A Message from Our Bishop
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
In this New Year I invite you to join me in praying for the United Methodist Church and her people in all places across the world. I invite you to pray that we expand our mission in every place so that those for whom Christ is a stranger will find in Him a gracious and generous friend.
It is no secret that the United Methodist Church has continued to struggle with conflicting views regarding human sexuality, and today I write to you with news that emerged this morning about a mediated agreement called “Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation.” This Protocol is a response by a number of constituencies within our Church to propose to the General Conference a plan that would allow a gracious separation among faithful Christians so that we may avoid continued distraction from the work of the Kingdom of God.
The individuals adopting this proposal have affirmed their recognition that they do not, and cannot, speak for every constituency in the United Methodist Church, but have made this proposal after prayerful consideration about how best to go forward in doing our most important work—making disciples of Christ.
This news comes to us from our own United Methodist News Service. Many of you have no doubt read reports coming from other media outlets. In light of some of the confusing messages contained in those reports, I would offer the following.
Some have interpreted the proposal as a decision that has already been made, or as a call by the Council of Bishops for a Church divide, or both. In fact, it is neither.
The Protocol is a mediated agreement among a group of persons who have committed individually and collectively to pursue a common legislative goal when the governing body of the global United Methodist Church meets in May. That legislative body—the General Conference—is the only body with authority to establish the governing law of the United Methodist Church. The group of individuals who have come together to propose the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace have made clear that their proposal is theirs alone and is not at this point an official action of the United Methodist Church.
It is to be noted, however, that this proposal is unique in that it was generated by a group of individuals representing diverse advocacy groups with contrasting views and bishops with a variety of perspectives, rather than by a group with a single theological perspective.
The group came together as an outgrowth of dialogue initiated by Bishops from Central Conferences outside the United States and collaborated on a proposed agreement for the separation of The United Methodist Church (UMC) that has the unanimous support of these individuals representing varying perspectives.
Some of the central ideas of the proposed legislation are the following:
· The creation of four regional conferences—Africa, U.S., Europe, Philippines—each with its own ability to adapt the Book of Discipline;
· The ongoing existence of The United Methodist Church;
· A gracious path for departure for a traditionalist conservative Methodist Church, with financial support for moving forward in a Wesleyan tradition;
· The removal of restrictive language related to LGBTQ identity and practice in the post-separation United Methodist Church immediately following the May 2020 General Conference;
· Holding in abeyance any church disaffiliations or closures related to human sexuality issues, and any administrative or judicial processes regarding restrictions in the Book of Discipline related to LGBTQ persons, beginning January 1, 2020;
· Creation of a fund to strengthen ministries with and among persons and communities marginalized by the sin of racism;
· Provisions allowing Annual Conferences and local churches to vote to depart from The United Methodist Church with their property in order to participate in another Methodist expression, butmaking clear that no Annual Conference or local church is required to take such a vote, and no one is asked to leave or separate from the United Methodist Church;
· Continuity of pension service from Wespath across the various Methodist expressions.
In May of this year the General Conference will gather to consider this document as one of a number of proposals that are before the General Conference.
In the meantime, the work continues in the Nashville Episcopal Area, the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences. We continue to press toward God’s call upon our lives to “discover, equip, connect and send lay and clergy leaders who shape congregations that offer Christ to a hurting world, one neighborhood at a time.”
Change, and especially talk of separation, is daunting: yet is heartening that persons of very diverse views have come together to do this serious work, and have listened to, and heard, each other. I would remind us that despite the uncertainty, God is doing amazing work among us and we have tremendous leaders who are focused on making disciples of Jesus Christ.
I recognize that for many this report is received with some measure of anxiety. My prayer for you is that you turn toward one another, not away from one another.
A friend sent a book of prayers to me this Christmas, and I share this prayer with you:
Where there is separation,
There is pain.
And where there is pain,
There is story.
And where there is story,
There is understanding,
And not listening.
May we—separated peoples, estranged strangers,
Turn toward each other,
And turn toward our stories,
With argument and acceptance,
With challenge, change
Because if God is to be found,
God will be found in the space between.*
*Daily Prayers with the Corrymeela Community by Padrig O Tuama
Contact: Patricia L. Miller
7795 E. 21st Street
Indianapolis, IN 46219
Confessing Movement Executive Director Patricia Miller has been participating in meetings with representatives from diverse groups of United Methodists for several months regarding a plan for amicable separation. An agreement has been reached by the participants with unanimous support. Following is the official press release which includes links to a FAQ sheet and the Signed Protocol statement. All this information can also be found on our website at http://www.confessingumc.org.
United Methodist Traditionalists, Centrists, Progressives
& Bishops sign agreement aimed at separation
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 3, 2020
(Washington, D.C.): A diverse group of representatives from United Methodist advocacy groups with contrasting views and bishops from around the world has collaborated on a proposed agreement for the separation of The United Methodist Church (UMC) that has the unanimous support of all the parties involved. The agreement, the Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation, was achieved on December 17, 2019 and announced today.
The action comes amid heightened tensions in the church over conflicting views related to human sexuality after the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference failed to resolve differences among church members.
Legislation to implement the Protocol statement – an eight-page document detailing the terms of a split of the 13+ million-member denomination – is expected to come before the United Methodist General Conference for a vote at their legislative meeting in Minneapolis, Minn. in May 2020.
The 17-member group came together as an outgrowth of a consultation initiated by bishops from Central Conferences located outside the United States. The parties sought assistance from prominent attorney Kenneth Feinberg, who specializes in mediation and alternative dispute resolution. Feinberg, who served as Special Master of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and administrator of the BP Deepwater Horizon Disaster Victim Compensation Fund along with a number of other complex matters, agreed to provide his services pro bono.
Meeting over several months, the unofficial group reached an agreement by signatories associated with all of the constituencies within the UMC for a mutually supported pathway for separation, bridging differences among other plans to be considered by the General Conference. “The undersigned propose restructuring The United Methodist Church by separation as the best means to resolve our differences, allowing each part of the Church to remain true to its theological understanding, while recognizing the dignity, equality, integrity, and respect of every person,” says the protocol statement.
The document’s signers include representatives from Europe, Africa, the Philippines, and the United States, and include persons representing UMCNext; Mainstream UMC; Uniting Methodists; The Confessing Movement; Good News; The Institute on Religion & Democracy; the Wesleyan Covenant Association; Affirmation; Methodist Federation for Social Action; Reconciling Ministries Network; and the United Methodist Queer Clergy Caucus; as well as bishops from the United States and across the world. The representatives have pledged to work together to support the proposal and develop legislation to implement it.
The Protocol anticipates the formation of a new traditionalist Methodist denomination. Once formed, the new church would receive $25 million over the next four years and give up further claim to the UMC’s assets. An additional $2 million would be allocated for potential additional new Methodist denominations which may emerge from the UMC. Acknowledging the historical role of the Methodist movement in systematic racial violence, exploitation and discrimination, the Protocol would allocate $39 million to ensure there is no disruption in supporting ministries for communities historically marginalized by racism.
Under the protocol, conferences and local congregations could vote to separate from The United Methodist Church to 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. Provisions exist for entities that choose to separate to retain their assets and liabilities. All current clergy and lay employees would keep their pensions regardless of the Methodist denomination with which they affiliate.
Under the Protocol, all administrative or judicial processes addressing restrictions in the BOD related to self-avowed practicing homosexuals or same-sex weddings as well as actions to close churches would be held in abeyance until the separation is completed. The protocol also references a plan which calls for a special general conference of the post-separation United Methodist Church. The goal of this meeting, held immediately following the 2020 General Conference, would be to consider legislation to create regional conferences and consider legislation removing prohibitions including the repeal of Traditional Plan legislation and all other portions related to LGBTQ persons.
Speaking on behalf of the group, Bishop John Yambasu (Sierra Leone) stated, “All of us are servants of the church and realize that we are not the primary decision makers on these matters. 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.”
The signatories to the Protocol have provided a FAQ document to provide additional information about the agreement. Comments and questions may be directed to the signatories at email@example.com.
A live stream event will be taking place on Monday, January 13th to provide further clarity and explanations of the plan by members of the Mediation Team.
This statement is being released by the Council of Bishops Office on behalf of the Mediation Team members.
Members of the Mediation Team
Bishop Christian Alsted (firstname.lastname@example.org), Nordic-Baltic Episcopal Area
Rev. Thomas Berlin (email@example.com), representing UMCNext, Mainstream UMC, Uniting Methodists
Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton (firstname.lastname@example.org), New York Episcopal Area
Rev. Keith Boyette (email@example.com), representing The Confessing Movement, Good News, IRD/UM Action, and the Wesleyan Covenant Association
Bishop Kenneth H. Carter (firstname.lastname@example.org), Florida Episcopal Area
Rev. Junius Dotson (email@example.com), representing UMCNext, Mainstream UMC, United Methodists
Bishop LaTrelle Easterling (firstname.lastname@example.org), Washington Episcopal Area
Rev. Egmedio “Jun” Equila, Jr. (email@example.com), Philippines Central Conference
Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey (firstname.lastname@example.org), Louisiana Episcopal Area
Bishop Rodolfo Rudy Juan (email@example.com), Davao Episcopal Area, Philippines
Janet Lawrence (firstname.lastname@example.org), representing Affirmation, Methodist Federation for Social Action, and Reconciling Ministries Network
Rev. David Meredith (email@example.com), representing Affirmation, Methodist Federation for Social Action, and Reconciling Ministries Network, member of UM Queer Clergy Caucus
Patricia Miller (firstname.lastname@example.org), representing The Confessing Movement, Good News, IRD/UM Action, and the Wesleyan Covenant Association
Dr. Randall Miller (email@example.com), representing Affirmation, Methodist Federation for Social Action, and Reconciling Ministries Network
Bishop Gregory Vaughn Palmer (firstname.lastname@example.org), Ohio West Episcopal Area
Bishop John K. Yambasu (email@example.com), Sierra Leone Episcopal Area
The Confessing Movement | 317.356.9729 |firstname.lastname@example.org | http://www.confessingumc.org