Two legal issues related to disaffiliation have been in the news this week.

The first one: The lawsuit against the Florida Conference has been dismissed for similar reasons as the Western North Carolina suit: separation of church and state/The UMC has it’s own governing and judicial bodies to handle this.

The second one: A lawsuit has been filed against the North Georgian Conference.

This one is more interesting to me. In late 2022, the North Georgia Conference put a pause on disaffiliations until after the currently scheduled General Conference in 2024. The reasons are mainly that disaffiliation has been riddled with misinformation and outright lying (I agree, it has). And that may of the reasons for leaving are beyond the scope of the provisions of the 2019 special conference (only for reasons related to human sexuality and the Discipline). This is after the date the current disaffiliation agreement is set to expire (December 31, 2023).

The lawsuit essentially states: The North Georgia Conference is depriving it’s individual churches the right to disaffiliate as laid out in the Discipline. My take: I agree with the reasoning behind lawsuit, as the provision to disaffiliate with property will not be present after 2023 and the annual conference cannot guarantee an alternative mode to leave, as they cannot predict the actions of General Conference. While some reasons for leaving may be beyond the scope of the Discipline, they are, by nature related to the key issue of sexuality and the realities of authority related to this and what we prioritize as core to ministry.

However, the lawsuit will likely be thrown out on similar grounds to WNC and Florida (as it should). But I do hope that the Judicial Council (our Supreme Court) can weigh in on this.

While I wish churches would stay, if they want to leave, the process is there, and the Annual Conference should not impede the process as outlined in the Discipline. Instead, should the Annual Conference decide that the churches that are leaving are not doing so for reasons outlined by the 2019 Conference or that the churches have been misled, they can respond as the Arkansas Conference did, and deny the disaffiliation in that manner.



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