Chancellor Reports on Conclusion of Disaffiliation Lawsuits, Expansion of New Ministries


Missouri Conference Chancellor Jordan Ault began his report by reminding the Conference that for the last few years, his reports have been dominated by discussions of litigation filed by disaffiliating churches that chose not to follow the Book of Discipline. 

“Last year, I told you about three such cases, and I promised you the Conference had two main goals: making sure every disaffiliating church honored its commitments and complied with the Discipline and finding a graceful way forward so both the Conference and disaffiliating churches could focus on ministry instead of litigation,” he said. “I’m pleased to report that we achieved both goals.”

A few days after last year’s Conference, the Missouri Conference had a win in a case filed by Morning Star Church in St. Charles. The Conference argued that the judge did not have the right to interpret our Book of Discipline and that it would be improper under the First Amendment for him to do so. He agreed and dismissed the case. 

“We were thrilled with the result,” Ault said. 

Shortly thereafter, the Missouri Conference agreed to a formal mediation for the three churches that sued the Conference, plus two others who had not yet filed lawsuits. They negotiated for three days with a retired federal judge in Springfield, Illinois. Joining Ault on our mediation team was his predecessor Larry Tucker, along with Rev. Nate Berneking and Rev. Jim Simpson. All five churches agreed to meet the requirements of the Book of Discipline, including the required payment made by every other disaffiliating church. In a few weeks, these cases will be formally dismissed. The Conference will not be involved in any litigation related to disaffiliation or any other topic.

Ault said he feels like I need to acknowledge how emotional the process has been. 

“Nearly all of the churches leaving the denomination worked through that process with nothing but grace and professionalism, but I was disappointed by the tone of a lot of what was said in our sanctuaries,” he said. “A lot of people have been hurt during this process. That includes many of you that were accused of things that have no bearing in reality, but also those who were at the center of the debate, but somehow also missing from it.”

Ault said the legal team is still busy but now on more positive ventures, such as negotiating leases for growing churches and new congregations and ministries and creating nonprofits for community-based mission work. 

Ault’s firm, Husch Blackwell, has over 20 offices, with four in Missouri, and over 800 attorneys, including a team he leads that is focused on nonprofit and religious clients.