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Bishops, advocacy groups release plan to ‘gracefully split’ UMC; one plan of many

Bishops, advocacy groups release plan to ‘gracefully split’ UMC; one plan of many
Logo by United Methodist Communications

By Jessica Brodie

A diverse group of United Methodists—including bishops, traditionalists, centrists and progressives—released a proposal Jan. 3 to gracefully split The United Methodist Church. The proposal is one of several to be considered by the General Conference.

Called the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation, the proposal would enable the UMC to be preserved while also allowing traditionalist churches to form a new denomination, plus get needed funding and keep their church properties.

Prominent mediator Kenneth Feinberg, who oversaw the government’s September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and the BP Deepwater Horizon Disaster Victim Compensation Fund, helped the 16-member group craft the proposal. While legislation for the proposal is still being developed, it is expected to be one of many plans up for consideration at the UMC’s General Conference, set for May 5-15 in Minneapolis.

The plan has the unanimous support of all the parties involved, including representatives from Europe, Africa, the Philippines and the United States, as well as many bishops and leaders of advocacy groups. Signers included representatives of the Wesleyan Covenant Association, The Confessing Movement, the Reconciling Ministries Network, UMCNext, Mainstream UMC, Uniting Methodists, Good News, the Methodist Federation for Social Action, the United Methodist Queer Clergy Caucus, Affirmation and The Institute on Religion & Democracy.

It also addresses many previously unresolved concerns. The plan allows conferences and local churches to vote to separate from the UMC and affiliate with new Methodist denominations created under the agreement within a certain time frame. Churches wishing to stay within the UMC would not be required to conduct a vote.

It anticipates the formation of a new traditionalist Methodist denomination, which would receive $25 million over the next four years, retain assets and liabilities and give up further claim to the UMC’s assets.

An additional $2 million would go to potential additional new Methodist denominations that may emerge.

It also allocates $39 million to ensure there is no disruption in supporting ministries for communities historically marginalized by racism.

All current clergy and lay employees would keep their pensions regardless of the Methodist denomination they select.

As for the remaining global UMC, the plan proposes restructuring it into regions, with flexibility to adapt church policies, including on inclusion as it relates to sexuality. It also calls for a special general conference of the post-separation UMC with a purpose to create regional conferences, remove current prohibitions against LGBTQ persons and repeal the Traditional Plan.

“All of us are servants of the church and realize that we are not the primary decision makers on these matters,” said the Sierra Leone’s Bishop John Yambasu, speaking on behalf of the group. “Instead, we humbly offer to the delegates of the 2020 General Conference the work which we have accomplished in the hopes that it will help heal the harms and conflicts within the body of Christ and free us to be more effective witnesses to God’s Kingdom.”

Under the plan, a non-U.S. central conference would be able to choose with a two-thirds vote to affiliate with a new Methodist denomination. An annual conference also could vote to affiliate with a new Methodist denomination. A disaffiliation vote would have to pass by 57 percent.

Though the petition deadline for General Conference is past, church rules allow for special annual conference sessions to consider submitting additional petitions, and the GC Committee on Reference also can allow late petitions.

The plan’s signatories have asked the Council of Bishops to request that the Judicial Council consider the constitutionality of the proposal before General Conference opens.

South Carolina Resident Bishop L. Jonathan Holston said the proposal is one of several that have been prepared for consideration by the General Conference.

“It is important to remember that the General Conference is the only body that can speak for the denomination and make changes to The Book of Discipline. At this point, no decisions have been made and none will be made until the General Conference meets May 5-15 in Minneapolis,” Holston said.

Holston invites South Carolina United Methodists to join him in prayer for the delegates to the General Conference who have been elected to make decisions about the future mission and ministry of the UMC.

“Keeping focused on our mission—making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world—must remain our priority. There are people who do not yet know the grace, love and mercy found through relationship with Jesus Christ, and we are called to share this good news,” Holston said.

Holston encouraged people to pray and earnestly seek God’s will in your life; to engage in discussions, conversations and debates in ways that honor God and allow the fruit of the Spirit to be made known, and to practice Methodism founder John Wesley’s Three Simple Rules (do all the good you can, do no harm and stay in love with God).

“May we carry on God’s good work here in South Carolina with the love that always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres,” Holston added.

To read the nine-page Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation, visit https://tinyurl.com/split-protocol. To read FAQs developed to help people understand the proposal, visit https://tinyurl.com/split-protocol-faqs.

Much information gleaned from “United Methodist Traditionalists, Centrists, Progressives and Bishops Sign Agreement Aimed at Separation,” released by the Council of Bishops Office on behalf of the Mediation Team members. “Diverse Leaders’ Group Offers Separation Plan,” by Sam Hodges for the United Methodist News Service, also helped.

10 Comments

  • I’ve read information before on this particular plan, and it may be the way that all this “shakes out.” My biggest question is, “Why does the ‘traditionalist church’ end up being the body to establish a ‘new’ denomination? If we’re forced to separate, shouldn’t it be the new ‘progressive’ wing of the church that forms the new denomination?

  • It is ludicrous that congregations wishing to follow the tenets of the United Methodist Church are forced to form another denomination, a denomination which would most likely mirror exactly what the UMC purports to be, yet those who wish to undermine the foundation that allowed the church to grow will keep the name United Methodist. These actions are anything but uniting. We are going from United to Untied.

    Those who vote for dividing the United Methodist Church unethically and unfairly should be embarrassed they will turn their backs on the thousands upon thousands before them who worked and sacrificed to create the church many of us still love despite its flaws. We love it because we feel God’s presence and we know God will give us wisdom and strength to do the right thing.

    • I totally agree! Why has no one else thought of this? Albert Cox

  • Jessica, thank you for getting this information out to us about this Suggested Protocol that will help the Methodist Church move forward. There are so many questions circulating and it is so helpful that you have included the FAQ’s (frequently asked questions) web address (https://tinyurl.com/split-protocol-faqs) so we can find the answers to many of the questions that we may have.

  • I agree with Mr. Shulte’s and Mr. Grimm’s comments. There are many, many United Methodists wondering why doesn’t the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation enable “The Traditional” UMC to be preserved while also allowing “The Progressive” churches to form a new denomination, plus get needed funding and keep their church properties. Why are we getting kicked out of our own church?

  • I totally agree with those above who feel the traditional United Methodists should be the ones who are allowed to stay in the United Methodist Church and let those want to change everything in our denomination to suit themselves and the society we live in form their own denomination. I have served the UMC for 48 years and I took the vows of ordination for our Lord Jesus Christ and in The United Methodist Church, not expecting to come to the end to be told that if you do not agree, then you will have to go somewhere else. I grew up in the Methodist Church, accepted Christ Jesus and accepted the call to ministry in the Methodist Church. So you see that I have known nothing but the Methodist Church so now tell me what I am to feel and what am i to do. I certainly will not accept what the progressives are recommending for it is contrary to the Scriptures. daWe are n o longer the “United” Methodist Church. God help us all.

    • Agree 100% Rev Cox. Have always respected you and your sermons and leadership in Holly Hill as well as those who have served Providence UMC. God bless you and your family and I am fortunate to have you fighting for all that believe as you.
      Dan Atkinson
      4027 old state Road
      Santee, SC 29142 (physical address)
      803-971-1262

  • I am sorry that the traditional believers may be asked to leave. Should be change our church at the request of what could be a minority? If the progressives do not agree, I believe they should be the ones to for a new denomination or church affiliation. The traditionalists do not have a problem with the way the Discipline is written. Praying for our church.

  • I totally agree that traditionalist worshippers should not be the ones that have to form a new church. Our beliefs have not changed , God has not changed, only MAN.

  • If this plan is voted for at the next conference, then our rules will be rewritten with the new plan as the standard. So traditionalists will be in opposition to the rules and therefore have to be the ones to leave. That way progressives will control the assets of the church and traditionalists will be lucky to get anything. We should encourage our representatives to vote for no change (if that is even an option). The problem with that is, progressives have “stacked the deck” with progressive representatives so as to ensure that the vote goes their way.

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