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The Two Main Questions to be answered at the United Methodist General Conference, 2024 and how to Prepare your Congregation for the Outcomes.

There are two main questions to be answered at the 2024 General Conference of the United Methodist Church. The answer to both questions will have a significant impact on the future of the UMC and will require local congregations’ thoughtful consideration regarding their own affiliation with the denomination.

The first question will be whether the delegates will vote to adopt the proposed revised social principles, and the second, whether the delegates will vote to adopt a proposed regionalization plan. You can read more about the social principles here and regionalization here.

Briefly, the proposed social principles have been revised to reflect the progressive nature of the denomination after nearly one third of all churches have left the UMC since 2019. The concept of regionalization provides that the denomination will remain as one, but each region of the world will have their version of the United Methodist Church. This allows the United States to become more progressive, and the African churches to remain conservative – but both be able to call themselves United Methodist.

Possible Outcomes

In my conversations with people involved in advancing and opposing these positions, it is clear that nobody truly knows what the outcome of the votes will be at General Conference. Most predict the adoption of the revised social principles, as they are statements without authority on social norms, but a rejection of the regionalization concept.

Local churches – traditional, centrist, and progressive – must carefully determine what steps they will take if the proposals are adopted or rejected. The interesting comments that I have learned is that if both the social principals and regionalization fail, there will be a movement in the United States to move ALL local churches into a new entity likely to be called the United Methodist Church of America, or, create a new non-profit to move tithes into that would support UMCOR and other related Methodist entities, but not the denomination itself. If this occurs, the denomination could no longer functionally operate as it would not have the income to do so.

The end result may be the accelerated relationship of the Episcopal Church and the United Methodist Church that may become one entity. This makes sense as the Episcopal Church has enormous financial resources, and endless reoccurring income through the Trinity Church Wall Street fund. An interesting history of the Trinity Church property can be found, here.

The reason for this is that there are very few attenders of Episcopal churches in the United States. However, the Episcopal Church holds a vast amount of resources with a healthy recurring income stream. On the other hand, there are significantly more attenders of United Methodist Church in the United States, but the denomination has very limited financial resources and little to no reoccurring sources of income. In short, they need each other to survive.

Predicted outcomes

Based on the people that I have spoken with, the commentary that I have read, and the videos posted, my sense is that General Conference delegates will adopt the revised social principles – this is a fifty percent (50%) plus one (1) vote – but will not adopt regionalization, which requires a two thirds (2/3) vote. The delegates from the United States will not find this acceptable and will likely form a new entity to accept tithes and offerings, and the denomination will no longer be funded. I don’t believe there is enough support to leave and create a new denomination. However, this course of action will cause the collapse of the connectional system as it will not have funding to sustain itself. I believe that eventually, the United Methodist Church will merge into the Episcopal Church to form a larger viable Episcopal Church.

So where does this leave the local church? 

The further splintering of the denomination is likely to occur after General Conference 2024. The traditionalist trapped in the denomination will finally have the courage to find a new path out of the UMC. The centrist will soon realize that they were lied too when told to stay in the denomination and will look to leave. And the progressives will fight amongst themselves, then leave.

The local church now has the opportunity to forge a new path out of the denomination to become independent or join another denomination or network of churches. Before doing, this, the local church leaders need to first meet and reach a consensus as to their vision of the future church, then take steps to address their governance documents and property deeds to protect their interest. When the time is right, the local church then needs to take the steps to separate. If you are interested in learning more about this process, please contact Daniel Dalton or another professional at Dalton & Tomich, PLC. We are happy to help. 

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