This is the third letter in a series about congregations seeking to disaffiliate from the UMC. The first two letters addressed:
- The heart of the matter.
- Who GNJ will be.
- GNJ’s focus.
- Foundational beliefs, theology, and commitments.
- Pathways for GNJ and your congregation’s future.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to God, and your paths will be straight.
Dear United Methodist Laity and Clergy in GNJ,
At this time, we are encountering what Methodism has faced several times since its inception in 1784, churches disaffiliating from the denomination. In the past, it has been because of slavery, women in ministry, integration of the church, and today it is because of different beliefs about ministry with and by LGBTQ persons. Let me be clear, LGBTQ persons are not the reason for our differences, our differences are because of our own beliefs, traditions, understandings, and attitudes.
The GNJ elected and staff leadership have chosen to be transparent in sharing information about and how churches may disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church (UMC) and GNJ for a limited disaffiliation under paragraph 2553 in The Book of Discipline (…”for reasons of conscience regarding a change in the requirements and provisions of the Book of Discipline related to the practice of homosexuality or the ordination or marriage of self-avowed practicing homosexuals as resolved and adopted by the 2019 General Conference, or the actions or inactions of its annual conference related to these issues which follow.” -paragraph 2553 of The United Methodist Book of Discipline)
In this letter, I will share the steps and costs of disaffiliation.
There are seven steps to the disaffiliation process.
- Request to Explore and Discern Disaffiliation – A Congregation’s Church Council votes to explore and discern disaffiliation and the Pastor notifies the District Superintendent of the desire to engage in the disaffiliation process. Timeline – June through September 2022.
- Discernment and Congregational Vote – Two Guides, appointed by the Cabinet and the Connectional Table, will work with a Congregation to explore disaffiliation. At least one will be a clergy elder of the church. Both will be trained in leading the process. The Guides will receive a stipend from the congregation for leading the disaffiliation discernment process. Timeline – up to six months starting in September/October of 2022.
- Relationship Covenant – Once a congregation votes to disaffiliate, the Guides will present and guide the congregation through a covenanting process about: A) ministries that may be continued to be shared with GNJ; and B) communication during the disaffiliation period. Timeline – up to one month once a congregation votes to disaffiliate.
- Due Diligence – The Congregation gathers materials and documents necessary for disaffiliation including a review of the church deed(s). The Guides work with the congregation to respond to questions and gather all of the materials for presentation to the GNJ Board of Trustees. Timeline – up to two months once a congregation votes to disaffiliate.
- Term Sheet Review and Vote – The Term Sheet outlining the terms and costs of disaffiliation is prepared by the GNJ Board of Trustees and voted on by the Disaffiliating Congregation’s representative body. Timeline – up to two months once the congregation votes to disaffiliate. Must be completed by March 31, 2023.
- Annual Conference Approval – Annual Conference regular session votes to approve a Congregation’s disaffiliation. Timeline – 2023 regular session of Annual Conference in May.
- Fulfill the Requirements of the Term Sheet – The disaffiliating Congregation makes all payments and fulfills the requirements for disaffiliation in the Term Sheet. Timeline – fulfillment of the Term Sheet must be completed by the day of disaffiliation and no later than December 31, 2023, in order for a congregation to disaffiliate.
This may be an anxious time for some United Methodists and congregations. I invite all of us to trust in the Lord with all our hearts and lean not on our own understanding; in all our ways submit to God, and our paths will be straight. – Proverbs 3:5-6
In this season of disaffiliation, the road for disaffiliation will not be a straight line, from point A to point B. Discernment and making difficult decisions can be messy. There will be challenges, twists and turns along the way. We are inviting congregations into a time of discernment which leads from your heart to the heart of God, where there is peace, grace, hope and joy. Traveling from your heart to God’s heart can be a straight path as you humble yourself and stay open to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Whether your congregation decides to enter into the disaffiliation discernment process or not, this is a time I invite you to recommit your heart connection with God. I also ask you to pray for one another, regardless of your beliefs and commitments. Even in a time of differences, we are made one by the love of God through Jesus Christ.
I am sure many have further questions about the process. Here is an FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) about disaffiliation. As other questions arise, let us know. We will continue to regularly update your questions on our website. The page on disaffiliation may be found here.
Thank you for being United Methodist. God has a great future for us in GNJ.
Keep the faith!
Bishop John Schol
The United Methodists of Greater New Jersey
Equipping transformational leaders for
New Disciples | Vital Congregations | Transformed World
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