How to Disaffiliate a Local Church, Modified
The Traditionalist Plan (TP) was designed to let congregations leave the denomination in an amicable way because either the congregation could not tolerate the tolerance to gays shown by many conferences and jurisdictions or they could not accept the righteousness of the anti-gay church laws. In other words, the TP is a step closer to splitting the denomination by allowing angry churches to disaffiliate.
From what I’ve seen and read, most Arminians have not even discussed leaving whereas the Calvinists are cutting ties where they can in every conference around the country.
The General Conference plenary, acting as a single legislative committee, asked the Council if the TP disaffiliation plan was constitutional. The Council studied the matter with the help of a number of briefs from a variety of sources and concluded that it was not.
As in JCD 1377, they found the TP failed to include a vote by the annual conference as a part of the process. Besides financial and legal obligations that could be taken care of on a local level including a two-thirds majority of the congregation present and voting, the TP failed to honor the significance of the annual conference as stated above. The Council, noted that another Disciplinary paragraph was missed in everyone’s consideration: Par. 2529.1b)(3) which disallows a charge conference from disaffiliating without annual conference consent. That was the law expression of Par. 33’s affirmation of the centrality of the annual conference to our polity. Hence, the TP was unconstitutional on its disaffiliation plan.
The Council cleared up (modified) JCD 1377 to only require a simple majority vote by the annual conference rather than a two thirds vote.
It seems to me that pastors of churches seeking disaffiliation tend to be congregational in polity, tend to be charismatic in the general sense of that word (that is, personally influential as long as he or she is around), and tend to be Calvinistic. Unless the superintendent actually gets to know the local church and unless the Board of Ordained Ministry actually gets to know the pastor it is turning over to the bishop for appointment, there is the distinct possibility that pastors with a “party spirit” (Galatians 5:20) will take over a congregation and lead it away from the United Methodist Church. So it is wise that the annual conference be in the loop toward disaffiliation to protect the local church from manipulative pastors.
This decision (JCD 1379) does not, nor was it called upon, to go further in its analysis and decision. But certainly one of the “effects” of the decision is that annual conferences must be ready to spot disaffiliation considerations long before they get to that point, be able to evaluate if it is truly conscience or “party spirit” in operation in that church, and either move the pastor or consider bringing him/her up on charges (such pastors tend also to think of their churches as their own kingdom and fail to follow appropriate financial practices or use other serious bad actions).