Video 1: Pension liability explained
Video 2: Why is there shared pensions liability?
Video 3: How the liability is determined
Video 4: Local church examples
Proposal as Presented to the 2019 Annual Conference Session
The Disaffiliation Policy approved at the 2019 Annual Conference Session sets out a framework to be followed when a significant number of members of a congregation express a desire to leave the South Georgia Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church, pursuant to the provisions of paragraph 2553 of The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church. It is the intent of this policy that when a congregation chooses to leave the Annual Conference, it be allowed to do so in as amicable a manner as possible. The Annual Conference also recognizes a responsibility to members of a local church who want to remain part of the Annual Conference, even if they are in the minority of their congregation. Under the provisions of this policy, a local church shall have a limited right to exit the denomination to be complete prior to December 31, 2023. The right expires on December 31, 2023, and the provisions of this policy and paragraph 2553 shall not be used after that date.
The 2019 General Conference of The United Methodist Church passed provisions whereby an Annual Conference could charge a departing local church a portion of the overall pension liability of the Annual Conference. The General Conference left it up to Annual Conferences to determine what that share should be. In response, the Conference Board of Pensions of the South Georgia Annual Conference developed a Pension Liability Policy, which was approved at the 2019 Annual Conference Session. No payment is due from any church that remains in the South Georgia Conference; this policy only applies to churches that choose to disaffiliate under the provisions passed by the General Conference and our South Georgia Conference.
During the March 9, 2019, post-General Conference information session, the Foundations for the Future of South Georgia Task Force presented their report and announced that a “gracious exit plan” would be presented for vote at the 2019 Annual Conference Session. Conference representatives continued working on the plan as they awaited the outcome of the Judicial Council decision on the Taylor Petition, passed at the 2019 special called General Conference. The Task Force wanted to be able to present a plan to the Annual Conference - either a supplement to the Taylor Petition if found constitutional or a full plan if found unconstitutional.
The Taylor Petition provides an exit plan for churches that want to leave the denomination with their property. In this plan, local churches that elect to leave must pay pension liability, apportionments for the year prior to leaving, an additional 12 months’ apportionments, and certain other amounts set out in the policy and the agreement that will be signed between the departing church and the Conference Trustees.
Once passed, the legislation was sent to the Judicial Council, the denomination’s top court, which met April 23-26, 2019. On April 26 the Judicial Council released its decision saying that the Taylor Petition meets three minimum requirements and thus is constitutional “when taken together with the consent of the annual conference” as specifically outlined in the Book of Discipline. The three minimum requirements are:
Approval of the disaffiliation resolution by a two-thirds majority of the professing members of the local church present and voting at the church conference.
Establishment of the terms and conditions, including the effective date, of the agreement between the annual conference and the exiting local church by the conference board of trustees in accordance with applicable church law and civil laws.
Ratification of the disaffiliation agreement by a simple majority of the members of the annual conference present and voting.
At the 2019 South Georgia Annual Conference in June clergy and lay members were then voting - not on whether to have a disaffiliation plan - but on the terms and conditions of the plan specific to the South Georgia Annual Conference, including a separate policy on pension liability for churches that choose to leave. The Disaffiliation Policy and the Pension Liability Policies were both approved.