Petition 81120

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Enabling "Affinity Conferences" (81120-CO-¶41-C)

   Amend ¶¶ 41, 261, 433.1, 2503, 2509.2, per ¶ 507.2 (composite petition) as shown:
    1. Amend ¶ 41.1:
   ¶ 41. Article V. Transfer of Local Churches—1. A local church may be transferred from one annual conference to another in which it is geographically located upon approval by a two-thirds vote of those present and voting in each of the following, except as provided in § 4:
    a) the charge conference...
    b) the congregational...
    c) each of the two annual conferences...shall immediately be effective.
  
    2. Add new subparagraph 41.4:
    4. However, §§ 1 and 2 of this article notwithstanding, if a local church at its charge conference or congregational meeting votes during five consecutive years to withdraw from an annual conference, whether to transfer to another conference or another denomination or to exist as an independent congregation, it shall be permitted to do so while retaining title and possession of its property. If the church has voted to transfer to another conference or denomination, only a majority vote of acceptance by the receiving conference or denomination shall be required to effect the transfer. Withdrawal to form an independent congregation requires no further vote. The General Conference may make further rules governing these transfers, provided the rules do not restrict a church’s right to withdraw upon its fifth annual petition.
  
    3. Amend ¶ 261 by adding and deleting text as shown:
   ¶ 261. A local church may be transferred from one annual conference to another in which it is geographically located by a two-thirds vote in each...those present and voting. Alternatively, if a local church's charge conference and congregational meeting vote during five consecutive years to withdraw from an annual conference, whether to transfer to another conference or another denomination or to exist as an independent congregation, it shall be permitted to do so. If the church is transferring, only a majority vote of acceptance by the receiving conference or denomination is required. Upon announcement of the required majorities by the bishops or presiding officers involved, the losing annual conference or a committee designated by it shall work diligently to make the transfer comply with local laws and shall transfer title to all property assets associated with the transferring congregation to that congregation, including real estate, structures, vehicles, cash, bank accounts, and other assets.
  
    4. Amend ¶ 433.1:
    1. A change in appointment may be initiated by a pastor, a committee on pastor-parish relations, a district superintendent, or a bishop. However, if a church has voted to withdraw from the annual conference (¶¶ 261, 2503.7) except for cause of retirement, death, physical or mental disability, gross incompetence, or compelling evidence that the minister or ministers have committed one or more chargeable offenses (¶¶ 354-358, 2624.1), a bishop and cabinet may retire, locate, suspend, remove, transfer, or replace said minister(s) only at the request of the minister(s) or the local church.
  
    5. Add new subparagraph 2503.7:
    7. The terms of §§ 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 above notwithstanding, if a local church through its change conference and a congregational meeting votes during five consecutive years to withdraw from the annual conference, whether to transfer to another conference or another denomination or to exist as an independent congregation, it shall be permitted to do so upon the majority vote of acceptance by the receiving conference or denomination, if it is transferring.
    a) The right to withdraw or transfer belongs to every local church without regard to size (membership), wealth, length of conference membership, or previous membership in The Methodist Church, The Evangelical United Brethren Church, or another denomination.
    b) Upon announcement of the required majorities by the bishops or presiding officers involved, the losing annual conference or a committee designated by it shall work diligently to make the transfer comply with local laws and shall transfer title to all property assets associated with the transferring congregation to the congregation including real estate, structures, vehicles, cash, bank accounts, and other assets.
    c) If the congregation owes the annual conference any money for loans for property acquisition or improvement or for other purposes, the conference may require the withdrawing congregation to repay that sum plus any incidental expenses, provided the annual payment does not exceed ten percent of the congregation's budget exclusive of building maintenance and ministerial support expenses.

  
    6. Amend ¶ 2509.2:
    2. Any denominational unit authorized to hold title to property and to enforce trusts for the benefit of the denomination may bring suit in its own name to protect denominational interests . , except an annual conference and its agencies when a congregation votes to withdraw from the conference under ¶¶ 41.4, 261, 2503.7. During the interim period, the conference or its agents may use negotiation and moral suasion only, not the civil courts, to prevent the withdrawal.
  
    6. The amended paragraphs 261, 433. 1, 2503.7 and 2509.2 shall not take effect unless the amended constitutional article (¶ 41) receives the required two-thirds majority vote of the General Conference and the two-thirds affirmative vote of the aggregate number of members of the several annual conferences.

Rationale

This revision of petitions to the 2000 and 2004 General Conferences would implement Lyle Schaller’s recommendations in From Geography to Affinity (Abingdon), so churches unhappy in their present conferences could transfer elsewhere, without lawsuits which violate the General Rules, our Constitution (¶ 21), Matthew 5:25, and 1 Corinthians 6:1-8.