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August 9, 2022

Dear Friends in Christ,

More than 10% of EPA congregations have signed up to strengthen and grow their ministry and mission through EPA Pathways. These include Pathways to grow vitality, re-envision space, end the sin of racism and develop leaders. We welcome congregations for the second round that will begin in November. Our first group of churches will launch in September. To learn more about Pathways and to sign up for a Pathway select the following link: www.epaumc.org/pathways/.

I also want to take this opportunity to update you on congregations seeking to disaffiliate from EPA and The United Methodist Church. EPA will be working with congregations under paragraph 2553 of The Book of Discipline. This paragraph was added to The Book of Discipline in 2019 for congregations disaffiliating because of ministry with and by LGBTQ persons. Here are several things to keep in mind.

  1. You do not need to do anything if your congregation seeks to remain with The UMC and EPA.
  2. If you have concerns about your congregation’s traditions, core convictions and theology being honored within EPA, a covenant has been developed and the cabinet will work with your congregation to develop your covenant and work with you. You may find a draft of the covenant by selecting the following link: EPA Covenanting Process. EPA has been and will continue to be a diverse conference of United Methodists who respect one another and who all work together to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Please have the pastor contact your superintendent if you would like to work on a covenant.
  3. If your congregation would like to consider disaffiliating, a discernment process will be used with all congregations that may want to consider disaffiliating. Your Church Council must vote and send a request to your district superintendent by September 1, 2022. If your congregation does not need to consider disaffiliation, you do not need to do anything.
  4. A webpage that includes information, Book of Discipline paragraphs, Judicial Council rulings and FAQ may be found by selecting this link: epaumc.org/disaffiliation-discernment/.

The following are the seven steps for disaffiliation.

  1. Request to Explore and Discern Disaffiliation - A congregation’s Church Council votes to explore and discern disaffiliation, and the Pastor notifies the District Superintendent of the desire to engage in the disaffiliation process. Timeline: June to September 1, 2022.
  2. Discernment and Congregational Vote – Two Guides, appointed by the Cabinet and the Connectional Table, will work with a congregation to explore disaffiliation. At least one will be a clergy elder of the conference. Both will be trained in leading the process. The Guides will receive a stipend from the congregation for leading the disaffiliation process. Timeline: up to six months starting in September/October of 2022.
  3. Relationship Covenant – Once a congregation votes to disaffiliate, the Guides will present and guide the congregation through covenanting process about A) ministries that may be continued to be shared with EPA and (B) communication during the disaffiliation period. Timeline:  up to one month once a congregation votes to disaffiliate.
  4. Due Diligence – The congregation gathers materials and documents necessary for disaffiliation, including a review of the church deed(s). The Guides work with the congregation to respond to questions and gather all of the materials for presentation to the EPA Board of Trustees. Timeline: up to two months once a congregation votes to disaffiliate.
  5. Term Sheet Review and Vote – the Term Sheet outlining the terms and costs of disaffiliation is prepared by the EPA Board of Trustees and voted on by the disaffiliating congregation’s representative body. Timeline: up to two months once the congregation votes to disaffiliate. Must be completed by March 31, 2023. [There has been a request for a church’s Term Sheet. The Board of Trustees will not prepare a Term Sheet for a congregation until it votes to disaffiliate. It is a legal document and will change depending on the date and the particular circumstances of a congregation. On Friday August 5, the Board of Trustees completed the terms to be included in a term sheet and you may find them by selecting this link: Summary of Disaffiliation Terms.]
  6. Annual Conference Approval – The Annual Conference regular session votes to approve a congregation’s disaffiliation. Timeline: May 2023 session of Annual Conference.
  7. Fulfill the Requirements of the Term Sheet – the disaffiliating congregation makes all payments and fulfills the requirements for disaffiliation in the term sheet. Timeline:  fulfillment of the term sheet must be completed by the day of disaffiliation and no later than December 31, 2023 in order for a congregation to disaffiliate.

    The Cabinet and I recognize this is a difficult season for some of our congregations. We are praying for each of our congregations and pastors. We have received information from laity and pastors that individuals from within EPA and outside of EPA are seeking to influence congregations, and some information being shared is not true. As I have shared previously, we would like all of our congregations to continue with The United Methodist Church, and we will help congregations discern what God has next for them. Discernment is a process that seeks to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit and not other or louder voices or even the most convincing voices. We are ready to assist congregations to listen for God’s voice.

    As you have questions, you may submit them through the FAQ on the web page (www.epaumc.org/disaffiliation-discernment/) or contact us directly. Your questions and concerns are important to us.

    I invite you to continue to be in prayer for one another and for my leadership. God will see each of us through.

    Keep the faith!

    John

    Bishop John Schol
    The United Methodists of
    Eastern Pennsylvania & Greater New Jersey
    BishopJohnSchol@epaumc.church | 484-474-0939
    BishopJohnSchol@gnjumc.org | 732-359-1010

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    Bishop John Schol
    The United Methodists of Eastern Pennsylvania & Greater New Jersey
    Bishop.JohnSchol@epaumc.church

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    Episcopal Office Administrator
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    emartinezsantos@epaumc.church

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    nmulligan@epaumc.church

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    Superintending Support Team (GNJUMC)
    732.359.1032
    jkim@epaumc.church

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