Separation Protocol Presentation
Proposed new denominations:
Next Generation UMC legislation begins with the vision of a reformed United Methodist Church that welcomes everyone into full participation in the life and ministries of the church, addresses the systemic issues of the current institution, relentlessly focuses on making disciples of Jesus Christ, and equips our members to live as salt and light in the world. Reclaiming the spiritual zeal and creativity of our Wesleyan heritage, with its union of both the evangelical and social gospel, this legislation empowers United Methodists to move into the future with new vision, missional alignment, and self-determination.
Recognizing that the people called Methodists may not all think alike, but we may love alike, this legislation keeps intact The United Methodist Church as a denomination while allowing for greater regional autonomy across the entire connection. It eliminates language and policies in our Discipline that violate the First General Rule and its call to do no harm. Additionally, it graciously makes provision for those groups within the connection seeking to birth new expressions of Methodism.
There are four key areas:
REPEALS THE TRADITIONAL PLAN
The Next Generation UMC legislation repeals the 2019 Traditional Plan while retaining the current doctrinal standards of The Book of Discipline, including our commitment to the historic essentials of the Christian faith. The legislation:
Removes harmful language that discriminates against our LGBTQ siblings.
Includes a moratorium on all new and pending complaint proceedings related to the implementation of the 2019 Traditional Plan.
Eliminates language added by the 2019 Traditional Plan that makes the complaint process more expensive and that creates the potential for unresolvable conflict.
OPENS OPPORTUNITY TO FORM NEW EXPRESSIONS OF METHODISM
The legislation acknowledges that different groups within The United Methodist Church hold divergent views about how the resources of our faith guide us to live the Christian life. There are some who seek the opportunity to form new expressions of Methodism. The Next Generation UMC Legislation:
Provides a method for groups of churches to form new expressions of Methodism.
Offers resources to new denominational expressions of Methodism that continue in ecumenical relationships, reflecting and honoring a history of shared support in mission.
Creates a consistent process for local churches who desire to separate from The United Methodist Church to receive their property and continue to participate in pension plans.
REFORMS AND REVITALIZES THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
The Next Generation UMC legislation creates a Commission on the 21st Century Church designed to lead us into a period of innovation and reform. This:
Opens a path for reinventing a functional polity that embraces our global character and the need for contextual relevance and governing autonomy.
Allows Central Conferences to practice self-determination in choosing their future as a part of The UMC and leave behind perceptions that they are extensions of the church in the US.
Examines structures that perpetuate systemic racism in the UMC and offers ways to center historically marginalized voices.
ENSURES NO ONE IS EXCLUDED FROM THE MINISTRY OF THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
Denies every semblance of discrimination and rejects barriers that serve to divide and separate us as members of the body of Christ.
Removes language that discriminates against a particular group of people, a practice profoundly at odds with the principle of Inclusiveness in Article IV of the Constitution.
In the Wesleyan tradition, the legislation abides by the admonition to do no harm.
In short, Next Generation UMC legislation removes barriers to ministry, positions our church to reach a new generation of people and ushers in Spirit-fueled new life for The United Methodist Church.
Liberation Methodist Connexion
We are a grassroots denomination of former, current, and non-Methodist faith leaders working on the unfolding of the kin-dom of God. We intentionally invite the full participation of all who are living out their God-given identities and expressions, including but not limited to: gender expressions and sexual identity religious or non-religious backgrounds heritage/nationality/ citizenship/immigration status races and ethnicities size physical and/or mental age incarceration status living with HIV and any other chronic medical conditions socio-economic/housing status monogamous and non-monogamous hair color or styles, tattoos/piercings/body art mental/physical ability or disability use of drugs education level
LMX Connexion The Liberation Methodist Connexion (LMX) is built on what currently is, and on an expectation of what is yet to come. We are journeying toward a new way of being followers of Christ that refute the imbalance of powers, principalities, and privileges that has plagued Methodism: colonialism, white supremacy, economic injustices, patriarchy, sexism, clericalism, ableism, ageism, transphobia, and heteronormativity. We trust God’s presence and our collaborative labors will guide us toward a new, more liberative way of answering our calling and being in connexion together. LMX Resources As Liberationists we are called to live out fully-resourced lives, sharing and caring with extravagant generosity and reciprocity. Remembering that we are God’s stewards, the work of liberating holy resources includes a commitment to reparations and the healing of the earth. We vow to live abundantly. We dream of a new community, freed from hereditary limitations and historical precedent, where we hold all material things in common and embrace new ways to value the gifts of everyone. LMX Pastoral Care The mission of pastoral care in the LMX is to create sacred spaces for holding grief and sharing joy as relationships are nurtured, as deep listening opens the way for healing, and as laughter leads us to hope. Embodying a justice-centered, liberating future, pastoral care in the LMX holds a vision for shared community care through mutual love and truth-telling, for care with one another, where the spiritual gifts of those who offer care are affirmed and received. LMX Collaborative Leadership LMX strives to be a relevant, thriving, justice-oriented, affirming, liberationist connexion. We believe that practices creating this expression can best be found in leadership that is transformational, humble, and representative. We commit ourselves to continuously examine colonizing and institutionalizing tendencies. This will be multiplied in the ways that we address formal and informal theological education, credentialing, lay and clergy vocations, mutual support + accountability, and administration. LMX Theology LMX theology is not written in stone because our human understanding continues to evolve as we deepen our personal and collective understandings of God. We have been expanding our methodist theological heritage with various expressions of Liberation theologies, theories, and praxis. God remains infinitely gracious, creative, merciful, and engaged with creation, healing and redeeming the world.
Global Methodist Church
Mission & Vision God is calling us to move into a new day as the people called Methodists. Established in the faith entrusted to us by our forebearers, the Holy Spirit is reviving the Methodist movement in a new work—the Global Methodist Church—coming into existence.
MISSION Our Mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ who worship passionately, love extravagantly, and witness boldly. In our worship, we desire to surrender to and be fully devoted to one God—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We are passionate about what is important to God. Jesus calls those who follow Him to love God wholeheartedly and love their neighbors as themselves. We will demonstrate to the world the extravagant love of God in the person of Jesus Christ. We have been entrusted with a lifesaving and transforming message that we must share with others. Our witness will be bold, compelling and fearless. Our mission advances when individuals become disciples of Jesus Christ and join God’s mission to make more disciples.
VISION Our Vision is to join God in a journey of bringing new life, reconciliation, and the presence of Christ to all people, and to helping each person to increasingly reflect the character of Christ. Through our ministries, we desire to share the whole counsel of God with all peoples and to advance the presence and fulfillment of the Kingdom of God in every part of the world and at all levels of societies and cultures. The Global Methodist Church is committed to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, the inspiration and authority of the Scriptures, and the work of the Holy Spirit in conveying God’s truth and grace to all people.
So, why are we here? We are not here for a debate today. I'm not really going to even discuss the theological issues at play here. What I am going to try to do is present some information regarding a document called the Protocol on Grace and Reconciliation through Separation.
I’m presenting this information and planning to answer your questions today as best I can in order to inform everyone as to the process that is before us and the options we have so that you can then inform your church leadership. Your church board would like to survey the church membership this summer in order to get an idea as to how you all see the Protocol on Separation. They want to know where you stand. This survey will be anonymous because your church leadership wants to hear from each of you. The information you provide will help them plan for our church's future.
So this is important, but don't feel like you have to come to a decision today. Today is about coming to an understanding.
---- Since the beginning, the UMC has been an traditional Christian denomination. Meaning we hold to the basic beliefs of the Christian faith:
· God eternally exists in three persons of the trinity
· God is omniscient, omnipresent,
· The creator, sustainer of life
· The Son of God, was born in flesh
· Lived sinless,
· died innocent,
· Was buried and rose;
· The Holy Spirit is God's gift
· To empower Christian Living
· To convict followers of sin
· To form the church.
· To reach and change the world.
· The Bible is God's revealed word,
· God's grace is personally experienced
All these are accepted beliefs of the church, widely held not only by Methodists, but Christians everywhere regardless of denomination.
But many Ums have a perspective that our world is far different from the world of Jesus or the writers of Scripture. These folks believe that the principals of the bible need to be understood in today's context - That is the bible needs to be interpreted in light of their experience of God and the Holy Spirit.
This leads them to understandings of scripture different from those which have been held by generations of Christians. This is most noteworthy in the issues of Marriage rites… and ordination of LGBTQ.
Now, we know that we Methodists have a wide range of beliefs. We know this to be true politically, and theologically. Methodists are said to be a big tent.
So when it comes to an issue like marriage and ordination for LGBTQ people, we have people who are progressive and traditional who are Methodists.
Meaning that some view LGBTQ as just another facet of the human experience, and these progressives say these rites should be shared by all who God calls… including LGBTQ people. Traditionalists, however, read scriptures that say the practice is sin and therefore should not be celebrated or condoned by the church. This is the view currently held by our book of Discipline and has been held by orthodox Christians historically.
But we also have folks who are compatibilists and non-compatibilists. By this I mean some folks say I don't have a problem worshipping with people who disagree with me on these issues and Non-compatibilists say, we want to be connected to, we want to partner with people who share our beliefs, our understandings on these issues.
So we have 4 groups of people when it comes to these issues:
These Non-Compatibilists, combining the progressive and traditionalists, make up the majority of the UMC, and have continued to drive us toward having clarity on this issue for many years.
Finally, in 2016, The General Conference, which is our denominational ruling body, established THE Commission on the way Forward: to answer the questions: 1. would we all ow our pastors to perform weddings for LGBTQ people, and 2 would we allow self-avowed homosexual people to be ordained as pastors. General conference established this commission to help the Conference find a way forward with as much unity as possible… the result, the One Church Plan.
This was a plan that would basically let Bishops, Conferences, pastors, and Churches minister as they saw fit regarding the LGBTQ issue and no impose the American practice on conferences in other parts of the world.
The one church plan could only muster 47% in favor, leaving 53% opposed.
That year an alternate plan was brought forward: Named the Traditional Plan.
This plan actually strengthened the long-standing position against ordaining LGBTQ clergy and continued the understanding of marriage in the church being reserved for male and female couples. It went further to impose penalties for pastors who refuse to abide by these rules.
It was approved by you guessed it 53% in favor and 47% opposed.
This remains the policy of the UMC today. But, even though the plan was approved, it wasn't by a resounding majority and as a result the issue was not resolved as many, holding contrary views, continue to pull the church in different directions.
In August 2019, Bishop Yambasu from Sierra Leone, who I met on my trip last February, formed a group to work out a way separate peacefully and respectfully. I asked him about this work when we met, and he spoke of his desire to come up with something that would let faithful Christians move forward without tearing the each other apart in continued conflict.
This group decided to work with a mediator, Ken Feinberg, not a UM, but a Jewish man who agreed to volunteer his services because he was inspired by our work in hospitals, schools, and missions like Imagine no malaria. My Feinberg is a well-known mediator who has led mediations in some of the largest mediation cases in our nation's history.
This group, representing various interest groups across the denomination, gathered voluntarily out of a sense of calling to help the General Conference work through the separation. This project not about unity, but separation… but doing it in a loving way.
This group developed a plan that would pause the trust clause, allowing churches to leave the UMC, taking their church property, in order to join a new Methodist denomination. Meaning that once this protocol is approved, Annual Conferences, clergy, and churches can leave the UMC and form a new Methodist denomination. Currently, If a church wants to leave, there are substantial fees related to a local church leaving with their assets because the property of the local church is, actually, owned by the denomination per the trust clause.
But when the protocol is approved, this trust clause will be put on pause.
As of today, there are discussions of three new Methodist denominations being formed:
1. A traditional Methodist denomination, this group has formed already, named the Global Methodist Church
2. There will be a new progressive Methodist denomination formed. And there will be
3. A Post separation UMC, made up of those churches who do not choose to leave the UMC.
There could be other groups to form and there could be churches that choose to become independent churches.
Each of the denominations that would fit into the protocol description are to have 100 churches in order to have a viable size; and each one will hold to our core theology as presented the 66 books of the Bible; in our articles of religion; our confession of faith outlined in our Book of Discipline; as well as Wesley's sermons and notes. These documents outline our understanding of the Christian faith, what makes us Methodist.
While the beliefs of these new denominations will be very similar, the way each lives out these beliefs, we expect there to be real differences in the way these three handle the issues of homosexuality, marriage, and ordination.
One difference is who can be married in our churches and by our clergy. In the new progressive church, we expect that ordination will be for all, and that all churches and clergy will take part in LGBTQ marriage ceremonies. In the traditional, Global Methodist Church, it will be clear that no churches will host and no clergy can perform such ceremonies, and ordination will be refused to LGBTQ people. Remember these two new denominations are being formed in order for members and clergy to be in partnership with others who are of like mind with one another. In the post separation UMC, agreement isn't expected or required: All clergy and churches can hold these ceremonies, and some will hold or officiate them; and LGBTQ clergy will be ordained.
Now, these are the categories, but how do we sort ourselves out?
Will we have to vote? Maybe.
Try to understand this. First our annual conference would decide what it is doing. If our annual conference decides it is going to remain UMC and your church wishes to remain UMC, then no vote is required. You just keep on doing what you do. However, if your church wants to do something different from the conference, then yes you will have to vote.
If our Annual Conference wants to remain in the UMC, then no vote will be required at the Annual conference level. This is all spelled out in the protocol… you can read it. But if someone at our annual conference wants to leave, they make a motion to vote for separation. If 20% of the annual conference agrees, then a conference vote will be scheduled. At that vote it will require 57% of the voting members of the Annual Conference to vote to separate and become a part of one of the new denominations. But, if the vote fails to meet the 57% threshold, your Annual Conference will remain in the UMC.
Why 57%? Traditional folks wanted 51%, Progressive folks wanted 66% more like a constitutional amendment; the compromise… 57%
Now if your church doesn't like the way the Annual Conference voted, your church council can decide to ask your church to vote to join one of the other Methodist denominations. Your church council will establish 50%+1 or 66% as passing, then a church conference will be called. If the threshold is met, to approve the motion, your church will then become a part of the other Methodist denomination.
This process applies if our conference votes to join the Global Methodist Church and our local church wishes to remain UMC; or if the Conference remains UMC and your church desires to join one of the other Methodist denominations. If you wish to go in a direction different from our Annual Conference, and retain your church property, your church will have to vote in a church conference for approval.
So, that’s the process. I wish I could tell you when this will all happen. What I can tell you is that the protocol is before our General Conference, so when they meet, this will be one of the pieces of legislation they will deal with. Right now, General Conference is scheduled for August 2022. Will this happen? I don't know. There is some concern about this for sure, as currently people living in some of our UMC Conference nations, particularly in Africa, are not able to get the visa's required for the meeting because the embassies are not open.
Some of you have asked me "Do we have any other options?" Yes you do. In our last General Conference, a piece of legislation was approved that made it possible for churches to leave the denomination and be free from the trust clause after approval in a Church Conference vote, then approval by our Annual Conference, then the church would be required to pay 2 years of annual apportionments as well as their share of our conferences unfunded pension liabilities. Once these are completed, the church would be an independent church. This is a big decision to make, but yes there are other options.
There you have it. Changes are coming to the United Methodist Church. When I'm not sure. What is going to change, I'm not sure, that will be up to you all. Your church leadership wants to get an idea as to how you feel about all of this so I'm here to help you understand all the options.
In closing I would ask that you be in prayer about this. Pray for your church leadership. Pray for our denomination. Pray that God would give us all wisdom and confidence as we follow Jesus into the unknown.
I'm in this with you and I'm honored to be your pastor.
All for Jesus!