Disaffiliation FAQs Related to Clergy & Disaffiliated Churches


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 and Provisional Elders 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?
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 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? 
According to ¶360.1 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.” 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 date of your request serving as the effective date of withdrawal. (Judicial Council Decision 691) 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 Conference Office about how the date of withdrawal may impact your benefits.

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 and other documents relevant to your ordination process. The request from them must also include your written authorization for the release of these documents. 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 date of your request serving as the effective date of withdrawal. (Judicial Council Decision 691) 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 Conference 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. 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

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 Administrative Services Office for more information.

Your church may be able to conintue 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 conintue 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 (VIA benefits) if I withdraw from The UMC (whether to move to the GMC, another denomination, or to be independent)?

All clergy who are currently retired will have their healthcare benefit funded through the Funding Reserve Trust For Post-Retirement Benefit Plans (AKA Retiree Healthcare Trust) created by the 2022 Annual Conference, no matter what they do in terms of their clergy membership. 

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 retirement health benefit (VIA benefits) if I withdraw from The UMC (whether to move to the GMC, another denomination, or to be independent)?

All clergy who are 55 or older, who are or could be eligible for the retiree healthcare benefit and who are members of the AC on July 1, 2022 will have their healthcare benefit funded through the Funding Reserve Trust For Post-Retirement Benefit Plans (AKA Retiree Healthcare Trust) created by the 2022 Annual Conference, no matter what they do in terms of their clergy membership.

Clergy who are under 55 on July 1, 2022 are still elgible for retiree healthcare under the current plan, but continued funding is far less certain.

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?

  • If your church is not in an organization that is in HealthFlex, then your health insurance will be discontinued after your withdrawal. Clergy may purchase Continuation Coverage through HealthFlex (similar to COBRA) for up to 18 months, but will have to pay the full cost (what we bill the church plus the $82.50 the conference subsidizes.)  Your church can pay the cost, but the pastor is responsible.

  • Your disability benefit through CPP will cease.

  • Your death benefit will cease, as will spousal benefits and educational benefits for your children if you are deceased.

Your new employer may provide similar benefits. Clergy will want to be aware of what benefits they have lost, and decide which ones will need to 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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