By Bishop Peggy Johnson
On February 10, 2020, Grandview UMC voted to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church for reasons of conscience. They do not wish to be a part of a denomination that denies the full participation of the LGBTQIA community.
At the 2019 General Conference a petition was passed that gave a pathway for churches to disaffiliate in a new way. It would allow a church to take a membership vote, pay two full years of apportionments, pay a pension liability fee, pay any unpaid debts, pay additional fees as required by the conference and also to receive a vote of approval by the annual conference. When all of these requirements are fulfilled then a congregation may leave with their building and remaining assets.
Last spring it was revealed that the passage of the Disaffiliation Petition by only two votes might be in question because four people voted who did not have proper delegate credentials. The Commission on General Conference Sessions ruled that the petition was null and void since there was no way to know how these unauthorized people voted, and four votes could have swayed the results in the other direction.
The UMC Council of Bishops requested that the Judicial Council rule on this at its October 2019 meeting since it was unclear if the Commission on General Conference had the authority to do so. It was discussed at the October meeting of the Judicial Council. The court requested more documentation and decided to revisit this again in April 2020 at its spring meeting.
Due to uncertainty of the viability of this petition, I let it be known that no disaffiliation would be allowed until we knew what the Judicial Council decided. Also, developments with the new General Conference petition known as the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation added some other possibilities for at least a region of the UMC to become welcoming and affirming of the LGBTQIA community eventually. That said, Grandview still wished to take a vote as a first step in order to go on record as wanting to depart from the denomination due to its current rules and language in the Book of Discipline.
Members of the conference Cabinet, Council on Finance & Administration, Board of Trustees, and Board of Pension & Health Benefits, along with the conference chancellor and bishop, met with Grandview UMC. After a prayerful conversation, it was decided they would move forward with this vote. Their Church Conference was held in good order, and District Superintendent Bumkoo Chung presided over the secret ballot vote on February 10, 2020. It received a 97% vote of approval for disaffiliation.
We will not be going any further with this process until more is known about the new church disaffiliation law’s viability and what is decided at General Conference 2020. Grandview continues to be a United Methodist congregation. They pay their apportionments in full, and they are active in vital ministry and mission in the community and the world.