When making the decision to leave the United Methodist Church, leaders typically ask what happens to the membership of the congregation once the local church leaves the denomination. Our experience, and that of others who have left the Episcopal and Presbyterian USA denominations, has confirmed that the local church thrives once they leave the denomination. Indeed, all of the local Churches that we have worked with have departed from the Methodist denomination, kept their property and have grown.
None of the local churches that we have assisted have used the Taylor Exit Plan passed at the March 2019 General Conference. The Bishops were caught off guard with the number of local Churches who sought permission to use the disaffiliation plan and leave the denomination after it passed. As a result, none of the Bishops accepted it and none used it to help a local church out of the denomination.
As a result, the only way out of the United Methodist denomination is negotiation or litigation. The Churches that have left through the negotiation option went through a very long process of negotiating an exit with the denomination. And those who have chosen to litigate have been met with the same amount of pushback, but have been able to leave the denomination quicker and cheaper than the negotiation route.
The trend of increased members and attendance at services within the former Methodist local churches follows the trend of local churches who left the Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church USA and joined other denominations or simply became independent. For example, Falls Church Anglican lost its historic building during litigation, worshipped in rented space then built a new building which recently opened near their prior location. The Anglican Church is now thriving while the former Episcopal Church struggles to stay afloat. The same occurred in Florida where a former large PC-USA Church left the denomination and joined the Evangelical Covenant Association and has thrived – while the remaining PC USA local churches are “hanging on by their toenails.”
The bottom line is that while during the process of leaving, disruptions in membership may occur. But those Churches who leave and start as a new independent entity, or join another denomination, typically grow. f your Church is thinking about leaving the United Methodist Church denomination, please contact Dan Dalton to help guide you through the process.