FAQ Clergy and Surviving Spouses

1. What happens to a clergy person who wishes to remain United Methodist if the congregation he or she is currently serving disaffiliates from The United Methodist Church?

The North Alabama Conference Appointive Cabinet will work with them to secure a new appointment within the North Alabama Conference. The United Methodist Book of Discipline ¶334.1 says “Every effective elder in full connection who is in good standing shall be continued under appointment by the bishop.” The Conference Leadership Team is actively developing plans to start new congregations and ministries in areas where current United Methodist congregations vote to leave the denomination. These will include new churches, house churches, fresh expressions and more. These new ministries will provide new appointment opportunities for clergy.

2. Is a pastor being negligent for not encouraging the congregation he or she is serving to enter into a discernment process?

No. There is no Book of Discipline requirement that all churches must go through a discernment process at this time to consider continued affiliation or disaffiliation from the denomination.

3. Can a credentialed (active or retired) United Methodist clergy serve a Global Methodist Church or independent church?

Credentialed United Methodist Clergy, active or retired, may not serve non-United Methodist churches unless the context is approved by the Board of Ordained Ministry and the bishop as an appointment to an extension ministry setting governed by ¶343 and ¶344 of The Book of Discipline. Serving in a non-related church without approval is deemed as withdrawal from United Methodist membership and credentials.

Retirement does not change these requirements. A retired UMC Elder is still an Elder and under the authority of the Office of Bishop, Board of Ordained Ministry and Clergy Session of the Conference. The Retired Elder still has all the powers and responsibilities of an Elder. The retired Elder can be appointed to serve a church. If not under appointment, the retired Elder must affiliate with a local United Methodist Church charge conference and therein annually report all ministry activity.

4. Will clergy be able to continue in the same pension and health benefits program if they leave The United Methodist Church?

No, disaffiliated clergy will not continue in the Clergy Retirement Security Program (CRSP) because CRSP is a UMC plan. Any retirement plan for clergy no longer in The United Methodist Church will not be the same plan as CRSP, as no disaffiliating group may continue to sponsor that plan. However, Wespath is available to serve all Methodist expressions. The Book of Discipline authorizes Wespath to administer benefit plans for annual conferences, large or small groups of churches, or a single church that changes its affiliation with The United Methodist Church. While some connectional benefit plans sponsored by United Methodist annual conferences are not available to disaffiliated churches (for example, CRSP), these churches may choose to sponsor other Wespath-administered plans for their clergy and lay employees. Please call 1-800-851-2201 to speak with a Retirement Services representative.

5. Is Wespath working with the Global Methodist Church (GMC) to provide employee benefit plans to clergy and laypersons of their denomination? Is the GMC able to continue sponsoring CRSP for its clergy?

From Wespath FAQ (See www.wespath.org/assets/1/7/5857.pdf): Wespath is in dialogue with the GMC to provide their churches employee benefit plans going forward, including retirement and health and welfare plans, after the GMC is formed. Discussions are still in progress. However, any retirement plan will not be the same plan as the Clergy Retirement Security Program (CRSP), as no disaffiliating group may continue to sponsor that plan. The retirement plans under discussion would be a new defined contribution plan specifically for the GMC. Wespath provides retirement services to some disaffiliated local churches already, by offering sponsorship in the United Methodist Personal Investment Plan (UMPIP).

6. Will retired clergy still be able to receive their pension if they leave The United Methodist Church? 

Yes, an already retired clergyperson who surrenders credentials (voluntarily or involuntarily) after retirement or terminates their conference relationship does not lose earned pension benefits. Earned pension benefits are vested under the terms of the retirement plans and cannot be taken away. However, the clergyperson may forgo certain future pension benefit increases, such as past service rate (PSR) increases under the Pre-1982 Plan. Additionally, the retired clergyperson might have other benefits in retirement that could be affected by termination (for example: retiree medical coverage, which is subject to the rules and policies of the annual conference).

7. Will the pension of clergy surviving spouses be impacted by churches leaving The United Methodist Church?

No. If you currently are receiving pension payments from Wespath as a surviving spouse or other contingent annuitant or beneficiary your pension benefits will not change as a result of a separation or disaffiliation of your local church.

8. Can a clergy who leave The United Methodist Church still qualify for a superannuate home in the North Alabama Conference?

Current residency would not be impacted but the question regarding future residents is currently under review by Superannuate Homes which is an incorporated agency with its own bylaws, officers and board of directors.

9. Are traditionalists being asked to leave the North Alabama Conference?

No. North Alabama Conference leadership has not asked any congregation or clergy to leave the denomination. Additionally, there has been no legislation adopted by the North Alabama Annual Conference or the General Conference of The United Methodist Church that asks any congregation to consider disaffiliation or any pastor to consider withdrawing from The United Methodist Church.

North Alabama Conference leadership is committed to the Conference continuing to be a community where traditionalists, centrists and progressives are in ministry together to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

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