Judge clears way for disaffiliations from United Methodist Church in north Georgia

by | May 18, 2023 | Religion

(RNS) — The North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church can’t just press “pause” on disaffiliations from the denomination by churches in its area, according to a ruling Tuesday (May 16) by a Georgia judge.Cobb County Superior Court Judge J. Stephen Schuster ruled from the bench that the North Georgia Conference “has an affirmative duty” to assist any church wishing to disaffiliate with holding a vote or taking any other steps necessary to do so, according to a report by United Methodist News.
The conference also has the right to make sure those steps are followed in accordance with the denomination’s governing Book of Discipline, the judge said.
A disaffiliation plan added to the Book of Discipline by a 2019 special session of the General Conference, the denomination’s global decision-making body, allows churches to leave the United Methodist Church with their properties, which are held in trust by the denomination, over long-simmering disagreement about the ordination and marriage of its LGBTQ members.
To leave, congregations must take a vote on disaffiliation and meet certain financial obligations.

RELATED: UMC’s North Georgia Conference blocks church departures

Those provisions end on Dec. 31, 2023.
But the North Georgia Conference announced late last year it would temporarily block member churches from leaving the denomination until after the 2024 meeting of the General Conference. The conference pointed to the spread of “defamatory” misinformation about the United Methodist Church and its disaffiliation procedure.
“With just 15 months until the next session of the United Methodist General Conference, which will be held April 23 to May 3, 2024, in Charlotte, North Carolina, this …

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