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Bishops welcome Judicial Council clarification of disaffiliation process

Posted: August 25 2022 at 09:23 AM

The Council of Bishops expresses gratitude for the Judicial Council’s ruling that clarified that Paragraph 2548.2 of The Book of Discipline is not a process of church disaffiliation from The United Methodist Church but is rather a supplementary procedure for the purpose of deeding church property as permitted by other paragraphs of the Discipline in limited situations.

 In May this year, the bishops requested a declaratory decision from the Judicial Council on the meaning and application of Paragraph 2548.2.

“We are grateful that the Judicial Council has provided the clarity we need concerning a disciplinary paragraph that was believed to be ambiguous and subject to possible misinterpretation,” COB President Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton said. “Our goal was to seek clear direction concerning the processes that can be best used to facilitate appropriate, orderly, and amicable disaffiliations even as we continue to pray and work for the unity of the church.”

In its ruling (Decision 1449) released on Tuesday, the church’s high court said, “the process in ¶ 2548.2 may not be used as a pathway for local churches to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church.”

The court also noted that Paragraph 2548.2 pertains to deeding and transferring church property to another denomination but does not apply to the membership of a local church. 

The Judicial Council clearly identified that action of the General Conference is necessary before a body can be acknowledged as a “denomination.”  In addition, while the Judicial Council ruled that a comity agreement (referenced in ¶2548.2) is necessary in any property transfer, the comity agreement “must already exist that has been signed by the Council of Bishops and approved and ratified by the General Conference.”

As a result, the Judicial Council affirmed that “consequently, ¶2553 controls in matters of local church disaffiliation.”

Bickerton stated, “The clarity provided by our Judicial Council affirms that the work being done in annual conferences with ¶2553 as the standard is correct.  While we do not want any local church to leave the denomination, if they discern to do so, their departure must be guided by the provisions of ¶2553.”
Bickerton added, “While this decision has pleased some and disappointed others, I continue to invite every United Methodist, lay and clergy alike, to join me in a prayer for peace and civility as we walk through these days of challenge and uncertainty.”

Click to read full decision.

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