Despite all of these issues with The United Methodist Church in 2021, there have been several bright spots.
- Dalton & Tomich PLC has helped fifty four (54) former local Methodist churches disaffiliated from their annual conferences in 2021 and all have grown. We are honored to be chosen by leading local Methodist churches throughout the United States as their legal counsel to help navigate them out of the UMC. Most of the local churches that have left, and desire to leave, are the larger, healthier churches within a conference. Unfortunately, due to the demands of the conference to limit exposure of local churches leaving, I cannot tell you which churches have left. I can inform you that we have worked in nearly all of the annual conferences throughout the United States in helping churches leave – either behind the scenes or upfront – and the result has been stunning. Every local church that has left has grown – dramatically. One church has increased attendance by over 1200 people a week since leaving the denomination. The message is this: a local church who does the hard work to leave the UMC can leave, retain their property and the result will be stunning growth.
- Several annual conferences have been surprisingly receptive to allowing local churches to leave. Each annual conference is independent of others with respect to their rules, processes and procedures with respect to local churches who disaffiliate. Some of the conferences have approached disaffiliation amicably while others are harsh. Over time, the attitudes of the annual conferences change – especially in the conferences that have been historically hostile to local pastors and churches who are not theologically aligned with their Bishop. As we work with most all annual conferences on a daily basis, we know what how they approach disaffiliation and how they change. It may be helpful for your local churches to check with us to see what the current “mood” of an annual conference is with respect to disaffiliation as their decisions frequently change.
- Independent church’s have learned that they do not need a denomination. In 2017, we commissioned a survey of Methodist clergy and leaders to find out what concerns they had with respect to disaffiliation. Clergy were overwhelmingly fearful of their District Superintendents and Bishops taking punitive actions against them and their families if they worked with the local church to move out of the denomination. The fear of clergy was that if they did not “tow the line,” the Bishop would move them out of their comfortable church to a tougher location,. Retired clergy, and those close to retirement, were fearful of the annual conferences manipulating pensions. On the other hand, leadership of the local churches feared being “alone” as an independent church without a connection as they were used too with a denomination. Over time, both of the fears have been removed. We take the time to address both clergy and laity concerns conference staff resulting in no punitive action being taken against our clients who have withdrawn from the denomination. And laity have found that a denomination was not needed as they could secure pastors and support missions on the own. As a result of this, most churches who have left the UMC have found that there truly is no need to be a part of new denomination.
We can help you navigate the difficult process of disaffiliation anywhere within the United States. If you wish to have a call, or a zoom meeting with your leadership team, to discuss your local church – or if you have general questions regarding your state law on religious property disputes, please reach out to Daniel Dalton at Dalton & Tomich PLC to discuss your case.