United Methodists are experts at creating excessively complicated processes. Below is a diagram for how you can become a pastor in the denomination. This was literally the simplest explanation I could find by any Conference, but I can see why few people understand the process.
I was going to diagram the process that a church would need to go through to leave the denomination (i.e., disaffiliation), but there was no way to make it nice and simple. Instead I made a video. Kind of funny that I can describe the whole pension liability in 6 minutes, but it took me 11 minutes to explain the disaffiliation process.
Here’s the main things you should know before watching the video:
- Do all churches need to vote to stay or leave? For a lot of churches, they’re content remaining United Methodist. A vote would likely stir up dissention. A church doesn’t need to vote to remain United Methodist…just to leave.
- For what reasons can a church leave? The process I describe in the video is only for churches that are leaving because they disagree with how the denomination is dealing with human sexuality (i.e., same sex marriages or homosexual pastors). This process is pretty clearly laid out in the Book of Discipline (linked below).
- What if my church wants to leave for other reasons? This is unclear. In the Dakotas, the preference is that churches follow the same process, but different conferences have followed different processes. Many will do the same as the Dakotas, but I’ve seen some use the provision for closing a church (¶2549) or the provision for transferring property to another denomination (¶2548.2). These processes are less defined and really leave it up to each Conference to make up the rules.
- Relevant Book of Discipline: https://www.dakotasumc.org/media/files/CONFERENCE/5_Conf_Finance_Benefits/Finance/2016boderrata.pdf
- Dakotas Process: https://www.dakotasumc.org/media/files/CONFERENCE/7_Conf_News/Revised%20Process%20for%20Disaffiliation%20with%20Edits%20June%209%202022.pdf
- Pension Liability Post: https://jctaccounting.com/2022/05/10/why-would-my-church-owe-a-pension-liability-if-we-vote-to-leave-the-umc/