Aug 25, 2022
A Church Affiliation Team (CAT) has been formed to gather and share information regarding the options available to FUMCA for 1) remaining affiliated with the UMC or 2) disaffiliating from the UMC and joining another denomination or becoming independent. Members of CAT were nominated by the Nominations Committee, and each of the following members accepted the nomination: Winston Rushing, Chair (email@example.com, 352-318-1421) David Spencer, Co-Chair (firstname.lastname@example.org) Lloyd Whann, Co-coordinator of Research (email@example.com, 352-258-8295) Penny Haskins, Co-coordinator of Research (firstname.lastname@example.org, 352-219-3247) Teresa McCarty, Coordinator of Information (email@example.com, 352-538-0021) Wendy Seale (firstname.lastname@example.org, 352-229-9919) Rack Bingham (email@example.com, 352-224-8507) Ted Wilson (firstname.lastname@example.org, 352-562-3939) The purpose of CAT is to research and gather available information on topics related to affiliation/disaffiliation, and attempt to provide factual, unbiased information to the Church based on sound, fact-based, documented resources. CAT is NOT to decide or even make recommendations on the best path forward, it is merely a fact-finding team. CAT reports to the Church Council. CAT will be providing information to the church family in a variety of ways, including this website, email, church newsletter, and Town Hall meetings. Any questions church members have that are not already covered on the CAT information page can be provided to one of the CAT Team members via the website, email, text, phone or in person (at a time other than Sunday mornings during the time set aside for worship and fellowship) and the CAT team will attempt to provide answers. An email address will also be provided for members who have questions regarding the choice regarding disaffiliating or remaining with the UMC. CAT was tasked with meeting monthly for a total of one year. Currently CAT is meeting twice a month to help put together the resources to share with the church family as soon as possible. Updates will be provided to the church family as soon as they are available. Please feel free to contact any of the CAT members either in person, by email, text or phone if you have questions you would like to have answered. We will do our best to help provide the information you need to make an informed, prayerful choice regarding the best path forward for our church. United Methodist Church Book of Discipline, Paragraph 2553 As of this date, Paragraph 2553 of the Book of Discipline governs procedures by which a local church can be granted permission to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church and depart with its property and other assets. It is important for us to carefully and prayerfully read and understand the contents of Paragraph 2553. The entire contest is included below. Please reach out to any member of CAT if you have any questions regarding this paragraph. Book of Discipline: ¶2553. Disaffiliation over Human Sexuality The following is the complete context of the Book of Discipline: ¶2553. Disaffiliation over Human Sexuality NEW ¶ 2553, page 776. [This new paragraph became effective at the close of the 2019 General Conference.] Section VIII. Disaffiliation of Local Churches Over Issues Related to Human Sexuality ¶ 2553. Disaffiliation of a Local Church Over Issues Related to Human Sexuality— 1. Basis—Because of the current deep conflict within The United Methodist Church around issues of human sexuality, a local church shall have a limited right, under the provisions of this paragraph, to disaffiliate from the denomination for reasons of conscience regarding a change in the requirements and provisions of the Book of Discipline related to the practice of homosexuality or the ordination or marriage of self-avowed practicing homosexuals as resolved and adopted by the 2019 General Conference, or the actions or inactions of its annual conference related to these issues which follow. 2. Time Limits—The choice by a local church to disaffiliate with The United Methodist Church under this paragraph shall be made in sufficient time for the process for exiting the denomination to be complete prior to December 31, 2023. The provisions of ¶ 2553 expire on December 31, 2023 and shall not be used after that date. 3. Decision Making Process—The church conference shall be conducted in accordance with ¶ 248 and shall be held within one hundred twenty (120) days after the district superintendent calls for the church conference. In addition to the provisions of ¶ 246.8, special attention shall be made to give broad notice to the full professing membership of the local church regarding the time and place of a church conference called for this purpose and to use all means necessary, including electronic communication where possible, to communicate. The decision to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church must be approved by a two-thirds (2/3) majority vote of the professing members of the local church present at the church conference. 4. Process Following Decision to Disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church—If the church conference votes to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church, the terms and conditions for that disaffiliation shall be established by the board of trustees of the applicable annual conference, with the advice of the cabinet, the annual conference treasurer, the annual conference benefits officer, the director of connectional ministries, and the annual conference chancellor. The terms and conditions, including the effective date of disaffiliation, shall be memorialized in a binding Disaffiliation Agreement between the annual conference and the trustees of the local church, acting on behalf of the members. That agreement must be consistent with the following provisions: a) Standard Terms of the Disaffiliation Agreement. The General Council on Finance and Administration shall develop a standard form for Disaffiliation Agreements under this paragraph to protect The United Methodist Church as set forth in ¶ 807.9. The agreement shall include a recognition of the validity and applicability of ¶ 2501, notwithstanding the release of property therefrom. Annual conferences may develop additional standard terms that are not inconsistent with the standard form of this paragraph. b) Apportionments. The local church shall pay any unpaid apportionments for the 12 months prior to disaffiliation, as well as an additional 12 months of apportionments. c) Property. A disaffiliating local church shall have the right to retain its real and personal, tangible and intangible property. All transfers of property shall be made prior to disaffiliation. All costs for transfer of title or other legal work shall be borne by the disaffiliating local church. d) Pension Liabilities. The local church shall contribute withdrawal liability in an amount equal to its pro rata share of any aggregate unfunded pension obligations to the annual conference. The General Board of Pension and Health Benefits shall determine the aggregate funding obligations of the annual conference using market factors similar to a commercial annuity provider, from which the annual conference will determine the local church’s share. e) Other Liabilities. The local church shall satisfy all other debts, loans, and liabilities, or assign and transfer them to its new entity, prior to disaffiliation. f) Payment Terms. Payment shall occur prior to the effective date of departure. g) Disaffiliating Churches Continuing as Plan Sponsors of the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits Plans. The United Methodist Church believes that a local church disaffiliating under ¶ 2553 shall continue to share common religious bonds and convictions with The United Methodist Church based on shared Wesleyan theology and tradition and Methodist roots, unless the local church expressly resolves to the contrary. As such, a local church disaffiliating under ¶ 2553 shall continue to be eligible to sponsor voluntary employee benefit plans through the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits under ¶ 1504.2, subject to the applicable terms and conditions of the plans. h) Once the disaffiliating local church has reimbursed the applicable annual conference for all funds due under the agreement, and provided that there are no other outstanding liabilities or claims against The United Methodist Church as a result of the disaffiliation, in consideration of the provisions of this paragraph, the applicable annual conference shall release any claims that it may have under ¶ 2501 and other paragraphs of The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church commonly referred to as the trust clause, or under the agreement. Timeline for Exercising 2553 The only process currently available and recognized by the UMC Florida Annual Conference to disaffiliate is Paragraph 2553 of the Book of Discipline. This paragraph was added during the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference. Paragraph 2553 will sunset (no longer available for churches to use to disaffiliate) on December 31, 2023. The last and final opportunity for a church to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church using Paragraph 2553 from the Book of Discipline will be at the Florida Annual Conference in June 2023. The timeline included below has been put together to give the members of the First United Methodist Church of Alachua the opportunity to vote on whether or not to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church. A vote to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church would include being released from the Trust Clause, meaning the church property/properties would no longer be held in trust for benefit of the United Methodist Church. 1. Discernment Process – This process has already begun with the presentations made by Rev. Alex Shanks of the United Methodist Church and Rev. Jay Therell of the Wesleyan Covenant Association (for the Global Methodist Church) (this meeting was attended by our DS Wayne Wyatt). The presentations were made in January 2022. Possibility DS will want to meet with designated leaders or entire church membership. 2. Fall 2022 – (Scheduled Church Conference sometime before February 2023) - Church considers the disaffiliation process (Town Hall Meetings, Congregation Question and Answer Sessions) - Begin check list provided by conference including (find out cost for disaffiliating, path if disaffiliation is approved, etc.) - Notification of the District Superintendent calling for church conference - Schedule Church Conference 2a. October 15, 2022 Letter to United Methodist Church to notify DS church desires to entertain a church conference vote regarding disaffiliation: Notify, by email or letter, its District Superintendent with copies to the Annual Conference Treasurer (Craig Smelser) and the Episcopal Office (Rev. Alex Shanks). 3. November 1, 2022 – District Superintendent notification and scheduling of Church Conference for a vote on disaffiliation. Paragraph 2553 requires a Church Conference to be held for a vote within 120 days after the DS calls for the Church Conference (The question here is when can a church conference get on the DS’s schedule. His schedule is getting busy). The BOD also requires a notice period of 10 days (Paragraph 246.7) for notification of members and the purpose of the meeting. 4. December 2022 – February 2023 – Church Conference held for a vote on disaffiliation (this is dependent on the DS schedule and information that is supplied to church by the conference i.e., ballot). (February puts a lot of pressure from this point further, however this item is not totally in our control.) THIS POINT FURTHER DEPENDS ON THE RESULT OF THE VOTE. 2/3 OF VOTES TO DISAFFILIATE WOULD RESULT IN GOING FURTHER. 5. March 2023 – Legal paperwork prepared and insurance binders acquired. 6. April 15, 2023 – Petition is prepared for inclusion in the Annual Conference Agenda. (April 2023 – Deadline for the request for disaffiliation to be included on the agenda for the June 2023 Annual Conference.) 7. May 2023 – Church finalizes all documentation related to the disaffiliation. 8. June 2023- Annual Conference to vote on the request for the First United Methodist Church of Alachua to disaffiliation from the United Methodist Church. 9. July – December 2023 – Secure insurance, payment to Florida Conference for apportionments and pension liability. Release of Trust Clause complete. Timeline for Allowing Local Church to Exercise 2553 (Table format) DATE/TIME FRAME/NOT LATER THAN ACTION ITEM 11-Oct-22 LOCAL CHURCH church council votes to allow church membership to entertain a vote on P. 2553 15-Oct-22 LOCAL CHURCH communicates with District Superintendent they desire to entertain a vote under P. 2553 15-Oct-22 LOCAL CHURCH Letter to District Office (copy Annual Conference Treasurer and Assistant to Bishop). Jan-22 LOCAL CHURCH and DS Information Meeting with the following present: Pastor, Lay Leader, Church Council Chair, Finance Chair, Trustees Chair, SPRC Chair, and Lay Member to Annual Conference. (Possibly need another meeting, could be for entire membership of just mandatory leaders listed. This would be for the DS to meet with us.) Nov-22 District Superintendent communicates with the Local Church regarding the church's eligibility to disaffiliate under P. 2553. Upon his approval starts process to schedule Church Conference. Can be up to 120 days. Nov-22 Annual Conference Treasurer through the District Superintendent communicates with the Local Church the potential amount the Local Church would owe upon disaffiliation. Completed after vote if necessary LOCAL CHURCH asked to provide documentation: Last statement of all bank accounts, latest financial statement, and balance sheet; documentation of any debt; information and balances on endowments and restricted gifts; copies of all deeds and key contracts; copies of leases and loan documents; documentation of grants received from the Annual Conference or District; within the past 10 years; information on cemetery or columbarium; information on Boy Scouts of America Charter Organization; names of the Church's Secretary and Chair and Vice Chair of its Board of Trustees; the name of any successor church to which its if necessary property will be transferred after disaffiliation; list of real and personal property and legal descriptions for real property; list of insurance policies and renewal dates (if any are not provided by Ministry Protection Dept. of Annual Conference Completed after vote if necessary Ministry Protection provides the schedule of insured property of the church from the property and casualty insurance provided to the church. Pending vote The Pastor provides in writing his intentions as to whether he will remain with the UMC, retire, or surrender credentials to continue to lead the disaffiliated church. Letter sent 11/21 then begins possible 120 days 12/21 - 2/23 LOCAL CHURCH sends the District Superintendent a letter requesting a Church Conference for the purpose of disaffiliation, indicating a disaffiliation date. That date must be after the Annual Conference in June 2023. The DS must schedule the local Church Conference within 120 days after the DS calls for the local Church Conference. 1/22 - 2/23 Annual Conference Treasurer prepares a document for Local Church to review prior to the local Church Conference. The document includes the pension and apportionment obligations and any other fees the church would be responsible for. Page 1 of 4 8/5/2022 Time Line for Allowing Local Church to Exercise 2553 12/22 - 2/23 The Conference prepares a disaffiliation resolution to be voted upon as the local Church Conference along with a written ballot with a process for ensuring those who receive a ballot are professing members of the Local Church. Must have this for church conference. 12/22 - 2/23 The LOCAL CHURCH Conference is held. The Disaffiliation Resolution must be approved by 2/3 of professing members in attendance. If disaffiliation is approved, the matter is turned over to the Conference Board, Annual Conference Treasurer, and Assistant to the Bishop. If disaffiliation is not approved, the process concludes. 12/22 - 2/23 The DS sends the Disaffiliation Resolution and vote count to the Annual Conference Trustees through the Annual Conference Treasurer and Assistant to Bishop with a copy to the Chancellor. 2/23 - 4/15/2023 The Annual Conference team turns the information over to the Conference Board Disaffiliation Sub-Committee and works with that group and the LOCAL CHURCH to prepare a Disaffiliation Agreement and Annual Conference Petition prior to April 15, 2023 if it is to be included on the agenda of the current year Annual Conference Session. Petitions for disaffiliation cannot be accepted after that deadline without approval by the Episcopal Office. Jun-23 The Annual Conference Session regular meeting in June of 2023 votes upon the disaffiliation. The required simple majority vote is certified by the Annual Conference Secretary. 6/23 - 7/23 The LOCAL CHURCH prepares a final statistical report. 6/23 - 7/23 The LOCAL CHURCH will work with the Archives for the Annual Conference to turn over originals or acceptable copies of church archives, membership rolls, and other historical documents related to funerals, baptisms, weddings, minutes, etc., of the Local Church for archiving with the Annual Conference. Page 2 of 4 8/5/2022 Time Line for Allowing Local Church to Exercise 2553 6/23 - 7/23 The LOCAL CHURCH completes any requirements of the Disaffiliation Agreement. BOD 2553.4 requires the terms and conditions of disaffiliation to be "memorialized in a binding disaffiliation agreement" which shall be established by the Conference Board with advice from other Annual Conference leaders. Standard terms of disaffiliation include: 1. Recognition of the validity of the Trust Clause 2. Unpaid apportionments for 12 months immediately prior to disaffiliation (calculated by Annual Conference) 3. An additional 12 months of apportionments as calculated by the Annual Conference 4. An amount equal to the Local Church's pro rata share of the Annual Conference's unfunded pension liability 5. Any unpaid pension invoices from the Florida Annual Conference Board of Pensions Also included: 6. Pay any unpaid salary and/or benefits due to the appointed clergy of the Local Church 7. Pay and unpaid pension invoices from the Annual Conference Board of Pensions for the current clergy under appointment 8. Pay any unpaid outstanding invoices from our Ministry Protection Insurance 9. Provide indemnity to the Annual Conference for all future claims made against the Local Church whether those claims result from actions that took place before or after the disaffiliation. 10. The disaffiliating Local Church must obtain its own property, casualty, liability, worker's comp, and other kinds of insurance according to the terms of the disaffiliation agreement. 11. The disaffiliating Local Church must obtain insurance coverages according to the terms of the disaffiliation agreement which includes 3 full calendar years of coverage with specific limits and retroactive dates and endorsements, including commercial general liability, pastoral professional liability, sexual abuse and molestation liability, and names the Conference as additionally insured 12. The Local Church has provided sufficient documentation to the Annual Conference proving that the Local Church has either satisfied all its debts, loans, and liabilities or assigned/transferred such obligations to its new entity. 13. The Local Church is aware that with the signing of the Disaffiliation Agreement it is releasing any claims upon the Annual Conference and covenants not to sue the UMC, and releases and discharges the UMC from any liability for any and all causes of action and claims. 14. The Local Church has confirmed that it has no pending lawsuit, charge, complaint, or other action against the UMC or any of its officers. Jul-23 A Charge Conference must be held for property and debt transfers. Jul-23 The LOCAL CHURCH changes the name on banking accounts, insurance, etc., and files new deeds with the Clerk of the Court. The Local Church will remove the Cross and Flame logo and the mention of UMC from signage, websites, domain names, stationary, or any other intellectual property of the denomination and/or the Annual Conference including removal of all signage. Jul-23 The LOCAL CHURCH obtains new state and federal tax identification numbers, as well as, new withholding accounts with the state and federal taxing authorities. The Local Church will need to apply for tax exempt status with the IRS to obtain 501(c)(3) status. Jul-23 The LOCAL CHURCH will apply for its own tax exemption with the counties in which it owns real property so it maintains the tax-exempt status of its property.