Disaffiliation FAQ

Clergy Withdrawal/Separation from UMC FAQs

Click on the link above for more information specifically related to clergy wishing to withdraw from The United Methodist Church.


Last updated March 2023 - Click here to download and print a copy

The scriptural, doctrinal, experiential, and reasoned discernment regarding the marriage of same-gender persons and the ordination of self-avowed and practicing gay clergy started 50 years ago during the 1972 General Conference and has continued to evolve over the past half-century. Since then, language regarding all people being of sacred worth, sanctions, and chargeable offenses under church polity have been enacted to prohibit the marriage and ordination of self-avowed practicing gay persons. In 2016, the General Conference appeared ready for a schism. General Conference delegates stood up and requested that the bishops get involved beyond merely presiding over the Commission on a Way Forward, which provided three possibilities known as the One Church Plan, the Connectional Plan, and the Traditional Plan. (See Commission on a Way Forward Report: What You Should Know) Those options were presented at a special session of the General Conference in 2019 in St. Louis. The Traditional Plan — which enhanced current policies in the Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church (BOD) about homosexuality and strengthens enforcement — was narrowly approved. Many clergy, laity, congregations, and UMC institutions lamented and resisted the outcome, and multiple annual conferences passed resolutions seeking to bypass the General Conference’s decision. In response to the growing unrest, a group of people representing traditional, progressive, and centrist views began meeting in the summer of 2019 (after the conclusion of the Called Special 2019 General Conference) and developed the Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation, or “The Protocol.” The Protocol is an agreement that, if approved by General Conference, would give U.S. churches and conferences leeway on same-sex marriage and ordination of self-avowed and practicing gay clergy. It also would allow traditional-leaning congregations and/or pastors to leave the UMC for another denomination — with churches being able to retain their property and assets in accordance with BOD ¶2553, which was adopted by the 2019 General Conference. (For more on The Protocol visit umnews.org/en/news/protocol-of-reconciliation-and-grace-through-separation-faq).

Church doctrines (teachings) do not change easily. Sometimes they change at a painstakingly slow pace. For example, the Church’s teaching on the age of the earth and the creation of the universe in six literal 24-hour days has reluctantly and gradually changed over millennia. There are now numerous permissible interpretations. Some Christians today still hold to a literal six-day week creation belief. Another interpretation is informed by the “day-age” Hebrew understanding for day (yom) which can represent long periods of time – even billions of years like modern science talks about. And yet another interpretation is the “framework” interpretation that conveys the sequencing of life-giving formations over billions of years. Today’s Church is comprised of faithful Christians that hold a broad spectrum of viewpoints on LGBTQ+ issues and who seek to discern Christian truth in ever-changing contexts considering Holy Scripture as the primary source, the Church’s historical teachings, human experience, and reason based on emerging human knowledge. To have these discerning discussions about human sexuality is a sign of our Christian faithfulness and quest as United Methodists for a vital and appropriate Christian witness.

Put simply, the Olympics and other sporting or entertainment events don’t have to handle legislation and floor debate. The General Conference is, at its most basic level, a large-scale, multi-national business meeting with more than 850 delegates comprised of people from more than a dozen time zones on four continents. For all elected delegates to have an opportunity to participate fully, translation has to be conducted in real-time, as is done when the meeting is conducted in person. If the meeting were to be conducted online, such as using Zoom or other videoconferencing software, participants would have to allow for delays — most likely lengthy ones — as speakers’ words are translated into English, French, Korean, Russian, German, Portuguese, and Tagalog. Allowances also would have to be made for slower internet speeds in some countries. Then, there is the reality of a complete lack of internet capabilities in some areas. For example, some delegates from the African continent would have to cross into the territory of warring tribes to participate, putting their lives in danger — a serious social justice concern. Add in pandemic-related travel restrictions and limitations on travel visas either allowing persons into the United States or to exit the delegates’ home countries and it’s perhaps a little easier to understand why a General Conference has been postponed to the next regularly scheduled year, which is 2024.

The protocol is still a possibility. In simple terms, The Protocol proposes the possibility of ordination of LGBTQ+ persons and for same-gender weddings to be performed by United Methodist Church (UMC) pastors away from or on UMC properties. It also proposes that churches and/or pastors who simply cannot in good conscience participate in such matters be allowed to separate from the UMC – the churches with their properties and assets in accordance with the provisions set forth in ¶2553 in the Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church (BOD), and clergy after their licenses are terminated and/or credentials surrendered if joining a denomination not recognized by the World Methodist Council of Churches. A significant amount of money — up to $25 million — would transfer from The United Methodist Church to the Global Methodist Church to help it start with a good financial foundation. It is important to note that “The Protocol” is still simply a legislative proposal and has not yet been discussed and discerned in committee or plenary during a General Conference meeting. The language of the proposal could be substituted and amended during debate and prior to vote by the General Conference. Most U.S.-based annual conferences have been living under the spirit of the Protocol since it was introduced prior to the pandemic and the expected General Conference in 2020. Dynamics have changed somewhat since then, with some churches leaving the UMC and, thus, no longer having an annual conference vote for delegates to the General Conference from their former annual conferences. Elections for delegates could play a major role in what transpires at the 2024 General Conference and if the Protocol or something similar will be given the support it needs to pass.

“The Protocol” is still an active legislative proposal to General Conference that is expected to be discussed in committee and, if the committee moves it forward, to be discerned, debated and voted upon by the General Conference in 2024. As one expression of reconciliation and grace through separation, bishops and annual conferences have agreed that, as of Jan. 1, 2020, all administrative or judicial processes addressing restrictions in the Book of Discipline related to self-avowed practicing homosexuals or same-sex weddings shall be held in abeyance through the adjournment of the first conference of the continuing United Methodist Church, post-separation. Clergy shall continue to remain in good standing while such complaints are held in abeyance.

The Global Methodist Church (GMC) is a new evangelical denomination born out of the work of traditional-leaning church leaders regarding scriptural interpretation and doctrinal standards. Wesleyan in its theology, the new church official launched its operations on May 1, 2022, meaning churches may begin joining the denomination.

- If the Church Leadership Team votes by a simple majority to explore disaffiliation, the Church Leadership Team should send a letter to their District Superintendent (DS) indicating their desire to explore disaffiliation.
- The DS will schedule an informative session to discuss the process, its requirements and estimated exit costs.
- The church enters a 30-day period of prayerful discernment. If after the 30-days of prayerful discernment, the church leadership chooses to proceed with disaffiliation, the DS will call a special church conference to address the request. The Church Conference will consider and vote on a resolution to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church. A two-thirds majority is required to approve the resolution. Only professing members present at the meeting may vote.
- If approved by the Church Conference the resolution will be presented to Annual Conference for a vote. A simple majority is required to approve the resolution by the Annual Conference.
- Churches who submit letters requesting disaffiliation in 2023, and who subsequently decide by a two-thirds majority vote to pursue disaffiliation will have their disaffiliation requests considered during the 2023 Central Texas Annual Conference scheduled for June 4-6, 2023.
- If approved by the Annual Conference, the disaffiliating church will then complete the remaining steps to disaffiliate with conference staff as directed by the Central Texas Conference Board of Trustees. These steps include:
- payment of any unpaid portion of 2022 Connectional Mission Giving (CMG – aka apportionments), and full payment of 2023 CMG.
- payment of the church’s exit liabilities as determined by Wespath, as well as any liabilities to the clergy retiree healthcare plan, and
- other steps as required by the Conference Trustees, including signing a Disaffiliation Agreement

Yes, if the church disaffiliates under ¶2553 or ¶2548.2 and completes all the required steps and exit costs, the Central Texas Conference releases any and all claims on all property and assets owned by the church. These include land and buildings, cash, investments, as well as furnishings or other personal property purchased by, or donated to, the congregation. A church disaffiliating under ¶2549 forfeits all claim on property and church assets.

There is NO URGENCY to decide on disaffiliation. While we cannot foresee what, if anything, will be decided by General Conference in 2024 related to “The Protocol” or any other disaffiliation legislation, there are provisions in the Book of Discipline (BOD) that allow a church to disaffiliate from the denomination in any given year if it decides to do so. When ¶2553 expires on Dec. 31, 2023, it is expected that ¶2548.2 will be the primary path for disaffiliation. The Central Texas Conferences intends to present and complete an agreement with the Global Methodist Church prior to the Dec. 31, 2023, deadline which will allow ¶2548.2 to be a viable path for disaffiliation. Churches that have prayerfully discerned a desire for disaffiliation this year, have until June 1 to appropriately notify their District Superintendent to have their disaffiliation request processed and considered during the Special Called Annual Conference this September. But for all others, there is no reason to rush this process. The best thing you and your church can do in this matter is to consider and ask questions about all aspects of disaffiliation carefully and prayerfully.

Churches that want to join the Global Methodist Church may follow the procedures outlined by that denomination at https://globalmethodist.org/the-process-for-congregations-to-join-the-global-methodist-church/.

While most of the information, resources and disciple-making ideas posted to the Central Texas Conference website and social media channels are open and available to all, many resources —i.e. grants, communications/IT support, benefits officer, Emergency Response Team Trainings, etc. — are available only to Central Texas Conference members and churches. Appointments of licensed and ordained UMC clergy to disaffiliated churches would no longer be available.

If your church disaffiliates and joins another denomination, that denomination will determine how pastors and churches come together. Churches and clergy disaffiliating to join another denomination, such as the Global Methodist Church or Free Methodists, should research how pastors are identified, credentialed, and installed. Disaffiliating churches that do not join another denomination and choose to be independent will need to direct church leadership to search for and vet a new pastor’s theological understanding, conduct background checks, etc.

Judicial Council Decision No. 696 in 1993 ruled that there is no disciplinary provision authorizing ordained United Methodist clergy to hold membership simultaneously in another denomination. Upon joining another denomination, membership in The United Methodist Church is terminated — meaning appointments are terminated, pastoral licenses are terminated, conference membership is withdrawn, and ordination credentials are surrendered to the bishop. Those interested in ordination in another denomination should research that denomination’s procedures.

Wespath is working with Global Methodist Church (GMC) leaders to negotiate if and how they will operate together. Any such plan would be a separate plan from existing United Methodist Church clergy retirement plans. These discussions are still ongoing as of this version of our FAQ document, so please check back later for updated information. That said, pensions are a covenant made with pastors who have served churches in the Central Texas Conference over the years. It is each church’s responsibility to fulfill their part of that covenant in accordance with the Book of Discipline (¶1504.23). The formula used to determine each church’s pension liability takes into account many factors, all aimed at ensuring pastors are cared for financially in their retirement years.

For management purposes, Wespath and the Central Texas Conference normally utilize a “funded basis” for calculating pension liabilities, and all three of our pension plans are currently funded at 115% or greater of their liabilities. Keep in mind that payments to participants under the current pension plans are expected to continue past 2097, so market volatility and changes in participant longevity is certainly a possibility. This funded basis assumes that should the conference ever find itself in a position where these plans were no longer adequately funded (most likely due to market volatility), we could go back to the local churches and request additional support to ensure these liabilities are fully funded. When a church disaffiliates, the Central Texas Conference can no longer ask for additional support to ensure adequate funding for these pension obligations. So, a different approach to calculating these liabilities, the “market basis,” is utilized instead. The market basis assumes no future contributions can be made and, therefore, plans must have sufficient funding to ensure all obligations can be met even in the event of a major downturn in financial markets. This approach is like what is required by secular plans that are sponsored by multiple employers, when one of the employers elects to leave and ceases supporting, the plan.

An unfunded pension liability means the projected payments to retirees via their pensions exceed funds already on hand. Wespath works hard to make accurate estimates using industry-accepted formulas. Wespath then works with annual conferences to ensure those obligations are met. This partnership is important because of the covenant made with pastors during their years of ministry that they will be provided for in retirement.

This is a provision that was set in motion by the adoption of ¶2553 of the Book of Discipline (BOD) – an addition to the BOD made by the 2019 General Conference. The conference and its member churches work together to fulfill our united mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. As an annual conference, budgets are determined each year, and multi-year objectives for such ministries as New Church Development and diversity and justice-related ministries are launched with the entire process over those years in mind. The requirement for payment of mission shares ensures that objectives agreed upon by the annual conference aren’t put in immediate jeopardy by the departures of churches.

This season of disaffiliation is calling us to discern afresh how we will Be UMC going forward and how we will lay the foundation for a missional-focused church that will bless and nurture the faith and witness of future generations. And now, given the accelerated decline in church attendance over the past three years and the negative economic impact brought by this season of disaffiliation, we know that business as usual is no longer possible.
Bishop Saenz believes that it is highly likely that conference boundaries will be realigned within our Jurisdiction and throughout all the United Methodist Jurisdictions in the U.S. by 2024  -- not only to sustain but to maximize our missional impact and witness. That is why, beginning in March 2023, The Central Texas Conference initiated a consultation process to proactively explore unifying the Central Texas, North Texas, and possibly the Northwest Texas Conferences.
This exploratory process will recommend how to best organize ourselves using adaptive and innovative 21st-century best practices that will enable us to effectively reach out and grow our spiritual and moral influence in our evolving mission fields. Furthermore, our exploration work will prepare us to hit the ground running as a unified conference immediately should the South-Central Jurisdictional Conference adopt new boundaries in September 2024.

The Central Texas Conference communications team will do its best to curate and post content to our conference website and social media platforms as it becomes available. However, Central Texas United Methodists are encouraged to look to other sources as well, such as United Methodist News Service, the ResourceUMC website, and umc.org. websites for The United Methodist Church and the Global Methodist Church.

A church conference extends the “vote to all professing members of the local church present at such meetings” (Book of Discipline ¶248). An important part of the disaffiliation process is to audit the church membership roll (Book of Discipline ¶231), which seeks to confirm the roll’s accuracy. If, during such an audit, it is learned that members have been “negligent of their vows or regularly absent from the worship of the church without a valid reason,” the pastor and congregation should make every effort to “reenlist the member in the active fellowship of the church” (Book of Discipline ¶22.2.b.1). This process is not to be used to delete someone simply because church leaders believe the person is no longer active. The process in the Book of Discipline for removing a person from the membership rolls of the church is detailed in Book of Discipline ¶228.2.b. When necessary, a church should follow that process very carefully.
The preceding collection of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) will be updated as new information is available or whenever necessary to addresses other questions that arise as we navigate this process together in Christian love and mutual respect.