Updated: Oct 30, 2022
Letter from our pastor regarding Wesley Chapel and Rock Hall request to disaffiliate:
For many years The United Methodist Church has been living with the tension of disagreements around the issue of homosexuality and our faithful Christian witness.
During a special session of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church, our denomination’s legislative body approved legislation that affirmed and strengthened our historical stance on homosexuality and marriage. Upon passage of this legislation however, it became clear that a split in our denomination was inevitable as irreconcilable disagreements around biblical interpretation, denominational accountability, and human sexuality became evident.
A disaffiliation plan, sometimes called an "exit plan," was also passed during the special General Conference session for those who desire to leave The United Methodist Church due to this disagreement over issues related to human sexuality. Disaffiliating churches must exit before December 31, 2023. This “exit plan” suspends the denomination’s trust clause (allowing the local church to retain all property and financial resources) in exchange for a local church’s payment of 2 years of apportionments, a share of the conference pension liability, a share of retiree health benefits, and repayment of any loans issued from the Annual Conference to the local church. Churches who disaffiliate may become independent churches or join another denomination. Many proponents of traditional Methodism have banded together and launched a new denomination called, The Global Methodist Church.
The Peninsula Delaware Conference Board of Trustees has reviewed their disaffiliation plan and at last report, voted to add an assessment of 50% of the property value of the local congregation in addition to congregational education and discussions. This is set to take effect on July 1, 2022. Local Churches who wish to leave The United Methodist Church were required to notify their District Superintendent before July 1.
Rock Hall Church’s and Wesley Chapel’s leadership boards met separately to discuss this last week, and both voted to proceed with notifying our District Superintendent that their churches wished to hold a Church Conference to vote for disaffiliating. Please keep in mind that this was a vote to begin the process of disaffiliation. This was not a vote to disaffiliate. The church wide vote to disaffiliate will be later in the conference year.
Trusting God for the future of His church in Rock Hall, we have begun to pray, gather information, educate ourselves, and reflect on our future moving forward. This process will take about a year. We will be holding board meetings, charge wide town hall meetings, and eventually a Church Conference. The Church Conference will allow members (professing members only) of our Church to vote for the future of our church regarding disaffiliation from the UMC.
If you have questions, you are welcome to reach out to me via email or telephone. You are also encouraged to reach out to your lay leaders, Board, and Trustee Chair’s. These folks at Wesley are David Kelley, Artie Kendall, and Chris Nordhoff. At Rock Hall Church, you can contact Maria Coakley or Ed Lynerd.
Regardless of how this news may find you, troubled, anxious, frustrated or angry. I ask you to draw near to God. To be intentional about your time in prayer for your church and church leaders. Pray for our conference and Bishop. God has a mission for his church in Rock Hall. Let us not get distracted from our task of making disciples by sharing and showing Gods love to our neighbor!
Praying for you all!
Pen-Del Conference Disaffiliation Policy
Statement Concerning the Disaffiliation Policy of the Peninsula-Delaware Conference Board of Trustees
Charles Emery shares a video message and a written statement (below) regarding the Trustees' process and policies for churches considering disaffiliation.
As members of the Board of Trustees of the Peninsula-Delaware Conference (Trustees) we are deeply committed to the mission and ministry of this conference and take our fiduciary responsibility to that mission very seriously. Whether through the vows of confirmation, ordination, or consecration, we are called to serve and steward the ministry of The United Methodist Church (UMC). Since 1972, the UMC has struggled with how to welcome, include, and incorporate members of the LGBTQIA+ community into the full life of the church. This struggle has evidenced itself at every session of General Conference since that time and has caused conflicts and divisions within annual and central conferences. We lament the further division and separation within the Body of Christ and the UMC. We firmly believe that persons of differing theological interpretations can worship, serve, and make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world together. And yet, we understand that not everyone shares that belief. During the 2019 Special Session of General Conference, a path for congregations desiring to exit the UMC and gain ownership of United Methodist church property was developed. This process was necessary because all church property of United Methodist local churches and other United Methodist agencies and institutions are held, in trust, for the benefit of the entire denomination, and ownership and usage of church property is subject to The Book of Discipline. This trust requirement is an essential element of the historic polity of the UMC and its predecessor denominations or communions. It has been a part of the Discipline since 1797. It has always been irrevocable. (See Para. 2501 of the 2016 Book of Discipline) The Taylor Disaffiliation Policy, now codified as Para. 2553 of the Book of Discipline, offers a time-sensitive relaxation of the Trust Clause and empowers trustees of every annual conference to develop a disaffiliation policy. The Peninsula-Delaware Conference Trustees developed a disaffiliation policy in 2020 and several congregations utilized that policy to leave the denomination. Bishop LaTrelle Easterling requested a meeting with the Trustees to voice the cabinet’s concerns about inaccurate information being disseminated about the future UMC and whether the current policy adequately protected the future ministry of the Peninsula-Delaware Conference. That meeting occurred on March 28, 2022. After hearing those concerns, the Trustees met separately to discuss the matter. The Trustees voted to revise the 2020 policy at that time as follows:
All congregations considering disaffiliation shall engage in an activity-based discernment process to receive factual, unbiased information for their edification and discernment. It is our belief that some congregations will choose to remain within the UMC after engaging in this activity.
Any congregation seeking to disaffiliate after July 1, 2022, shall remit to the Peninsula-Delaware Conference 50 percent of the appraised value of its property. This creates greater financial stability for congregations remaining within the UMC. This is the first time in our church’s history that congregations have been able to acquire UMC property at a 50 percent discount of the appraised value.
Two additional meetings were held on April 12, 2022, and June 30, 2022, to revisit those decisions. On each subsequent occasion the initial decisions were upheld. The Trustees also met with leadership from the Wesleyan Covenant Association on June 7, 2022, to hear their concerns. From this timeline it should be clear that every decision was made only after deep prayer, robust deliberation and by balancing our fiduciary duty to protect the future mission and ministry of the Peninsula-Delaware Conference, while also facilitating a process for disaffiliation as provided for in Para. 2553.
The Trustees were advised to publish the revised policy prior to the Annual Conference Session, including a grandfathering clause that would apply to churches that had already held at least one duly called charge conference to officially discuss disaffiliation prior to Annual Conference. That advice was not heeded. We apologize for and deeply regret failing to heed that request and understand that it has created some confusion and, for some, a loss of trust. Under the leadership of Charles Emery, the new Trustee chair, we commit to sharing information in a timely manner. (NOTE: The newly revised policy, posted on the Peninsula-Delaware Conference website, may be accessed by clicking this link.)
While we understand that not everyone will agree with these revisions, we believe that they balance our responsibility to future ministry within the Peninsula-Delaware Conference and the opportunity for disaffiliation with UMC property.
Even as we live through these difficult times, may we always remember our foremost calling is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. That is not achieved through rancor; rather, it is achieved through Christ-like love. Congregations focused on radical love and grace are growing. Our future in Christ is bright and we are poised to continue bringing hope to all we serve. May all that we say and do be to the glory of Almighty God.
Your servants in Christ,
The Peninsula-Delaware Conference Board of Trustees