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Eight churches approved for disaffiliation from Northern Illinois Conference UMC

Posted: June 6 2023 at 06:00 PM
Author: Victoria Rebeck


The disaffiliation of eight churches was approved by lay and clergy members of Northern Illinois Conference of The United Methodist Church in its 184th annual session on June 6.

These churches had signed disaffiliating agreements with the conference and were eligible for consideration: Calvary UMC in Stockton, McConnell UMC, Faith Evangelical UMC in Elmhurst, Fenton UMC, Plano UMC, Van Brocklin-Florence UMC in Freeport, La Luz UMC in Elgin, and Willow UMC.

Earlier this year, 18 churches expressed interest in disaffiliating. Ten of these took the step of taking a church-wide vote on the decision. Eight have signed disaffiliation agreements.

These churches had completed all the steps toward disaffiliation as required by ¶ 2553 of The United Methodist Book of Discipline. They demonstrated that they have the means to fulfill the financial requirements of the agreement.

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Approval of these disaffiliations is contingent on the churches’ completing all the terms by June 30, 2023. The approval will be null and void for churches that don’t make the June 30 deadline.

The significance of disaffiliation in the UMC (a world-wide denomination comprising 13 million members) is that for the first time, the UMC has provided a process through which churches may leave the denomination with their property. Annual conferences, which are regional bodies of the UMC, may add requirements to the minimum conditions set forth in ¶ 2553.

This process—which expires on Dec. 31, 2023—came out of the denomination’s 2019 General Conference in response to a decades-long conflict over the role and status of LGBTQ people in the denomination. At this time, the Book of Discipline, which contains the denomination’s policies and procedures, prohibits the ordination of “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals” and disallows clergy from conducting marriages of same-sex couples (churches are also prohibited from hosting such marriages). All of the relevant rules can be found here.

Churches that, for reason of conscience related to these matters, may pursue disaffiliation. The new rule in ¶ 2553 sets aside the trust clause for such churches if they fulfill the process requirements.

Those that successfully disaffiliate become independent until or unless they decide to unite with another denomination. They are no longer accountable to their former annual conference nor eligible for services from it.

Rev. Nancy Blade, chair of the NIC Board of Trustees, explained to conference members in detail the steps that the NIC staff and inquiring churches took and the precise decisions that had to be made before a disaffiliation agreement was prepared.

Bishop Dan Schwerin, the spiritual leader of the NIC thanked conference members for holding these churches in their prayers.

“We bless the work these churches have done and the parting of long-time congregations,” he said.

Following the vote, conference members joined in a litany, in which they acknowledged that they are siblings in Christ with those who are leaving. They also recited Ephesians 4:4-6: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”

“We part with mercy,” the conference members prayed. “We commend to Almighty God our siblings in the Holy Spirit.”

Then Bishop Schwerin prayed that God would “heal the scars of our division. Raise us to new life. Bind the wounds of the brokenhearted.”

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