Charles Emery, newly-elected board of trustees chair of the Peninsula-Delaware Conference of the United Methodist Church, gave the following statement concerning the Conference’s Disaffiliation Policy as some churches consider discontinuing their membership.
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:
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 my leadership as new Trustee chair, we commit to sharing information in a timely manner.
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
— By clicking this link you can read the newly revised policy, posted on the Peninsula-Delaware Conference website. Mr. Emery also shares a video message of his remarks as well.