Disaffiliation FAQs Related to Clergy & Disaffiliated Churches

Disaffiliation FAQs Related to Clergy & Disaffiliated Churches

Thanks to the connectional nature of the United Methodist Church, we express our gratitude to the South Georgia Conference for the initial draft of this resource. It is used here by permission and adapted for use in the Iowa Annual Conference. 


Disaffiliation FAQs from Wespath - Read here

We have a conference disaffiliation policy for churches, but the policy does not address the clergy who intend to continue serving the church they were leading once the church disaffiliates. This is where we must discern what the current Book of Discipline says and what the implications are for clergy benefits in general, and clergy pension benefits specifically. Below are some frequently asked questions (FAQ) and answers.

APPOINTMENT AND CREDENTIALS

If the church I serve under appointment has voted to disaffiliate, can I remain United Methodist and receive another appointment? 
Yes.  If a church votes to disaffiliate, the clergyperson can determine if they wish to remain in The United Methodist Church and our Annual Conference. The clergyperson will request an appointment through the normal consultation process in the appropriate time frame, and the cabinet will arrange their appointment. The current provisions in the Book of Discipline still apply. Elders, Provisional Elders and Associate Members are guaranteed an appointment. Although Local Pastors are not guaranteed an appointment, every effort will be made to place effective pastors in an appointment.

Can I hold membership in two denominations?
No. Judicial Council Decision 696 asserts, “There is no disciplinary provision authorizing an ordained United Methodist minister to hold membership simultaneously in another denomination. Upon joining another denomination, membership in The United Methodist Church is terminated.”

If you wish to terminate your membership in The United Methodist Church under BOD paragraph 360.1, follow this process

  • Mail a notarized letter to the Conference Secretary communicating your decision and the applicable paragraph in the Book of Discipline.
  • Send Certificate of Membership, OR if you do not have your certificate of membership or if it was combined with the ordination certificate, please complete this  Notarized Missing Documentation form and send the original notarized form to Conference Secretary, Nitza Dovenspike, 2301 Rittenhouse Street, Des Moines, IA 50321 and send a copy to Director of Ministerial Services, Lisa Steel or 2301 Rittenhouse Street, Des Moines Iowa 50321.
  • Present or mail your ordination certificate to the Conference Secretary or to the District Superintendent. Your ordination certificate will be returned to you with an indication of the date of the membership termination.
  • Send original notarized letter and Notarized Missing Documentation form to Conference Secretary, Nitza Dovenspike, 2301 Rittenhouse Street, Des Moines, IA 50321 and send a copy to Director of Ministerial Services, Lisa Steel or 2301 Rittenhouse Street, Des Moines Iowa 50321.

If you wish to terminate your membership in The United Methodist Church under BOD paragraph 360.2, follow this process

  • Mail a notarized letter to the Conference Secretary communicating your decision and the applicable paragraph in the Book of Discipline.
  • Send Certificate of Membership & Ordination Certificate, OR if you do not have your certificate of membership or if it was combined with the ordination certificate, please complete this  Notarized Missing Documentation form and send the original notarized form to Conference Secretary, Nitza Dovenspike, 2301 Rittenhouse Street, Des Moines, IA 50321 and send a copy to Director of Ministerial Services, Lisa Steel or 2301 Rittenhouse Street, Des Moines Iowa 50321.

If I am an ordained clergy member appointed to a church which has voted to disaffiliate and I wish to continue serving the church after it disaffiliates, do I get to keep my credentials? 
Yes and No. Continuing to serve a disaffiliated church, essentially requires you to leave the United Methodist Church. According to ¶360.1 & 360.2 in the Book of Discipline, “When ordained members in good standing withdraw to unite with another denomination or to terminate their membership in the denomination, their certification of conference membership, and their written request to withdraw shall be deposited with the conference secretary.”

Because the Global Methodist Church is not yet recognized as a denomination, serving one of their churches requires you to terminate your membership in the annual conference in order to serve there.

The emphasis here is on surrendering your certificate of membership. No one will ask you to turn in your certificate of ordination. However, your ordination will no longer be recognized by The United Methodist Church. You will need to have your orders recognized by the church or denomination to which you transition. If you intend to serve a disaffiliated church, you should submit a written request for withdrawal to your district superintendent for deposit with the conference secretary, with the effective date of withdrawal.  Even without a written request, the date you begin serving a disaffiliated church becomes the effective date of your voluntary withdrawal. Speak to your District Superintendent or the Human Resources Office about how the date of withdrawal may impact your benefits.

If you do not have your certificate of ordination or if it was combined with the ordination certificate, please complete this Notarized Missing Documentation form and send the original notarized form to Conference Secretary, Nitza Dovenspike, 2301 Rittenhouse Street, Des Moines, IA 50321 and send a copy to Director of Ministerial Services, Lisa Steel or 2301 Rittenhouse Street, Des Moines Iowa 50321.



If I am a provisional member appointed to a church which has voted to disaffiliate and wish to continue serving the church after it disaffiliates, what happens to my credentials and progress? 
According to ¶327.6 in the Book of Discipline, "When provisional members in good standing withdraw to unite with another denomination or to terminate their membership in the United Methodist Church, their action shall be considered a request for discontinuance of their relationship and their credentials shall be surrendered to a district superintendent." The "credentials" you are surrendering are related to membership in the conference and the denomination and your license for pastoral ministry in The United Methodist Church. No permanent religious orders are being surrendered, because none have been attained at this point. We will provide, upon request from the appropriate denominational officials, an official letter relevant to your ordination process. In the letter, we will note when you became a provisional member, the progress you made in our Residency in Ministry (RIM) program, and that you were a provisional member in good standing when you withdrew. What the process will be for ordination and membership in another denomination is beyond our purview. It is important for you to understand that once you are discontinued from provisional membership, you will no longer possess a clergy license unless and until you receive one from another source. If you intend to serve a disaffiliated church, you may submit a written request for withdrawal to your district superintendent for deposit with the conference secretary, with the  effective date of withdrawal.  Even without a written request, the date you begin serving a disaffiliated church becomes the effective date of your voluntary discontinuance and withdrawal. Speak to your District Superintendent or the Human Resources Office about how the date of withdrawal may impact your benefits.

If I am a local pastor appointed to a church which has voted to disaffiliate and wish to continue serving this church after it disaffiliates, what happens to my license for pastoral ministry? 

According to ¶320 in the Book of Discipline, “Whenever any local pastor severs relationship with the United Methodist Church…license and credentials shall be surrendered to the district superintendent for deposit with the secretary of the conference.” The status of licensed local pastor is always tied to the episcopal appointment of the local pastor to a pastoral charge. The nature of a pastoral license is that it is only valid when the holder of the license is appointed by the bishop to a United Methodist Church. This is also true for a retired local pastor. A retired local pastor who moves out of the denomination to serve a church which has voted to disaffiliate will be discontinued as a licensed pastor. This will also discontinue you from candidacy in the United Methodist Church. It is important for you to understand that once you are discontinued, you will no longer possess a clergy license unless and until you receive one from another source.

RETIREMENT AND PENSION
Disaffiliation FAQs from Wespath - Read here
If I am an ordained elder and I withdraw from The UMC (whether to move to the GMC, another denomination, or to be independent), what happens to my pension?
The actuarial value of your CRSP-DB is converted to an account balance and moved to your UMPIP account. The full amount of your MPP and CRSP-DC balances are moved to your UMPIP account. The actuarial value of any Pre-1982 pension is converted to or remains as a cash balance, and is moved to your UMPIP account. You may leave your UMPIP account with Wespath, or move it to some other retirement fund vehicle. If you are age 62 or older, or if you have 30 years’ service, you may want to consider retiring before withdrawing. Please consult the HR/Benefit Office for more information.

Your church may be able to continue to pay into your UMPIP pension account, if it becomes a plan sponsor with Wespath in respect to the pension plan.

If I am a Provisional Member, Associate Member, or Local Pastor and I withdraw from The UMC (whether to move to the GMC, another denomination, or to be independent), what happens to my pension?

Your CRSP-DB life annuity is frozen at the Denominational Average Compensation (DAC) in the year of withdrawal, and is available at age 62 or later. 65% of your MPP is converted to the life annuity. 35% of your MPP is moved to your UMPIP account. Your Pre-1982 annuity will be frozen at the Past Service Rate (PSR) in the year of withdrawal. Your CRSP-DC balance is moved to your UMPIP account. You may leave your UMPIP account with Wespath, or move it to some other retirement fund vehicle.

Your church may be able to continue to pay into your UMPIP pension account, if it becomes a plan sponsor with Wespath in respect to the pension plan.

If I am a retired clergy person and I withdraw from The UMC (whether to move to the GMC, another denomination, or to be independent), what happens to my pension?

Your CRSP-DB/MPP annuity remains unchanged. Your cash balance in UMPIP remains unchanged. Your Pre-1982 pension is frozen at the PSR in the year of withdrawal.

BENEFITS FOR CLERGY WHO ARE ALREADY RETIRED

If I am already retired, what happens to my retirement health benefit if I withdraw from The UMC (whether to move to the GMC, another denomination, or to be independent)?

All clergy who are currently retired and eligible for the retiree medical benefit will continue to receive the benefit to which they are entitled, no matter what they do in terms of their clergy membership.  For more information on the retiree medical benefit, please refer to the Iowa Conference Board of Pension Action Item in the most recent publication of the Iowa Annual Conference Journal or contact the HR/Benefit Office with questions.

If I am already retired, what happens to any CPP Death Benefit if I withdraw from The UMC (whether to move to the GMC, another denomination, or to be independent)?

Any retiree death benefit for which you are eligible continues without impact.

ACTIVE CLERGY BENEFITS

What happens to my potential retiree medical benefit if I withdraw from The UMC (whether to move to the GMC, another denomination, or to be independent)?

A clergy person who chooses to withdraw from The UMC will forfeit their retiree medical benefit per the terms of the plan. 

Full time and ¾ time clergy who choose to withdraw from The UMC (whether to move to the GMC, another denomination, or to be independent) should be aware that there is an impact on benefits

  • Health insurance will be discontinued following a clergy member’s withdrawal. Clergy may choose to continue their healthcare coverage under COBRA for up to 18 months, and will be responsible for payment of the premiums directly to Wellmark BC/BS of Iowa 
  • Employer contributions to a health savings account/health reimbursement account will be discontinued following a clergy member’s withdrawal
  • Voluntary benefits, such as dental insurance through Delta Dental of Iowa and employee flexible spending account contributions, will discontinue following a clergy member’s withdrawal
  • The disability benefit through CPP will cease
  • The death benefit under CPP will cease, as will spousal benefits and educational benefits for dependent children

Your new employer may provide similar benefits. Clergy will want to be aware of the benefits that will be terminated upon their withdrawal and how they might be provided for in another manner.  Wespath has provided information on Benefit Plan Opportunities for churches that disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church.  

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Judicial Council Decisions for Reference

Decision 696 There is no disciplinary provision authorizing an ordained United Methodist minister to hold membership simultaneously in another denomination. Upon joining another denomination, membership in The United Methodist Church is terminated.

Decision 552 Ministers who voluntarily surrender their credentials to the Annual Conference and later seek readmission to the ministry of the church, must seek readmission to the Annual Conference, or its legal successor, to which such surrender was made.

Decision 695 Proceedings for administrative location must be carried out with careful attention to both Pars. 454 and 2622. The decision of the bishop is not affirmed.

Decision 1055 Withdrawal whether under complaint or voluntary is effective at the time it is received.

Decision 691 Interpretation of Paragraphs 453.5, 454.1(a), 454.1(f), 2622.2, 2622.6 and 2625.1(b) and Their Effect on Grievance Procedures.