FAQ on Disaffiliation

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The denomination has also addressed many questions about the church's future in this series.

This list of Frequently Asked Questions is provided by Bishop Peggy A. Johnson and Conference leadership to aggregate general information from the denomination as well as specific information that applies to the New England Conference. Our goal is to provide accurate information and to dispel confusion about this process.

Updated Feb. 15, 2023


Three paragraphs in the current Book of Discipline may be used to complete a disaffiliation in which the congregation may retain much or all its property and assets. Only ¶2553 relates directly to disaffiliation¶2548.2, and, under some circumstances, ¶2549.3.b may be sometimes also be involved to address related property issues. 

The Council of Bishops and Judicial Council Decision 1449 have affirmed  ¶2553, added by the 2019 special called General Conference, as “the primary paragraph used for disaffiliation or separation.” They have also recognized that there may be some instances where ¶2548.2 or ¶2549.3.b may apply to how property matters are addressed. 

¶2553 outlines the steps the congregation, the district superintendent, and the conference must take to request, meet the criteria for, and complete a disaffiliation from The United Methodist Church. 

These provisions require, at a minimum, three things:

  1. a decision to disaffiliate by a two-thirds majority of the professing members present at a church conference (not charge conference);
  2. the payment in full of two years of that congregation’s apportionment (mission shares) commitment as set by the annual conference;
  3. the payment in full of the congregation’s pro-rata share of the conference’s pension liability, based on a formula approved by the annual conference.

Annual conferences may add to these requirements, and the NEAC has done so with legislation approved by the 2019 Annual Conference. NEAC’s process is outlined and governed by RS-19-211

In addition, the 2022 Annual Conference approved RS-22-227, which amends the process to include the following: “Upon the decision to enter into a discernment period, prior to the first listening session, the church shall provide the District Superintendent with its complete membership list including members’ contact information as available.”

May churches leave under Paragraph 2553 for reasons other than differences of belief concerning human sexuality?

No. The paragraph states that congregations may disaffiliate: “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 ….”

Why aren’t churches who disagree with the BOD asked to leave?       
No church has to disaffiliate. And no member of the UMC is required to leave when they disagree with the Book of Discipline. The UMC is made up of members who do not all agree on all matters. Every General Conference gives us an opportunity to discern together the rules that determine how we will live in covenant relationship.

What option for disaffiliation exists between Dec. 31, 2023 and any actions taken by General Conference in 2024?    
Current requirements for disaffiliation set a deadline of Dec. 31, 2023, for churches to leave the denomination using Para. 2553. A church can choose to leave the denomination at any time (without their property) using the guidelines set forth in the Trust Clause. Churches will need to wait until after the delegates vote at the General Conference session in 2024 to see if there are any changes made to church polity.

How many New England churches are currently engaged in the disaffiliation process? 

There are about 20 churches in later stages of the process. It will not be known until the April 1 deadline for Annual Conference legislation how many and which churches will bring disaffiliation resolutions to be voted on by Annual Conference. That information will be published in the Pre-Conference Materials.

Who is responsible for gathering the required materials and for writing/submitting the request to disaffiliate to the Annual Conference by April 1, 2023?

The church that is seeking to disaffiliate is responsible. 

See lines 1 through 128 from the following Disaffiliation Policy from the New England Conference UMC Board of Trustees  for an outline of the process, and see 129ff for specific information about what needs to be submitted when. (NOTE: The linked document was updated Feb. 26, 2023).

If a church has not already begun the process of disaffiliation, is it too late? 

Yes. The process outlined in RS-19-211 requires a minimum of eight months. Since any disaffiliation must be approved by the Annual Conference session and resolutions must be completed by April 1, 2023 to be considered by the conference delegates, the deadline for beginning the process was Aug. 1, 2022. 

Paragraph 2553 sunsets on Dec. 31, 2023.

How was this deadline information communicated to churches? 

RS-19-211 was published in the 2019 Journal. It, plus RS-22-227 which was published in the 2022 Journal, contains the requirements for the process. 

Will there be a special Annual Conference session to address disaffiliations not already underway? 

No. There will not be a special session unless a resolution changing or waiving the requirements of resolution RS-19-11 is passed at the 2023 Annual Conference session. See Judicial Council ruling 1425, which affirms the original process. 

How will the disaffiliation resolutions be handled at the 2023 Annual Conference session in June?

Each resolution will be voted on individually.

What happens if the Annual Conference votes “no” on a motion for disaffiliation?

The church cannot leave under the provisions outlined in ¶2553 A church can choose to leave (without their property) the denomination at any time using the guidelines set forth in the Trust Clause.

If a congregation is in the disaffiliation discernment process and wishes to stop the process, how do they do it? 

Discontinuing discernment requires a vote of the Administrative Board/Council. The Board/Council must take the vote on discontinuing discernment and then send a letter stating the result of the vote to the district superintendent.

Does a church have to vote or take any action to remain a part of The UMC and the New England Conference?


What happens if a pastor chooses to disaffiliate? 

From Conference Chancellor William Hewig:

“The Clergy status and conference relationship of any clergy persons appointed to or affiliating with the church shall be considered as a separate matter through the Conference Relations Committee of the Board of Ordained Ministry RS-22-227.”

United Methodist ordination certificates and conference membership certificates (as well as any licenses for non-ordained pastors) need to be turned in if one is disaffiliating. Ordained clergy must surrender their ordination papers and conference membership to the bishop. Licensed local pastors must surrender licenses to the district superintendent.

This action does not take away one's ordination from God; but, it does discontinue ordination or licensing in The United Methodist Church.

Ordination cannot stand alone apart from a body of accountability. If one simply has an ordination without accountability, it is lacking in integrity. United Methodists can no longer supervise the ordination of one of its pastors who has disaffiliated, thus the certificate needs to be returned to the Annual Conference. 

Another body — even a new denomination or an independent church — can recognize one's previous ordination.  A disaffiliating UM pastor should join with a body of believers who recognizes their ordination and stands in covenant with that pastor. 


Many general questions about the financial aspects of the disaffiliation process are answered in this FAQ created by Wespath Benefits and Investments

Below are some questions addressing the NEAC’s specific process:

When will churches know how much they will have to pay in unfunded pension liability in order to disaffiliate?

There are three points in the process when the unfunded pension liability (UPL) is calculated:

  1. Churches engaged in the disaffiliation discernment process submit a request for an impact statement outlining the payments required. The UPL is included in that statement.

  2. An updated UPL is provided at the end of the quarter immediately prior to Annual Conference (i.e. March 31) to offer the Conference and the local church a more current figure than is included in the impact statement.

  3. Finally, shortly before the actual date of disaffiliation, the UPL is calculated once again, and the lower figure (of items 2 & 3) is the amount for which the church will be held accountable. 

NOTE: There is one exception to the above: If the actual date of disaffiliation is before the end of June (when the Annual Conference session is held), then #2 and #3 are the same, and that is the amount owed by the church.

How is a church’s pro rata fair share of the unfunded pension liability determined by the conference?

Pensions calculates the conference-wide obligations, and the conference decides the pro rata share. RS-21-209 outlines the how pension liability is calculated

Is there any way to challenge the unfunded pension liability amount that is being asked for disaffiliation? 


Can unfunded pension liability be waived?


When a church disaffiliates, is it guaranteed that they can take all of their property and money (after paying the obligations required by disaffiliation and any outstanding loans held by United Methodist entities)?  

From Conference Chancellor William Hewig:

“The disaffiliating church shall have the right to retain its real and personal, tangible and intangible property. All property transfers must be made prior to disaffiliating, with all costs for property title transfers …”

Any funds that are specifically designated for United Methodist ministry (for example donations or bequests) cannot be taken. If you have questions about specific funds those can be addressed by the Conference Treasurer’s office.

When do churches need to pay what is owed to disaffiliate? 

Disaffiliation is complete only when all payments due are made in full, the annual conference has approved the motion of disaffiliation and the effective date of disaffiliation set by the annual conference is reached. All must be completed by December 31, 2023.

If the disaffiliating church has a current lawsuit while they are disaffiliating, will they take it with them? Does this also apply to a BSA lawsuit?

Yes. Paragraph 9 of our Revised Disaffiliation Agreement states as follows:

9. Future Liabilities. Notwithstanding the above paragraph, in the event that the Annual Conference is ever the subject of a claim for, or is held liable for any conduct of the Local Church for actions of the Local Church before the effective date of this Agreement, then the Local Church agrees to defend, indemnify and hold harmless the Annual Conference for any and all such liability. Examples of such liability may come from but are not limited to claims against the Annual Conference arising from a relationship between the Local Church and a local Boy Scout unit, or other forms of sexual harassment or assault allegations, or boundary line or property line disputes, or employment issues, or claims of general negligence or of tax matters, etc.

If there are further lawsuits that happened when they (the disaffiliating church) were United Methodist, does the disaffiliating church assume responsibility for the suit when they disaffiliate and become something else?

Yes. Paragraph 4 (c) of our Disaffiliation Agreement is intended to cover that, and it provides as follows:

(c) Other Liabilities*. Local Church shall either satisfy all of its debts, loans and liabilities (including to the United Methodist Foundation of New England), or assign or transfer such obligations to its new entity. Local Church must provide sufficient documentation of same to Annual Conference. 

*The term “liabilities” as used within this section 4 (c) is specifically intended to include any lawsuits against the  Local Church existing at the time of the disaffiliation date, which suits will be included among all other liabilities transferred or assigned to the new entity, and documentation for which transfer or assignment must be included with the documentation of other liabilities provided to the Annual Conference prior to its vote on disaffiliation. 


What is the current position of the UMC on homosexuality?    
The United Methodist Church affirms that sexuality is “God’s good gift to all persons.” This affirmation begins the denomination’s statement on Human Sexuality. It is one of several statements describing the church’s teachings on sexuality.

The Church affirms that all people are of sacred worth and are equally valuable in the sight of God. It is committed to be in ministry with all people. The Church “implores families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends.”

Underlying this is the constitutional principle of inclusiveness of the church. Everyone is welcome to worship and actively participate in the life of our churches. Laypersons may become members and live out their faith through their local church without respect to sexual orientation or practice.

The Church deplores acts of hate and violence against people based on sexual orientation or gender identity and believes human rights and civil liberties are due all people, regardless of sexual orientation.

Homosexuality was first openly debated at General Conference in 1972, four years after the formation of The United Methodist Church, resulting in the addition of first statement on homosexuality. While affirming belief that persons of homosexual orientation are persons of sacred worth who need the ministry and guidance of the church, the statement added that the church “does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.” [Timeline: https://www.umnews.org/en/news/gc2016-tackling-44-year-stance-on-homosexuality]

Since that time, the church has maintained the position that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” This draws a distinction between orientation and practice, or behavior. Sexual relations are affirmed only within the covenant of monogamous, heterosexual marriage. The United Methodist Church supports laws that define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

Based on these positions about homosexual practice and marriage, the Church has also maintained restrictions regarding clergy. Pastors may not be “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals” and may not conduct ceremonies that celebrate same-sex weddings or unions.  Such ceremonies also may not be held on church property.

With a body of over 12 million members globally, United Methodists are not of one mind about how to be in ministry with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. Some members feel strongly that the church should uphold its current stances regarding gay clergy and marriage. Others strongly advocate for inclusion of LGBTQ Christians in all aspects of life in the church.

When will the decision be made as to whether to change the Book of Discipline regarding human sexuality questions? 
While the church has official statements regarding homosexuality, all members can disagree with the church’s positions and can advocate for change in policy. The General Conference has debated these questions at every session since 1972, with very few significant changes. However, changes to the language are possible whenever the General Conference meets, which is usually every four years. The 2020 Session of General Conference has been postponed three times due to Covid. Currently, it is expected to meet in May 2024.    

Will clergy in the NEUMC be forced to perform ceremonies against their conscience and belief, and punished if they do not?

No. This is covered in ¶340.2.a.3a “(a) … The decision to perform the ceremony shall be the right and responsibility of the pastor.”

Will more traditional congregations be forced to receive LGBTQIA+ pastors?  

The bishop and Cabinet strive to make missional appointments that are based on the best match of the gifts and needs of pastors and congregations.   

Will there be a place for more traditional clergy and congregations in the NEUMC?

While the New England Conference has been at the forefront in seeking a fully inclusive church,     our Conference has also embraced and celebrated our theological diversity. The New England Declaration, adopted by the 2022 Annual Conference, is an aspirational document that lays out a vision of justice acknowledging that “we are to be a beloved community that not only welcomes and includes all people, but strives for the freedom and flourishing of each person as the full expression of God’s liberating love.”

The full text can be found on our website under the Resources tab: The New England Declaration