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The United Methodist Church

Bishop John Schol


Eastern Pennsylvania

& Greater New Jersey

August 10, 2022

Dear Friends in Christ,

In 1905 the Rev. Charles Albert Tindley, pastor of what is today Tindley Temple United Methodist Church in Philadelphia, wrote, “When the storms of life are raging, stand by me.”  Read the compelling hymn’s lyrics here.

Rev. Tindley started as the church’s janitor, then became its pastor and grew the congregation to become one of the largest in Methodism. His words can have profound meaning for us today as United Methodists. In the midst of all that our pastors and congregations are facing, know that God is standing by us.

Yesterday, I emailed a letter updating you on the disaffiliation process. At approximately the same time the Wesleyan Covenant Association’s (WCA) Eastern Pennsylvania affiliate circulated a press release indicating that some of our churches are taking legal action against EPA (which represents and includes all of our clergy and congregations) “to secure exit” from EPA and The United Methodist Church.

Apparently, 25 churches have secured a law firm in Florida to represent them in exiting from EPA to join the WCA’s newly formed denomination. At this time we cannot confirm the 25 churches because we do not have their addresses to verify they are all in EPA. And some churches on the list have names shared by other churches in EPA.

We are deeply saddened that the churches have chosen this route, as we remain committed to work with and support all of our congregations.

God, in your mercy, stand by us.

Apparently the 25 congregations do not want to use the process of paragraph 2553 that was inserted into the Book of Discipline in 2019. This is ironic because the WCA and its followers successfully advocated for the insertion of that paragraph at the 2019 Special Session of General Conference.

This paragraph was inserted so that congregations as a whole or in part could disaffiliate without following another part of The Book of Discipline, paragraph 2501—known as the Trust Clause, which requires a congregation that disaffiliates to surrender the church property to The UMC. Paragraph 2553 suspended the Trust Clause temporarily so that congregations who seek to leave at this time can leave at a fraction of their property cost.

I and the cabinet pledge to work with the congregations to try to address their concerns peacefully without going to court. Their lawyer has given us to September 1, 2022, to respond to a request for these congregations to leave under paragraph 2548.2 using the terms of the “Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation.” But that proposed agreement has not been approved by the General Conference, nor sanctioned by the UMC’s Judicial Council, nor by EPA. We are awaiting a ruling by the Judicial Council about paragraph 2548.2, which states:

With the consent of the presiding bishop and of a majority of the district superintendents and of the district board of church location and building and at the request of the charge conference or of a meeting of the membership of the local church, where required by local law, and in accordance with said law, the annual conference may instruct and direct the board of trustees of a local church to deed church property to one of the other denominations represented in the Pan-Methodist Commission or to another evangelical denomination under an allocation, exchange of property, or comity agreement, provided that such agreement shall have been committed to writing and signed and approved by the duly qualified and authorized representatives of both parties concerned.

This paragraph was added to The Book of Discipline in 1948. You can read here the Council of Bishops’ recent request for a declaratory decision by the Judicial Council regarding the proper understanding and use of this paragraph. The request provides a history of paragraph 2548.2 and questions to be resolved for using it instead of paragraph 2553.


Our conference officials, the cabinet and I have not endorsed use of paragraph 2548.2 because it does not provide sufficient guidance as outlined in paragraph 2553. Without guidance, an annual conference could require a congregation to pay for the entire church property through a “comity” agreement. Further, our 2022 Annual Conference concurred by an 81% majority vote that the use of paragraph 2548.2 was out of order when it was proposed as legislation to the 2022 Annual Session.


The information about disaffiliation and all submitted questions and answers related to disaffiliation can be found on the EPA website’s Disaffiliation Discernment page.


The WCA press release is attached below.


We will continue to support all our congregations through this challenging time. As you have further questions, please submit them through the EPA website’s Disaffiliation Discernment FAQ page. If your congregation is struggling right now to understand the issues, contact your district superintendent, as we seek to walk with you during this time. If you are personally struggling with the challenges facing our church, please let me know. We are here to support you.


God, in your mercy, when the storms of life are raging, stand by us.


I ask for your prayers for my leadership and for all of our clergy and congregations. God will see us through. And God has an important and great future for us as United Methodists.


Keep the faith!




John Schol, Bishop 

Bishop John Schol

The United Methodists of

Eastern Pennsylvania & Greater New Jersey

[email protected] |484-474-0939

[email protected] | 732-359-1010

Equipping transformational leaders for 

New Disciples | Vital Congregations | Transformed World

EPA Churches Start Legal Action to Leave the UMC Bishop Schol’s Disaffiliation Plan Still Clear as Mud

- (released by the EPA WCA) - August 8, 2022

During the first week of August, nearly 30 EPA congregations initiated legal action to leave the UMC and unite with the Global Methodist Church. In what is believed to be merely a first wave of such actions here, these churches have presented Presiding Bishop John Schol with letters indicating their unwillingness to enter the official, conference-sponsored process of disaffiliation – which at this writing is still far from clear.

Eastern Pennsylvania has now joined a growing movement within US Conferences, in which groups of churches are banding together and employing attorneys to secure an exit from the UMC. The movement began in Florida, where 106 congregations (about 20% of Florida Conference churches) initiated legal action in May. Similar group actions are now either imminent or already underway in North Carolina, Virginia, Western Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland.

Meanwhile, Bishop Schol and EPA conference attorney Matt Morley led a webinar on August 1 to outline the EPA conference process for churches seeking to pursue disaffiliation under paragraph 2553 of the Discipline. However, the webinar ended with more questions hanging than answered. In several conferences, bishops and conference boards of trustees have added crippling financial fees to the list of requirements for congregations seeking to exit – in some cases, payments amounting to 50% of the market value of local church properties. After repeated questions on this were submitted, Schol and Morley finally said that they did not yet know if such payments would be required. Morley indicated that the board of trustees was scheduled to meet on August 5, and he would make sure the question was “on the agenda.” 

Schol and Morley also outlined a process in which a “term sheet” would be delivered to local churches in time for a congregational vote to disaffiliate, outlining an estimate of required payments. However, they stressed that that term sheet would be “very, very preliminary” and, after a church had voted to leave, would be revised – and could be “significantly” changed. Schol also indicated that there would be no negotiations on this. “The term sheet is the term sheet,” he said. 

“Do they think we are stupid?” asked a bewildered lay leader of a congregation who participated in the webinar. Such a process can only be likened to someone going to settlement on a house, signing all the commitment papers, and only afterward finding out what the sale price and monthly payment will be. Three and a half years after paragraph 2553 was made part of church law, EPA still does not have a clear process for disaffiliation, -- and 2553 expires in 2023. Schol’s obfuscations will undoubtedly drive more congregations to seek legal alternatives to disaffiliation. 

In other developments, many hundreds, probably thousands, of congregations are lining up around the US to find ways to exit the UMC. Relatively few had begun the disaffiliation process prior to the mid-March announcement that the 2022 General Conference would be postponed. Most churches had been waiting for the General Conference to pass the Protocol or some other plan to amicably divide or reorganize the denomination. As a result of this third postponement, relatively few congregations across the country (under 300) were able to complete the complicated process of disaffiliation in time for the May-June annual conference season. But now, many more are pushing forward. An example: the Peninsula-Delaware Conference approved only 5 churches for disaffiliation at its June 2022 session. But by July 1, about 100 more of its congregations had officially registered with the conference to pursue disaffiliation in time for next year.

There is no question now that the UMC is coming apart, and that the efforts of some bishops and other denominational leaders to prevent churches from leaving, and thwart the establishment of the Global Methodist Church – to “strangle the baby in the crib,” as someone put it – are failing. 

A new day is dawning. A new organizational structure for the people called Methodist has been launched and is gathering steam – one which will be faithful to Scripture, focused on making disciples of Jesus, and which will provide a healthy, vibrant and spiritually nurturing connection for the next century.

Pastors and lay members interested in learning more about their options, or about the work of the WCA, can contact us at [email protected]. Someone from our team will reach out to you.



The Eastern Pennsylvania Conference | 610-666-9090

980 Madison Avenue, Norristown, PA 19403 |