Nine NEAC churches begin discernment about disaffiliation

September 26, 2019

Nine United Methodist congregations in the New England Conference have announced their intention of beginning the eight-month process of discernment regarding disaffiliation from The United Methodist Church.

Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar and the members of the Extended Cabinet responded with the following statement:

While the New England Conference would regret losing any member of the body, we, Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar and the members of the Extended Cabinet, understand that some congregations will choose to enter into the process of discernment about disaffiliation outlined by the 2019 General Conference and the 2019 New England Annual Conference.

It is important to note that there are many unknowns at this time – including the disaffiliation process itself, which is being considered by the Judicial Council in October 2019.

It is our hope and prayer that the 2020 General Conference will enable us to become a fully inclusive church.

As we await the decision of the Judicial Council and the results of the 2020 General Conference, we encourage all United Methodists to be in deep prayer and to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit filled with the love of Jesus Christ in these challenging days for our church.

The bishop was notified of the churches’ decision via emails sent to him from the congregations on Sept. 26, 2019.

They are:
  • Ballard Vale United Church, Andover, MA
  • Brackett Memorial UMC, Peaks Island, ME
  • Calvary UMC, Arlington, MA
  • Chebeague Island UMC, Chebeague Island, ME
  • Epiphany UMC, South Portland, ME
  • HopeGateWay, Portland, ME
  • Tuttle Road UMC, Cumberland, ME
  • Versailles UMC, Versailles, CT
  • West Scarborough UMC, West Scarborough, ME
A press release sent on behalf of the churches, states “these nine congregations have formally commenced their eight-month process of discernment … No decisions will be made before the 2020 Session of General Conference, slated for May 5-15, 2020 in Minneapolis.”

The disaffiliation processes approved by the 2019 General Conference and the 2019 New England Annual Conference are still under review; here’s why:

General Conference approved Petition 90066 that creates a disaffiliation path under a new Discipline ¶2553. But the finding of voter fraud at General Conference resulted in the vote to substitute the minority report for Petition 90066 (approved by just two votes; 402-400) to be considered void.

What that means for the validity of the disaffiliation process outlined in the new ¶2553 is not known at this point. The Judicial Council will consider this and other questions when it meets Oct. 29 to Nov. 1, 2019. (See the docket here.)

Legislation adopted by the 2019 Annual Conference regarding disaffiliation (RS-19-211) is also based on the new ¶2553, and the nine churches say they are following the process Annual Conference approved. The bishop was asked for a decision of law regarding RS-19-211 (his decision is included in the 2019 Journal). Review of that decision by the Judicial Council, routine for all rulings made by bishops, is also on the October docket.