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The Complex Process Of Church Disaffiliation

At Helton Law Firm, we have the experience and skills to help resolve the most complex business legal matters. Many Oklahoma Methodist churches and congregations are facing complicated legal questions with respect to ownership and control of their church buildings, real estate, property and assets as they consider the process of withdrawing or disaffiliating from the United Methodist Church (UMC). The UMC claims that all real estate and assets of all local Methodist Churches is held in trust for its benefit. Located in Tulsa, we help congregations throughout Oklahoma maintain and gain control of their property and assets as they consider a denominational separation and disaffiliation from The UMC.

The Challenges Of Leaving The United Methodist Church

Many local Methodist Churches associated with the UMC are considering disaffiliation and separation due to a deep conflict with the United Methodist Church over many issues, including ordination and marriage of homosexual individuals in the church. So many, in fact, that the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church has attempted to outline pathways and provide guidance as to how to leave the United Methodist Church. However, their interpretation of paragraph 2553 of the Book of Discipline is not necessarily clear or straightforward and the application of 2553 in Oklahoma through the Oklahoma Annual Conference is even more complicated. The biggest question facing congregations considering a denominational split is how do we keep our church building, property and other assets?

Because of The UMC trust clause, congregations are understandably worried. At Helton Law Firm, we regularly help clients with complicated business transactional matters like the dissolution of a business. We also help clients with complex estate disagreements and trust administration. We understand the complex Oklahoma trust laws. We have the experience to help you through the complicated process of disaffiliating from The UMC.

We can help your congregation with the following:

  • Analyze and review your existing deeds and agreements with The UMC and Oklahoma Annual Conference
  • Navigate the disaffiliation process
  • Propose a disaffiliation agreement to your church
  • Preserve your ownership and control of your church building, property and other assets
  • Prepare documents to rename or re-establish your church
  • Move forward after disaffiliation

If your congregation is considering the disaffiliation process and the proposal of a disaffiliation agreement to present to its membership, let us help.

The Changing Landscape

In May of 2022 the Judicial Council of the UMC decided that no Annual Conference may take unilateral action to separate itself from the General Conference in Decision 1444. In August of 2022 the Judicial Council in Decision 1449 state that “…the process in paragraph 2548.2 (comity agreements) may not be used as a pathway for local churches to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church.” Paragraph 2553 of the Book of Discipline allows each annual conference to set its own “standard terms” which may be changed over time. Paragraph 2553 also requires that any disaffiliation must be complete prior to December 31, 2023 when its provisions expire.

At Helton Law Firm, we have closely followed the disaffiliation process as it has changed and will continue to do so to better advise our clients.

Need A Separation Lawyer To Leave The Methodist Church? Call Today.

We are dedicated to helping our clients resolve the most complex and complicated legal challenges that arise for businesses and estate matters. We have the knowledge and experience to help congregations disaffiliate from The UMC and maintain their property and assets throughout the process. Call us today at 918-928-8941 or send us an email to schedule your initial consultation. References available.