The Holston Chapter of the Wesleyan Covenant Association recommends that traditional Methodist churches wanting to leave the United Methodist Church seek legal assistance as they proceed with their efforts to depart.
Churches within the Holston Conference have formed a coalition to explore what legal options might be available, seeking advice from the National Council on Life and Liberty, a nonprofit legal ministry established “to protect and defend the Bible-based values upon which our nation was founded: church liberties, parental liberties, individual liberties, and issues of life.” More information about the NCLL can be found at ncll.org.
“In addition to being unfair, the disaffiliation terms being presented by our bishop and conference officials create what is certainly a legal, contractual process, and it makes no sense for churches to enter such a process without legal representation,” said the Rev. Chuck Griffin, president of the Holston WCA. “The NCLL provides specific expertise in this area, in a way that is affordable even for small churches.”
The NCLL will help churches seek exit options not currently promoted by the Holston Conference. NCLL lawyers also are willing to represent churches choosing to go through the conference-defined disaffiliation process.
Wednesday, NCLL attorneys filed a lawsuit on behalf of 105 Florida UMC churches, suing the UMC’s Florida Annual Conference for relief from onerous disaffiliation terms.
Churches concerned about protecting their legal rights as they depart the UMC can contact the Holston WCA at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling the NCLL directly at (888) 233-6255.
Link to Complaint Filed in Florida
Article: Pension Liability Data Online
Pension liability data for all United Methodist churches in the Holston Conference are now online. The information is not easy to find, but we will try to help. Before you begin, you will want to know your church’s GCFA Church Number, as the data table is organized by that number rather than by church name. That church number is at the top of your annual report to the conference.
You also probably should read all the way to the bottom of this article before you begin clicking links.
Step 1: Go to the Conference Disaffiliation FAQ page, found at https://www.holston.org/disaffiliationFAQ.
Step 2: Scroll down until you reach the question, “How was the pension liability formula developed?” Click on the highlighted last sentence in that four-paragraph answer.
Step 3: You now will have before you a legal document that has to be filled out and signed before you can receive the actual data. We could have made going to that page Step 1, but we suspect that link might change over time as data are updated. As of today, the link is:
Once you submit that form, you then will receive a link to the data in an email.
We at the Holston WCA are disappointed the process is so complicated, and perhaps even … what’s the word … intimidating? Please remember, conference officials defined the process, not us.
Also, please remember that the dollar amount you see is not your total cost to disaffiliate. You will need to add in additional tithes beyond your time as a UM church, as well as other exit fees that will be demanded of you.
A couple of devotions this week on Methodist Life ultimately addressed theologically conservative Methodist leaders positioned to make a difference in our current Holston Conference environment, as well as the people beholden to them. Links to those devotions are below.
Keep your eyes and ears open the next couple of weeks for important developments in the effort to find a more palatable way for traditional Methodist churches to leave the United Methodist Church. If you have not registered your email address on this website, be sure to do so.
By Chuck Griffin, Holston WCA President
I took a day to process events of our Holston Annual Conference gathering, and I can tell several of you have done so, too, judging from the expressions of disappointment I have heard since we adjourned Wednesday.
Going in, I know some of you had hoped that a surprising way out of the UMC would take shape—that grace would prevail, moving us beyond the onerous, exit-fee laden disaffiliation process now being presented to traditional Methodist churches.
There’s no use in rehashing the highly structured events of the conference. (At least our bishop is organized.) There was one bright spot in our business meetings, however, and it’s going to make a huge difference over the next few weeks for churches trying to discern a path out of the United Methodist Church.
Our Holston WCA board secretary, the Rev. Todd Chancey, managed to push through a resolution forcing conference staff to publish online all of the Holston churches’ pension liabilities. The conference position had been that churches were not entitled to know this particularly expensive exit fee until after they had nearly completed the disaffiliation process.
Most departing churches do not know right now whether they will be required to eat a mouse or an elephant to get out of the UMC. Both are distasteful, but one is more manageable than the other.
We are going to know soon, though. The resolution requires the pension liability data to be available by July 8. As soon as it is posted, we will send the link around.
Once you look at the pension liability number, add in 12 to 18 months’ worth of tithe payments and what it will cost to do a survey of your property. You very well may find there’s an elephant on your plate.
Again, you can always ask us for help by sending an email to email@example.com. We do see other options on the horizon.
I should mention another resolution that passed, simply because it illustrates how liberals and institutionalists in our conference are sticklers for using the UM Book of Discipline when it suits them and casual about the Discipline when they find it inconvenient.
Resolution No. 1 passed 361-323. Basically, if someone is charged with violating the paragraphs related to prohibitions against same-sex marriage or the ordination of self-avowed, practicing homosexuals, the resolution recommends that punitive actions be suspended until the first annual conference following the General Conference scheduled for 2024. The bishop seemed to indicate from the dais that the Discipline will continue to be enforced in the Holston Conference.
Another important event occurred elsewhere while we were at annual conference.
Five one-time supporters of the General Conference legislation known as the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation pulled out of the agreement, effectively killing it.
For those traditionalists who were wanting to wait until 2024, thinking relief would come then—well, you might want to give up on that idea.