Author and attorney Daniel Dalton cautions that waiting to act until after 2021 UMC Annual Conference may lead to legal complications
Detroit—September 30, 2020—Even though the United Methodist Annual Conference is not scheduled to take place until August 29–September 7, 2021, there should be a sense of urgency now for local churches who plan to separate from the denomination, according to Daniel P. Dalton, a religious property attorney with Detroit-based Dalton + Tomich who represents religious institutions of all faiths throughout the country. Dalton is the author of a new eBook on the topic—UMC Separation Plan 2021: What Your Church Needs to Do Now—written to educate UMC churches on the planning process and steps that can be taken to protect church property in the face of a denominational dissolution.
“United Methodist churches have been given an unexpected window of opportunity to decide who they want to be and where they want to go as a worship community,” Dalton said. “Having informed conversations with church leadership now will prevent fear in the present and a weak response in the future.”
The new eBook does not dispense legal advice and recognizes that each local church has unique circumstances; accordingly, it is designed to help facilitate meaningful, actionable conversations. UMC Separation Plan 2021: What Your Church Needs to Do Now examines:
- The current status of the separation plan
- What the UMC is doing before the vote
- Why now is a crucial time to make decisions for the future of the church
- Three imperative questions to ask now
- The four options available
- Next steps to preserve property and grow the church’s ministry in the future—regardless of the decision to stay or to leave
Earlier this year, Dalton authored another eBook about protocols for the United Methodist Church separation entitled, What the Proposed UMC Separation Means for Your Church, along with a supplemental video on the topic. Dalton noted that an announcement in January 2020 by the UMC laid the groundwork for anticipated splits within the denomination. That announcement, which was expected to be formalized at the UMC General Conference in May 2020, was postponed due to COVID-19. Voting on the separation is now rescheduled for the 2021 conference.
Dalton has represented hundreds of local churches in property disputes within the Methodist, Episcopal and the Presbyterian USA denominations related to the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), in addition to representing local churches seeking to separate from their mainline denominations while retaining their property using denominational trust clauses. His firm is often brought in as an impartial third party on denominational separations.
“The purpose of this new eBook is to motivate people to start the planning and separation process now instead of waiting for the UMC Annual Conference to act,” Dalton said. “Decisions have both emotional and legal ramifications, so turning to professionals familiar with the issues of denominational separations who know the intricacies of religious law but do not have a personal stake, can help churches determine where they want to end up.”
UMC Separation Plan 2021: What Your Church Needs to Do Now is available for complimentary download on the Dalton + Tomich website.
About Dalton + Tomich
Detroit-based Dalton + Tomich PLC is comprised of land use, denominational trust law, and business law attorneys. Serving as a partner to religious organizations, Dalton + Tomich is a national leader in religious property law land use, notably with cases related to the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and denominational splits. Learn more about our services for businesses and religious organizations on our website.