exceptions or exaggerations. They’re not. If they were, these individuals would be brought up on charges. Instead, they are ignored or encouraged. See also the reports from the most recent Jurisdictional Conferences nationwide. With all of this information gathered, it would be wise not to ask God to show us an additional sign to interpret the times (see Matthew 16:1-3). The official leadership of the UMC has been infiltrated by zealots of Woke theology and is completely corrupt.
Faced with this reality, in June of 2022, I became a disaffiliation coach with my local chapter of the Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA). I started contacting churches, asking them if they were interested in disaffiliating and informing them of the process contained within the Book of Discipline (BOD) that permits under Paragraph 2553 to leave the UMC. My method was to go to the conference journal, which contains every email of pastors in every church. I took about two hours every Sunday afternoon and emailed every church the Western Pennsylvania Conference, about 750 in total. This took me about 14 hours over seven weeks. Then, I would wait for the responses and follow up with an introductory phone call and invite these individuals to join my consultation group.
Next, I committed to having Zoom meetings every Tuesday evening for one hour to help keep pastors and lay leaders informed about the step-by-step process of P. 2553. Although the requirements of each conference may differ slightly, the bishops are required by the BOD to follow a prescribed disaffiliation process. I have found that this process contains about 12 to 18 steps. My coaching team researched and mapped out these steps and put them into a guide, and distributed this information to all newcomers who joined our group. Because there were so many steps, it was helpful to use the weekly video meetings to review these steps and encourage new members. Once educated, we asked our group members to go out and recruit others who were seeking to disaffiliate.
Many churches felt threatened by the financial implications of disaffiliation. However, we were able to demonstrate that when bishops followed P. 2553 faithfully, the cost of disaffiliation with taking a loan and moving to the Global Methodist Church would be the same as staying in the UMC and paying annual apportionments. We recommended withholding apportionments (an action supported by the National WCA leaders) and contacting the Wesleyan Investment Foundation (WIF). The WIF is a lending institution that has committed to providing low-interest loans to churches disaffiliating from the UMC.
Early on in the process, we also contacted the National Center for Life and Liberty, (NCLL) a non-profit, faith-based law firm that specializes in church disaffiliation processes. The NCLL offers to provide ongoing legal services and consultation for an affordable retainer of $1,000 per church. The NCLL demonstrated a willingness to investigate and challenge any improper actions of the UMC conference. This was instrumental in reaching a “clean” 2553 agreement, which is defined as the requirement of two years of apportionments plus the payment of a fair portion of the unfunded pension liability that may exist within your annual conference. Every church should insist on a “clean 2553” agreement. Many conferences have tried to levy additional fees and requirements that are not intended by the official BOD guidelines. In these cases, the NCLL will effectively advocate for churches both in arbitration and in a civil court if necessary. Unfortunately, many legal proceedings have become necessary and are already underway against the UMC. It is likely multiple legal actions against the UMC will continue across the country for the foreseeable future.
Finally, we used our weekly coaching sessions to invite representatives of the Global Methodist Church (GMC), WCA, NCLL, and other experts to educate our church groups. This was extremely useful to disaffiliating churches in developing an informed decision-making process. In six months, my team was able to lead 165 churches into the disaffiliation process. In Western Pennsylvania, we expect there will be at least 250 that disaffiliate by the deadline of mid-2023.
A wise warrior once said, “there is always one more thing you can do.” Many (including our children) have been harmed by the woke ideology that has been embraced by the UMC. The first thing is to protect your church. Right now, there are many still contemplating if they should start to move. Every UMC voice is acting against you, saying things like, “wait until General Conference 2024.” The time to move is running out to exit under P. 2553, which will officially end at the conclusion of the annual conference in 2023. There is still time! You can always do one more thing to lead your people out. Hope to see you in the GMC in 2024!