The Western Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church ratified the disaffiliation agreements for 298 churches during a special session in Erie, PA on June 14, 2023. Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi presided. Voting on churches in blocks by districts, the body overwhelmingly affirmed all the disaffiliation agreements with no contestations. Churches must fulfill their settlement obligations in order to complete the disaffiliation process, which many did immediately following the session. See list.
The Rev. Dr. Renee Mikell opened with prayer and before the vote, Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi reminded the body that the room was bathed in prayer by our prayer team. The Conference trustees then took turns reading the legislation for each district.
In an emotional show of gratitude after the completion of voting, Bishop Moore-Koikoi thanked the Board of Trustees for the difficult work they’ve done through this process. “This has been difficult work to do,” she began. “It has been challenging spiritually, intellectually and emotionally. These persons before you were here for such a time as this. Because of their deep spirituality, their deep faith, because of their trust in God, they were able to carry out this painful process.”
Rev. Scott Gallagher joined in giving thanks for the team he worked with. “These were big tasks,” he said. “But God is much bigger than any task we place before God.” He also lifted the shared experiences, the stories, the baptisms, and the calls to ministry of those gathered. Despite the parting of ways, he voiced optimism.
“In the midst of separation, God is planting the seeds to lead us into the future.”
Worship followed the voting and was a spirit-filled time of repentance and forgiveness. “This may be the last time we all sing or pray together. So come on,” Bishop Moore-Koikoi urged. “Everybody! Let’s praise the Lord.”
The body sang “The Church’s One Foundation,” a hymn that speaks of trials and tribulation but ends with the optimistic words, “But soon the night of weeping shall be the morn of song.” Bishop Moore-Koikoi then led a Litany of Confession and a litany both seeking and offering forgiveness for one another. She encouraged those remaining in the United Methodist Church to read the first part, with those departing responding with the second.
She then offered a parting word, encouraging both those remaining in the United Methodist Church and those disaffiliating to leave the place in a way that builds up our siblings in Christ, rather than tear them down.
“We have a choice. As we go from this place, we can choose bitterness, envy, and selfish ambition. Or we can choose wisdom that is pure and peaceable… gentle and willing to yield… full of mercy and good fruits without a trace of hypocrisy and partiality.”
“I am begging us to show the world who God is through the actions of those who are remaining in the conference and the actions of those who have disaffiliated. Begging us to show the world who God is through how we will love each other and choose the better way.”
She urged everyone to leave the special session with a spirit of peace and to bless each other. Those remaining and those departed were asked to turn one another and speak in unison the following blessing: “May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you always. Amen.”
The regular session of the 2023 Western PA Annual Conference will commence Thursday afternoon.