Welcome to the UMC Exit Strategy Information Page
This page is intended to be a centralized information resource for those connected to First UMC Collingswood as part of the overall effort to keep you informed and knowledgeable about the changing (and sometimes confusing) situation regarding the denominational splintering of the United Methodist Church. The information here is provided for your convenience as a starting point to keep the First UMC Collingswood family informed, but is certainly not an exhaustive collection.
First UMC Collingswood Current Status
The following questions & answers provide a brief summary of key issues as to where our local church fits into the overall picture. This section will be updated regularly as the situation changes and/or new information becomes available.
Are we going to remain within the United Methodist Church [UMC] denomination?
No. Our church has spent considerable time in a series of meetings and congregational discussions to review the history, current status, and likely future related to the conflict within the UMC denomination. These meetings go back to early 2020, all are audio-recorded and available upon request, and the consistent feedback has been overwhelmingly in favor of our church separating from the UMC denomination.
Are we actively engaged in the disaffiliation process from the UMC?
No. The only currently available process – referred to as Paragraph 2553 – was made available at the Special General Conference in 2019, and in NJ churches were required to enter that process by 9/30/22. This is also a short-term provision that expires on 12/31/23. It is not known whether an alternate UMC-sanctioned disaffiliation process will become available after 2553 expires.
Why didn’t we at least try the 2553 disaffiliation process if that is the only known pathway?
This was the primary discussion at the Sept 2022 Council Meeting, and was informed by the survey responses from the two Congregational Conversation meetings held earlier that month. While the responses overwhelmingly favored exiting (over 90%), the responses were more mixed in terms of what pathway to take towards that goal. While some favored trying the 2553 path, others preferred to explore alternative pathways that were discussed. The primary reasons, however, that Council rejected the 2553 process were:
- What was known of the ‘additional provisions’ that GNJAC added on top of the 2553 requirements passed in 2019 were viewed as grossly unfair and punitive – and the process was completely closed to fair discussion/negotiation, and
- The language of 2553 required us to state that the one and ONLY reason for wanting to disaffiliate was specifically a “matter of conscience regarding a change in the requirements and provisions of the Book of Discipline related to the practice of homosexuality or the ordination or marriage of self-avowed practicing homosexuals”. In fact, the primary objections most often cited in conversations are NOT isolated to the human sexuality issue, but instead are (a) the open disregard and disobedience of UMC leadership to follow the clear language of the Book of Discipline, and (b) concerns related to the UMC doctrine becoming more ‘progressive’ and deviating from the Wesleyan orthodox interpretation of scripture on core elements of the Christian faith – the human sexuality issue being just one of many examples of this concern.
What has Church Council done to steer us on a pathway to exiting the UMC?
Though Council rejected the 2553 process at their Sept 2022 meeting, at that same meeting they took two clear steps to affirm our church’s desire to separate from the UMC denomination:
- Council voted to join NCLL – the National Center for Life & Liberty – a legal team based in Florida that is working nationally to pursue legal pathways for groups of local churches in various regions to exit the UMC outside of the 2553 process.
- Council established the Exit Strategy Committee of FUMC, to facilitate communication to the congregation of issues related to our exit status. The members of that committee are: Steve Schoch (Chair), Jonathan Schwehm, Marva Wallace, Karry Corbitt, Brian Steward, Karen Alexander and Pat Sheaffer.
What is the status of the legal effort to exit the UMC?
At the November Council meeting, a motion was passed for First UMC Collingswood to be a named participant in a pending legal action by NCLL on behalf of churches in the GNJAC. It is anticipated that this action will be initiated before the end of 2022, or in January 2023. Check back on this page, as the status of that action will continue to be updated as events change.
Why can’t we just separate from UMC, change our name, and move on?
As a local United Methodist Church, we are essentially stewards of the church property and its financial assets. The denomination has ultimate authority over our assets, and they own the property and buildings by virtue of a ‘trust clause’. This means some kind of agreement needs to be made between our church and the GNJAC to actually release us in a way that we can assume local property ownership, if that is our desire. Regardless of which exit pathway we take, there will likely be a significant financial payment to GNJAC as the centerpiece to any such separation agreement.
After we exit, what happens then?
Together, we will look at the available options and decide whether to affiliate with another denomination that respects the Wesleyan traditions and authority of Scripture. One such option is the newly-formed Global Methodist denomination, though no decision to that end has been made at this time. It’s important to remember that we wish to remain steadfast in what we believe, and in our longstanding witness for Christ in this community. The UMC has changed, we have not, and we want to continue to be a faithful community and light to those around us.