United Methodist Disaffiliation

How to Exit United Methodism

Methodist Voices on January 4, 2023

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: [email protected]. 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!

  1. Comment by Mark Johnson on January 4, 2023 at 11:44 am

    If a person is unhappy being a United Methodist (UM), what is preventing that person from just leaving and finding a denomination more in keeping with their understanding/belief? (My mom did this – she was a Baptist for a long time, but then left that and joined a Church of Christ). It’s free, no legal assistance needed and it’s fast. Most communities have lots of varying denominations and non-denominational churches, one of which might be a better fit. And maybe a group of like-minded friends could just leave and start their own church – I see lots of small congregations in strip malls, etc. As you state, there are about 18 steps needed to “disaffiliate” and that seems so challenging as opposed to just joining (or starting) another church for absolutely no money or having to go through a complicated process. Maybe there are a lot of folks doing this? I have no idea (I’m not a UM).

    A response might be that a lot of people in any congregation may want to leave the UMC but not “their” building. But – there are probably people who want to stay with the UMs and it’s “their” building, too, is it not? So it ends up looking (from the outside, at least) like it’s a controversy over buildings/property more than disagreements over the Bible or other religious issue. I’m not a UM, so maybe (probably!) I’m missing something, but I’m curious about this and haven’t really heard a good answer. Again, not a UM, but it’s sad to see a denomination with a long American history/presence going through such acrimony.

    Thank you and blessings for the future.

  2. Comment by Steve on January 4, 2023 at 12:19 pm

    Is the IRD going to recognize the annual conferences that have moved to extend the deadline for disaffiliations? Such as those using paragraph 2549 like the S. Carolina and AWFL conferences? It would be helpful for churches in their discernment.

    I keep reading articles about “time running out” while there are annual conferences that are finding ways to extend the deadline to disaffiliate. In fact, S. Carolina did away with a deadline altogether.

    Just seems to be misleading to not let people know their options and keep implying that “time is running out” for everyone when you know that’s not true.

  3. Comment by John Lomperis on January 4, 2023 at 2:37 pm

    A few responses to the previous two comments:
    -The disaffiliation process Dr. Hoffman’s talking about is not about “one person” but requires a super-majority of at least 2/3 of a congregation wanting to move in this direction. So the logic of telling disgruntled minority to just individually leave for another congregation applies much more to the minority of no more than 1/3 (and usually much less) .
    -It is not really accurate to frame disaffiliation as people “being unhappy being United Methodist.” We are talking about congregations who have been faithful to the official rules, historic doctrine, and the people of the UMC, but who have been betrayed by illegitimate leaders,.
    -Anyone seriously interested in understanding rather than just trolling should extend some grace, in light of how the bishops have made unforced choices to make the separation process needlessly confusing, messy, and inconsistent, often all with very poor communication. There have been all all kinds of additional burdens and inconsistencies, even between districts in the same annual conference. And then bishops keep changing the rules.
    -It remains objectively true that Paragraph 2553 (the process discussed above) expires this year, and that most conferences have set deadlines in the first half of this year, often early, for a congregation to complete its process. Out of over 50 annual conferences, less than 10% have scheduled special, disaffiliation-focused annual conferences after June 2023. Whether or not those sessions actually happen, and whether or not Para 2549 agreements WILL be ultimately honored by bishops (a separate question from if this *could* be done) is not guaranteed, and depends on several factors, including whether or not bishops keep their promises and act honorably.
    -South Carolina’s recently announced process currently stands out for its excessively punitive exit fee that conference is rather greedily demanding.

  4. Comment by Anthony on January 4, 2023 at 4:10 pm

    It’s now North GA Conference 45 — South Carolina Conference 0. The NGC is on its way to winning the Grand Punitive Championship: :

    Dear North Georgia Conference Traditional Methodists,

    By suspending Provision 2553, the North Georgia Conference is blocking those who are discerning disaffiliation from a United Methodist Church in schism as well as disaffiliation from an autocratic North Georgia Conference administration.

    The North Georgia Conference administration is falsely accusing leaders of traditional organizations of wrongdoing with no evidence to back this up as reason for the ‘pause’. While doing this, they ignore and accept no responsibility for the real and actual wrongdoing. For obvious reasons, no mention is made of the fact that our former progressive bishop and our new progressive bishop are members of a liberal organization — UMC Next — founded after the 2019 Special General Conference to resist, undercut, and violate the Traditional Plan passed there and becoming church law on 1/1/2020, thus accelerating and fueling the UMC conflict. In addition, UMC Next and most other progressives have withdrawn support for the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation — an orderly, peaceful, and amiable church separation plan released in 2020 — a plan negotiated by traditionalists, members of this organization, and other progressives that was widely endorsed by progressives across the denomination and still strongly supported by traditionalists, but has not been presented for a vote due to the three General Conference postponements. Most are now seeing this plan as dead for passage at the 2024 General Conference due to the progressive about face of mysteriously withdrawing support and now working against its passage.

    The conference administration accuses people of uncompromising integrity, both North GA Conference and other UMC people — like Dan Parr, Kevin Lobello, Chuck Savage, Keith Boyette, Carolyn Moore, Rob Renfroe, Tom Lambrecht, Jay Therrell, Mark Tooley — of spreading misinformation and false, defamatory statements. Then the conference astonishingly states that it “empowered” spokespersons sent to dispense information, therefore implying this information was to be unquestionably accepted as the perfect, flawless truth from empowerment.

    These traditional Methodist leaders have only been explaining the fractured state of the United Methodist Church and the schism thereof due to the breaking of covenant and refusal to enforce church law by the progressive leadership. Yet, the conference administration presents an unethical narrative that is tantamount to defamation of character of these good people as justification for halting the disaffiliation process, thus disenfranchising all conference traditional Methodists of their free speech and voting rights. Their contempt and insulting disrespect for all conference traditional Methodists is on full display with their arrogant insinuation that these Methodists do not have the intellectual capacity to discern information and cast informed votes.

    With this aggressive abuse of power against innocent traditional Methodists who are acting in good faith discerning their future with relation to the UMC schism — denying them the option of a separation vote is unjust as well as cruel and vindictive — thus causing irreparable harm. The North GA Conference is discriminating against traditional congregations and attempting to hold them captive while, adding insult to injury, proposing that they wait for 2024 General Conference for an exit possibility — by which time Provision 2553 will have long expired — and this progressive organization of our former bishop and new bishop – UMC Next – will be working to block passage of the Protocol to shut that exit door. And, as traditional Methodists are being treated this way — the North GA Conference administration will incredibly expect apportionment payments to continue from them — taxation without representation — a form of extortion— payments to be abused.

    While accusing others of wrongdoing, the conference administration is in violation of church law by arbitrarily nullifying church law: Disaffiliation Provision 2553 — in that there is no language therein allowing this — and ignoring all the other numerous Book of Discipline violations going on, some in North GA — with the most recent radical violation being that of the election of the second UMC bishop living in a same-sex marriage. Yet the conference administration amazingly asserts — “We reaffirm our commitment to honor and uphold the Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church.” However, it is traditionalists who honor and uphold the Book of Discipline including following the Disaffiliation Provision 2553 that the Council of Bishops declared as the only exit path after the numerous General Conference delays. It was traditionalists who agreed to leave the denomination in 2020 by way of the Protocol in order to end this five decades old conflict peacefully, gracefully, and with integrity.

    Traditionalists demand that this pause be lifted immediately and 2553 be reinstated so they can have the option of voting to leave this United Methodist Church.

  5. Comment by Dan W on January 4, 2023 at 10:48 pm

    Mark Johnson,

    The Methodist Church where I grew up, and my parents worshipped 50+ years, predated the UMC by over 60 years. The Methodist congregation I joined in 2001 traces it’s roots to the 1870s. Most of the members I worshipped with joined before 1968, some before WW2. The UMC was founded in 1968. These families worshipped together for generations and literally sacrificed to build these churches.

  6. Comment by Ellie K on January 5, 2023 at 6:08 am

    The OP derogatory use of the word “woke” to describe those staying Affiliated shows a non-Christian-like attitude and lack of education. How could you expect a reasonable conversation with judgements like these? And how would you expect any answer other than, “good riddance”?
    Maybe through a revelation you will see just how “woke” Jesus was and is!

  7. Comment by Virginia Crocker on January 5, 2023 at 6:33 am

    What a sad time. If people would look at what Jesus told us, then hold together, all will be well. Love our God and love our neighbors. Each church in the UMC finds its way to do this. There is no reason to disaffiliate. All this does is to destroy established churches and families. As one person mentioned, people are free to go to another church if they no longer agree with the umc. No one thinks of the people who did not want to leave the umc and the church they grew up in who now find themselves outside the umc. The disaffiliation process splits church families and that is not right. Love each other. Listen to Jesus.

  8. Comment by David Mu on January 5, 2023 at 9:04 am

    This divorce has been going on for nearly forty-some years. Even longer than my anti-gay sister and her divorce. That was just about three years, and the judge had the grace to end her endless greed for a ‘better’ deal for ending her ‘sacred’ bond.

    Too bad there isn’t an higher power that can grant the grace of ending this one. Like sis – stop being greedy kiddies. You aren’t going to get everything.

  9. Comment by Rachel on January 5, 2023 at 9:12 am

    As a queer person raised and confirmed in the UMC church, this is very hurtful to read. Other than a few conservative buzz words, there doesn’t seem to be much substance to this argument. The church I was raised and confirmed in has been wiped out by my allies and turned into something I don’t recognize. The physical building I watched build from the ground was taken from us by a close race, which included people that had not shown up for a regular non Christmas or Easter service since maybe ever. The loyal UMC worshippers have been driven out of the very building they built. It has been heartbreaking to watch.

    I would also ask that you consider for a moment, the plight of a queer person in this situation. The church that taught me so much of Jesus, his love, forgiveness, and his service has now decided that I am not a person worth fighting for, worth empathizing with, and who I was created to be (sorry, gay people are born like this. Trust me, it would be so much easier for this to be a choice, that we would all be straight if we could). No wonder people are turning away in record numbers.

    When the members who only show up to Christmas, Easter, and a once in a lifetime vote, go back to their own lives and keep showing up twice a year, the tithes will decrease, the buildings will be abandoned, the clergy will be hungry. The outcast UMC will still be there, and I’m sure will gladly welcome with open arms the people who rejected them (kind of reminds me of a god and some chosen people).

    If we cannot trust the leaders to be empathetic, understanding, and put themselves in our shoes when we push back or ask questions, how can we trust them with bigger aspects of life or the giant questions of faith? Their pride will be their downfall.

  10. Comment by George on January 5, 2023 at 2:37 pm

    Yes, Mr Johnson, like you said three times, “I’m not a Methodist “. So how would you understand why the faithful members of a church who have abided by the rules of the denomination and followed scripture want to keep the church building and property they sacrificed to build and keep. The church building where their children were baptized and confirmed. The church building where their loved ones funerals were conducted. The church building where they were married. The church building that gave them peace and joy as their sanctuary throughout tough times. Maybe if you were one of these Methodists you might understand why some are fighting for what’s right and just. Oh, yes I am a Methodist and not a United Methodist any longer.

  11. Comment by Dear Rachel, on January 5, 2023 at 10:53 pm

    I grieve when I read you post here. I am sorry to hear that you are hurt by the things you read here. I am also glad that you have the courage to write here and that you have made a commitment to Christ.

    The problem I have with what you say is that you say you are a ‘queer’ person, which I assume means you are a practicing lesbian. It hurts my soul that you take this mantle on your shoulders. That is not what God intended you to be, you were not made that way.

    I believe that you are sinning when you live the lifestyle you are living. If that offends you I am sorry, but it is the honest truth.

    Please try to understand that those who write here are just as human as you are. I am a sinner too, as all of us humans are, and I need to seek God’s forgiveness through Christ just like you do. And please note that there are many Christian heterosexuals who sexually sin, so it is not like somehow the traditionalists are writing this stuff from some high and lofty position and hate you because of your sexual practice.

    The point of the matter is I, and others here, believe that your lifestyle is wrong. It is not what God made you to be, and it harms you, your family, and our society. The church has believed this for thousands of years, and the Jewish people believed that for centuries before Christ came to the world. However, the UMC has now decided that it will follow the secular world and say that homosexual practice is perfectly normal and perfectly moral. Some people in the UMC even say that God created you to be queer, which is not true. Many in the church believe other patterns of sexual behavior are perfectly moral and perfectly normal as well.

    I and many others believe how you are living is morally wrong, and it is wrong to continue in a church that sanctions your behavior as normal and moral. It is not that we do not love and care for you as a person, and those in your church that you believe has destroyed do not hate you either. Likely all of us writing have know LGBT people who have been part of a church we belong to.

    I for one want you to become all that God created you to be, and I want to be all that God created me to be. For both of us that means we must strive to live rightly, sin less, and be more Holy, even as He is holy. Being told that you and I are wrong and knowing that we sin hurts, you and I do not want to hear that, no matter what the sin is.

    It does not mean we hate you, or God hates you. It means that in spite of the secular world’s view of sexuality, you are doing wrong. I do wrong things in many ways too and doing what is right is sometimes very difficult, and I fail. But not trying to be better and more holy is wrong.

    I will pray for you that you will change your lifestyle to become what God made you to be. I will pray for myself and the others here that we will not sound like we hate you. May you, I and others here understand the words of Jesus when He said “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32).

  12. Comment by David sellers on January 6, 2023 at 12:02 am

    After reading how heavily invested and involved you were in leading other out, I hope you were not serving a church during this time and had the ethical cojones to turn in your credentials.

  13. Comment by Traditionalist on January 6, 2023 at 6:43 pm

    I am grateful to the IRD and the WCA/GMC for news outlets like Juicy Ecumenism that tell Methodist churches what is actually going on. We are in the north Georgia conference where we have just been told in a boldly cynical move by an outgoing bishop that there is a pause on disaffiliation due to misinformation, with no specific examples given. We have had several meetings in our church, all above board, all according to the rules, all clearly posted, none attended by church staff. Each meeting allowed congregants to stand up and speak on an open mic and ask questions, no matter their perspective. The only misinformation I heard was in the meeting where the District Superintendent spoke. The DS assured us that the conference and the bishop were doing everything they can to uphold the Book of Discipline, that the UMC is a big tent of doctrinal diversity, and that traditionalist voices (did he mean donations?) are needed. So much political double-speak, obviously coming from prepared talking points supplied by the UMC. The big tent talk is nonsense….the opinions of the stay-UMC crowd toward traditionalists are clear from the comments on this article. At least this website allows dissenting opinions, quite unlike the Facebook pages of the North Georgia Conference or UM News, where dissenting comments are deleted. Talk about misinformation. We will maintain godly tactics to hold on to our church property, built decades before the founding of the UMC. But if we lose it, we will worship freely somewhere else, likely under a faithful denomination in the Wesleyan Holiness tradition like the GMC. Let Caesar have his money. The people in our church are furious at this political move by the conference. They will not support the UMC and this forceful attempt by the UMC to keep congregations under their thumb will not work. Even some progressives in our church now think we should leave. I pray the UMC lets us go, but we will be fine regardless.

  14. Comment by Amber on January 8, 2023 at 11:47 pm

    David, should the people who are encouraging pastors to violate the Book of Discipline they vowed to uphold also surrender their credentials while doing so? Why should those who simply want the denomination to follow its own rules and its stated position on the authority of Scripture surrender credentials when those who have demonstrated lack of any integrity or faithfulness to their own promises do not do so?

  15. Comment by Richard Buckner on January 9, 2023 at 3:13 pm

    My wife and I have left the UMC and will be taking RCIA classes at a local Catholic Church.

    Who is in charge of the UMC? Everybody….no…nobody! We are tired of the chaos and are continuing our spiritual journey somewhere stable. Something good will come out of this mess, even though we may not see it now.

  16. Comment by Jeff on January 12, 2023 at 9:38 pm

    Richard,

    >> Who is in charge of the UMC?

    Don’t know who the CEO is, but it’s pretty clear that satan has a seat or two on the board of directors. 😉

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