Decision Number 1459


February 28, 2023

IN RE: Review of a Bishop’s Ruling on Questions of Law in the Wisconsin Annual Conference Concerning Seven Aspects of the Conference's Implementation of ¶ 2553.


The Decision of Law by Bishop Hee-Soo Jung is affirmed in part and deferred in part.

Statement of Facts

During the business session of the Wisconsin Annual Conference, a clergy member submitted the following Question of Law:

  1. A number of dates have been specified for various steps in the disaffiliation process by this legislation. The language of ¶ 2553 allows the Annual conference to develop standard terms and conditions, but are these additionally required process dates appropriate?
  2. Given that the legislation of ¶ 2553 was established in 2019 and the Wisconsin Annual Conference was unable to comply with the requirement to develop the process of disaffiliation until this year, and that the process for a congregation attempting to disaffiliate prior to this year was halted, has the Annual conference provided “sufficient time” for the local church to complete this process prior to legislative expiration?
  3. The request for disaffiliation requires documentation “explain[ing] how the current Discipline or actions or inactions of the annual conference have affected the mission and unity of the congregation” yet ¶ 2553 seems to indicate that denominational issues are being considered, including the actions of the General Conference and other Annual conferences. Are all actions of the General church and/or any Annual conference to be considered by local congregations for impacts to mission and unity.
  4. Since the Pastor is not a member of the local congregation, is it appropriate to subject them to the implementation by the Wisconsin Annual Conference of ¶ 2553? This paragraph and implementation only apply to local congregations wishing to disaffiliate.
  5. The section “Payment of Financial Obligations for Disaffiliation:” requires payment “[a]t least two weeks prior to the opening of the Annual Conference session.” This requirement seems to exceed the authority of ¶ 2553 by requiring payment before action of Annual conference. Is this requirement valid or are payments due before the earlier of December 31, 2023 or the final date of disaffiliation?
  6. The section “Payment of Financial Obligations for Disaffiliation:” requires payment into an escrow account “to cover annual conference legal expenses related to the disaffiliation.” Does this exceed the authority of ¶ 2553 by requiring payment for expenses prior to them being incurred? Additionally, if there is a standard form for disaffiliation, is it appropriate to charge local congregations additional conference legal fees?

In response, Bishop Hee-Soo Jung issued the following Decision of Law, which reads in relevant part:

  1. An Annual Conference has the authority to adopt policies and procedures for the disaffiliation of a local congregation pursuant to Paragraph 2553 of the Discipline as long as the policies and procedures are consistent with Paragraph 2553. Each policy and procedure questioned by the Request is consistent with Paragraph 2553. This includes the requirement that certain payments arising from the disaffiliation be completed before the Annual Conference session at which a vote on disaffiliation is to take place.
  2. Paragraph 2553 was intended for a limited purpose, and the Wisconsin Annual Conference has a responsibility to the denomination to see that it is faithfully executed. To do so, it is important that, in the process of discernment, a congregation considering disaffiliation articulate its reasons for disaffiliating and evaluate its role in The UMC. The requirement that the congregation “explain how the current Discipline or actions or inactions of the annual conference have affected the mission and unity of the congregation” provides a framework consistent with Paragraph 2553 to explore the congregation’s relationship to The UMC and whether that relationship gives rise to an application of Paragraph 2553.
  3. The credentials for clergypersons to serve in The UMC are strictly governed by the Discipline. If a member of the clergy is appointed to a congregation that disaffiliates under Paragraph 2553, and the clergyperson opts to leave with the congregation, or otherwise leave The UMC, the member is deemed to have withdrawn from The UMC and has surrendered his or her credentials. Although the Discipline provides for appointments outside the denomination, such appointments must meet all requirements of the Discipline and are generally not intended for local congregations that have disaffiliated from The UMC. Therefore, the requirement that clergypersons appointed to disaffiliating congregations declare their intention is fully consistent with the Discipline, including Paragraph 2553, which in no way alters the credentialing and appointment process.

The Judicial Council received no briefs for this case.


The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under ¶ 2609.6 of The 2016 Book of Discipline.

Analysis and Rationale

Parts 1 and 2 of Bishop Bishop Hee-Soo Jung’s decision are affirmed for the reasons set forth therein. The Judicial Council defers ruling on Part 3 concerning Questions 4 and 5 (as to whether clergy persons who disaffiliate are deemed to have surrendered their credentials) until the issues raised by those questions are fully briefed before the Judicial Council. Interested parties and amici curiae are hereby invited to file briefs in support of their positions with regard to Questions 4 and 5 no later than thirty (30) days and reply briefs no later than forty (40) days from the date of this ruling. 


The Decision of Law by Bishop Hee-Soo Jung is affirmed in part and deferred in part.


February 28, 2023

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