The Alabama-West Florida Conference Board of Trustees met on October 6, 2022. During this meeting, work continued on presenting a plan for the voting members of annual conference to ratify in June of 2023.
The plan will outline a fair and equitable way for Alabama-West Florida churches to depart beginning January 1, 2024. Currently any church voting to disaffiliate does so under the guidance of paragraph 2553 in the Book of Discipline
. That paragraph sunsets on December 31, 2023. The intent of the plan allows churches to wait and see the outcome from legislation adopted at the 2024 General Conference before making any final decisions. The trustees voted unanimously to continue their practice of allowing churches to keep their property by fulfilling conference liabilities upon departure, absent unique or unusual circumstances, when all other financial obligations are fulfilled by the departing church.
“I am tremendously grateful for the work of the trustees,” stated Bishop Graves. “This leadership team is comprised of dedicated disciples who are gifted in legal matters and represent various theological perspectives. This group desires to help every church get to where they need to be and truly have a heart for the local church. While I’ve made my desire known that I want every church to remain United Methodist, the trustees will continue to work with any church who wishes to depart after December 31, 2023. It benefits all of us when we put our differences aside and work together in ways that strengthen the local church. Too much time has been focused on the sunset date and I am thankful they are providing this necessary clarity. With the expertise in the room, the next step plan will be thoughtfully crafted to accurately represent all parties involved.”
While amenable to the annual conference, the AWF Conference Board of Trustees receives, collects, and holds in trust all real and personal property of the annual conference. Paragraphs 2512.4 and 2553.4 express the intent of General Conference to delegate to the Conference Board of Trustees the exclusive authority in establishing the terms and conditions of a local church’s departure from The United Methodist Church. In Judicial Council rulings 1420 and 1421, the council ruled it is the exclusive right of the Board of Trustees, with the advice of the cabinet, the treasurer, the benefits officer, the director of connectional ministries, and the chancellor to negotiate terms and conditions for departing churches.
The plan to follow the provisions set forth in paragraph 2553 upon sunset will be released in the official trustees’ report in the 2023 Book of Reports. That publication is released in the spring of 2023, prior to the regularly scheduled session of annual conference.