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38 Churches Sue UMC Baltimore-Washington Conference over Disaffiliation Procedures

Amanda Casanova | ChristianHeadlines.com Contributor | Wednesday, March 22, 2023
38 Churches Sue UMC Baltimore-Washington Conference over Disaffiliation Procedures

38 Churches Sue UMC Baltimore-Washington Conference over Disaffiliation Procedures

A group of 38 church congregations is leaving the United Methodist Church and suing the denomination over its disaffiliation procedures.

The lawsuit says the UMC Baltimore-Washington Conference is holding “church buildings and property hostage” as the churches try to disaffiliate from the UMC.

“Defendants claim Plaintiff Churches’ property is encumbered by an irrevocable trust for the benefit of the UMC, and the only way for Plaintiff Churches to disaffiliate without surrendering the buildings and property that are central to their congregations is by the permission of the UMC and payment of a financial ransom,” the complaint asserts.

“This position is inconsistent with the decades-long pattern and practice of the UMC to allow local churches to disaffiliate and retain their church property without paying a ransom,” the complaint continued, according to The Christian Post.

Meanwhile, a Baltimore-Washington Conference spokesperson pointed to a statement made earlier this week from Bishop LaTrelle Easterling about the issue, saying “abrupt separations” from the denomination can lead to impacting “benefits and pensions for retired pastors and their spouses.”

“Further, the mission shares … give support to our camps, as well as campus ministries, to natural disaster response projects, to food and homeless ministries, and to vital missions in our communities and abroad. Without the committed funding from the United Methodists churches in the BWC, these ministries will no longer be able to flourish.”

According to the lawsuit, the price to retain their church properties is a burden to the churches.

David Gibbs of the National Center for Life and Liberty, which is representing the congregations, told The Christian Post said he believes “that the local churches have very valid claims that need to be brought forward.”

“We work with local churches across the nation, and we believe that their claims are valid,” he said. “We are working with 1,500 churches across the nation, many of them are able to work with their conferences to achieve an amicable or cordial separation.”

“But, in some instances, it becomes impossible for the churches to leave, or unconscionable when you start looking about the amount of money that’s being asked for.”

Gibbs said the regional UMC body is asking for 50 percent of the property values, “and so, some of these churches that are in cities and other areas they’re not in a position to do that, and this is property they’ve already paid for once.”

Since 2022, more than 1,800 churches have voted to leave the UMC denomination.

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/wwing

Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.

38 Churches Sue UMC Baltimore-Washington Conference over Disaffiliation Procedures