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Agenda set for Special Session

Voting at Annual Conference

The Michigan Conference publishes the agenda and names of churches to be approved for disaffiliation and closure at the November 30 Special Session of Annual Conference.

Content Editor

The agenda for the Special Session of Annual Conference set for November 30, 2023, to address final disaffiliation requests, has been released. Clergy and lay members will vote to approve the disaffiliation of 63 churches. These churches obtained the necessary two-thirds majority to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church at a duly called Church Conference. These churches have until December 15 to meet all requirements if approved at the upcoming Special Session. At the Annual Conference last June, 60 churches voted to disaffiliate, but only 58 fulfilled all requirements by the July 1, 2023, deadline.

The Michigan Conference also announces the name of one church closure — Charlevoix United Methodist Church — which will be voted on during the session.

Registered members of Annual Conference will meet online via Zoom for the Special Session on Thursday, November 30, at 7:00 pm Eastern/6:00 pm Central. The event will also be broadcast live for public viewing via the Michigan Conference’s Facebook page. A Special Session web page will have complete information.

Registration is closed, and eligible members in good standing who have registered will receive a Zoom link and all necessary documents via email on Monday, November 27.

Bishop David Bard has called for the Special Session to vote to approve the disaffiliation of churches that have completed the requirements set by the Michigan Conference Board of Trustees since the earlier vote this summer. The Board of Trustees established the exact terms and conditions in alignment with the provisions found in The Book of Discipline.

Paragraph 2553, which was added to The Book of Discipline following the 2019 Special Session of General Conference, provided an exit path for those wishing to leave as a matter of conscience related to the direction that The United Methodist Church is heading on matters of full inclusion of LGBTQIA+ persons in the life of the church. The provisions in Paragraph 2553 expire on December 31, 2023, and will be removed from The Book of Discipline.

The meeting agenda for the Special Session includes:

    • Call to Order, led by Bishop David Bard
    • Opening Remarks, Motions, and Setting the Bar, led by Rev. David Eardley, Chair of the Commission on the Annual Conference Session
    • Opening Worship, led by Bishop David Bard
    • Motion on the Closure, led by Rev. Margie Crawford, Dean of the Cabinet
    • Motion on Disaffiliations, led by Rev. Carolin Spragg, Chair of the Board of Trustees
    • Closing Thoughts and Prayers, led by Bishop David Bard
    • Adjourn

Bishop Bard hopes members will read this list of churches and pray for our conference in preparation for this meeting. Bishop Bard said, “This remains a difficult and tender time in the life of the Michigan Conference and The United Methodist Church. There is significant grief and a strong resolve on the part of all to move forward in ministry for Jesus Christ.”

Rev. Brad Bartlemay, Special Assistant to the Bishop, who has guided congregations through the legal and administrative steps once a church had voted to leave the denomination, shares one clarification: “Voting members of the Special Session ought to note that while we are voting on 63 churches, their actual disaffiliations are contingent on completing all requirements, including payment of disaffiliation related costs by December 15, 2023.”

During Bishop Bard’s State of the Conference report at last summer’s Annual Conference, he noted that there would be a moratorium on disaffiliations in the Michigan Conference between January 1, 2024, and General Conference, set for April 23 – May 3, 2024, in Charlotte, NC. He also noted that a path for leaving the denomination will likely be put in place similar to Paragraph 2553, but the terms and details will not be determined until that gathering.

To date, only eight percent of churches in the Michigan Conference have disaffiliated from The United Methodist Church. The United Methodist Church does not require churches to vote on whether to stay United Methodist (resources and FAQs are available on this web page). And Michigan Conference leadership has consistently spoken about the openness of the conference, emphasizing the spaciousness of The United Methodist Church and how there is room for diversity of thought and opinion.

Those members of disaffiliating churches who wish to remain United Methodist are encouraged to contact conference leadership by clicking the #StayUMC button below. The Michigan Conference is here to help individuals find a new United Methodist faith community.

Last Updated on January 30, 2024

The Michigan Conference