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Delaying the UMC General Conference to deny a vote on the Separation Protocol

Written by Daniel P. Dalton on February 26, 2021 Category: Church Property Disputes/Denominational Splits

The United Methodist Church once again took steps on February 26, 2021 to ignore the concerns of local Methodist Churches and kick the proverbial can down the road of the schism within the denomination by rejecting the opportunity to have an amicable resolution to the disputes within the Church by rejecting a vote on the proposed Separation Protocol in 2021.

Here is what happened: The Council of Bishops (“COB”)  announced that there would be not be an in person General Conference this year, but there will be a virtual General Conference on May 8, 2021. However, the virtual General Conference will only address budgetary concerns of the denomination. This means that there will NOT be a vote on the Separation Protocol. Even though an in person General Conference was announced for September 2022, it is likely that it will not occur as the next regularly scheduled General Conference is scheduled for 2024.

The strategy of the Bishops is clear: they are trying to run out the clock so that there will not be a vote on the Separation Protocol. The Bishops have no desire to have a vote on the Separation Protocol and hope that enough churches will leave so that when there is a General Conference, there will not be enough support to approve a Separation Protocol. Clearly, the COB is confident in its technology that it can have a virtual General Conference in the next 60 days. Yet if they are confident enough to have a virtual General Conference on 12 topics related to the budget, then why not add an up or down vote on the issue of the Separation Protocol? The reason is that the COB  recognizes that (a) there are so many more local churches wanting out of the denomination than they thought, and (b) the financial ship is sinking for the denomination and they cannot afford to let local churches go.

The question that we have been asked is happens to a local Methodist Church if they do nothing and simply wait on the Bishops.

The answer is clear: there is a significant risk to your ministry and your property. Allow me to explain:

People will leave your church. More people are leaving the denomination than ever before. The issues that divide the UMC were to be resolved in 1972, then 2008, then 2012, then 2016, then 2018 and now in 2021.  The UMC is notorious for kicking the can down the road and never making a decision – because that is the easy thing to do and the COB lacks courage to make a decision. Meanwhile, over 7 million people in the United States have left the denomination in the past 40 years.  One million have left in the past two years.  Conferences are merging, churches shrinking and nothing changes – except people walking away. Can you risk this?  On the other hand, every church that has left the UMC has increased – substantially – since departing from the denomination

Apportionments will increase.The most recent data from the UMC confirms that giving is substantially reduced – 43% year over year – and the Episcopal fund (which pays the salary and benefits of the Bishops – will run out of money in just three years. There is no question that apportionments will increase. The only question is how much. Are you ready to pay much more than you currently pay and continue to receive no benefit from the denomination?

The cost of leaving will increase.  The first to leave always pay less than those who leave later. We have found this to be true in the Methodist world. We have recently helped a very large church leave, who, had substantial assets and the Conference wanted millions of dollars to exit. After much work, and extensive negotiations, the final buy out for a fraction of the demand. The longer the local church waits, the more likely it will pay more to leave.

You risk losing property your property. Even though the COB promised to stop closing local church properties and selling them to fill their empty bank accounts, many, many Bishops are doing the exact opposite. Closures are occurring at a rapid pace. If your property is on valuable land, you have an older congregation, you have a healthy endowment or bank account, you have no debt and your pastor is ready to retire – you are a target for being closed. Do you want to protect your ministry and preserve your assets? And do you want to be done with the infighting of a dying denomination?

Now is the time to take actions. Please call Dan Dalton and work with his team to guide you through the departure process.

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