FAQ North Alabama Conference and the Bishop

1. Bishop Wallace-Padgett has said there will potentially be three opportunities for churches to disaffiliate — December 2022, mid-2023 and possibly late 2023. What are the deadlines churches should know?

Below are some key dates and deadlines regarding the upcoming special session of the North Alabama Conference related to church disaffiliation under Book of Discipline ¶2553.

May 2023 Special Session:

  • Feb 1, 2023 - Last day for a congregation to begin the discernment process to consider disaffiliation from The United Methodist Church and have time to complete it prior to the May 2023 Special Session. Contact your District Superintendent for more information. Please note: congregations not wishing to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church do not have to enter a discernment process.
  • May 1, 2023 - Deadline for congregations to turn in all disaffiliation-related documentation and financial payments due to the Annual Conference.
  • May 11, 2023 - Special Session of the North Alabama Annual Conference to be held with the purpose of processing current requests for disaffiliation under ¶2553 of the United Methodist Book of Discipline. This is the second of potentially three gatherings the North Alabama Annual Conference will have to vote on disaffiliations for churches under Book of Discipline ¶2553.
  • Dec. 31, 2023 -  The ¶2553 Disaffiliation Process, which was added to the Book of Discipline by the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference expires.
     

2. Do the Bishop, Cabinet, Board of Ministry and other groups uphold the Book of Discipline in North Alabama?

Yes.
 

3. Does the North Alabama Conference have any input about the next bishop that will be assigned to our Conference?

Bishops are elected by a Jurisdictional Conference composed of clergy and lay delegates from every Annual Conference in that jurisdictional area. The North Alabama Conference is a part of the Southeastern Jurisdiction. Our delegation to the 2022 Southeastern Jurisdiction is listed at here.

Bishops are assigned by the Jurisdiction’s episcopacy committee. This committee also has representatives from every Annual Conference in the Jurisdiction. The North Alabama members of the SEJ Episcopacy Committee are Rev. Dr. Robin Scott and Steve Lyles.
 

4. Does a Bishop make all the decisions for an Annual Conference?

Bishops provide spiritual leadership and general oversight to the worldwide United Methodist Church. They serve in various leadership roles at the General Church and Jurisdictional levels. In the Annual Conference he or she serves, a Bishop sets all clergy appointments, is the presiding officer at the annual conference session and rules on points of law. 

There are many teams and committees, comprised of North Alabama clergy and laity elected by the Annual Conference that also have leadership, decision-making and administrative responsibilities for North Alabama. Some of these include:

  • Board of Laity
  • Board of Ministry
  • Board of Pension
  • Conference Council on Finance and Administration
  • Conference Nominations Team
  • Conference Trustees
     

5. The Southeastern Jurisdiction may assign a new Bishop to North Alabama in January 2023. Will this change the North Alabama Conference disaffiliation process?

The Conference Trustees have the responsibility for the disaffiliation process. Any changes recommended by a new bishop would have to be approved and then implemented by the Conference Trustees.

Note: The 2022 Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference reassigned Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett to continue serving the North Alabama and Holston Conferences through August of 2024. 
 

6. Do local churches and clergy get a say in the clergy appointment process in the North Alabama Conference?

Yes. The Bishop and Appointive Cabinet consult with clergy each year and with a church’s Staff-Parish or Pastor-Parish Relations Committee (SPRC). These consultations help the Bishop and Cabinet to identify gifts, graces, ministry priorities and needs, context and other factors they will consider while prayerfully making pastoral appointments. Their goal each year is for pastoral appointments to be successful for both the clergy and the congregation, so they take the information they receive during consultations very seriously.
 

7. Is the North Alabama Conference going to start new churches in areas of North Alabama where congregations are disaffiliating?

Yes! The Conference’s long-standing ministry of planting new churches and ministries will continue. 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.
 

8. The Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference (SEJ) met in early November 2022.  Did they assign a new Bishop to North Alabama?

No. The 2022 SEJ Conference approved Bishop assignments for the Jurisdiction that keeps Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett serving both the North Alabama and Holston Conferences through August of 2024. 

The SEJ will meet again in July 2024 to elect new Bishops and make new assignments of all SEJ Bishops to take effect on Sept. 1, 2024.

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