According to an article by Heather Hahn of UM New Service, “A theologically diverse group of United Methodists wants General Conference delegates to prioritize passing a ‘gracious and equitable’ plan for churches exiting the denomination.
“‘While we pray for a unified way forward, the reality of our circumstance convinces us that any decision made at the 2019 special session will likely lead to congregations and pastors deciding they are no longer able to remain in The United Methodist Church,’ said an open letter put together by 16 clergy and lay members of the West Ohio Conference.
“‘We write to urge the 2019 Special Session to approve a gracious and equitable process for exit.'”
Good News sees the provision of an exit path for congregations to leave the denomination and keep their property to be of paramount importance in moving forward. No matter what plan is passed (or even if no plan is passed) at General Conference in February, some congregations will find it impossible to continue living in The United Methodist Church in whatever the new reality turns out to be. Rather than tie up bishops, annual conferences, and local congregations in expensive lawsuits that drain away the church’s time, money, and energy, an exit path would provide a way to amicably allow churches to depart (which in itself would be a positive witness to the watching world). In addition, a uniform exit path would prevent unfair treatment of congregations, where an annual conference might let one church go, but not another, or where different annual conferences would have different ways of handling departing congregations that resulted in some congregations being able to leave with their property and others not.
While the Renewal and Reform Coalition does not support every one of the proposed financial provisions in the letter, we strongly endorse the concept of an exit path and support it being the first action of the special General Conference. Such a move could remove the temptation for supporters of whichever plan passes General Conference to be less than generous with those not supporting the plan. And it could greatly decrease the anxiety across the church.
As of this writing, over 1,700 lay and clergy United Methodists have signed the letter calling on General Conference to provide such an exit path. If you would like to read the letter and sign your support, you may do so by clicking HERE.