Why I Support the Separation Proposal

By Rob Renfroe –

Responses to the proposed plan for separation could hardly be more divergent. Some are shouting “hallelujah” and others are feeling dismissed, even sold out.

There are several components of the plan that I do not like. In particular, I don’t like the perception it creates. When I was first told about it, I said, “It looks like we’re being paid off to walk away.” It doesn’t look like a separation or two new denominations being birthed. It looks like traditionalists lost, and now we’re leaving.

Having said that, I am in favor of the proposal. Let me tell you why I and most traditionalist leaders favor its passage.

First, I ask myself what’s our goal? What has been our goal, for at least the past 20 years?

For me, it was never about winning or taking over the UM Church. It has been to create a vibrant evangelical Wesleyan church that is fully focused on mission and ministry — a church that is not mired in a dysfunctional and divisive struggle over sexuality.

For me the goal has never been about keeping a name — a name that in many parts of the country is a negative because it has become connected with progressive theology and non-biblical practices.

And it has not been about getting our fair share of the assets. I want that. We deserve that. But that wasn’t the goal. I was not desirous of continuing this ugly, destructive battle so we could receive additional funds. As a matter of fact, in the Yambasu negotiations that brought about the protocol, our (traditionalists’) primary concern was about funding for the Central Conferences, not ourselves.

Most of the leaders in the evangelical renewal groups have long ago accepted that we need separation. We worked for that to be the result coming out of GC 2016 and 2019. However, when we realized separation was off the table, the only option was an enhanced traditional plan — but that was not our first option mainly because we knew it would not solve anything.

Liberal areas of the church would ignore it, progressive bishops would not enforce it, and we would remain where we were before the Traditional Plan was passed. This is exactly what has happened.

Then, new elections were held for GC 2020 delegates. And we suffered real losses. Plus, we continued to hear that some of the African bishops were willing to adopt a regional conference plan that would allow the UM Church in the United States to have its own Book of Discipline and its own sexual ethics.

So, even though we “won” in 2019, there was no guarantee we would win in 2020. And even if we did, it would not really change anything.

Looking at who was elected as jurisdictional delegates, it is unlikely that we will elect a single bishop who would be committed to the full enforcement of the Discipline. And our church structure and constitution have made it nearly impossible to remove a bishop who refuses to enforce the Discipline.

So, the question is: After 47 years, how much longer do we continue to fight the same battle with the same results — good legislation that doesn’t change the reality of the church? How many more years should we spend precious financial, emotional, and spiritual resources on this same issue?

The decision was made that what was most important was allowing churches and annual conferences (where traditionalists are in the majority) to step into a vibrant Wesleyan connection with all their properties and with no payments required to the UM Church or to their annual conferences.

In other words, it was time to move forward in a positive way for the sake of mission and witness.

In all honesty, I fully understand those who are upset about the use of the denomination’s name. I realize the name is important to many, but others view our brand as having been so tarnished that keeping it is not a long-term benefit.

I understand people who say, “The progressives and centrists want to change the UM Church — they should leave, not those of us who want to be who we have always been.” I get it when people say, “GC 2019 was called to resolve this matter and it did. Traditionalists won. Those who want to change the Book of Discipline should leave, not us.” People who say those things are right. That’s the way it should be.

But, these were political negotiations. And in politics, the question is not what should be but what can be. And this is about as good a “can be” as I can imagine.

This move into the future will be difficult for many of our congregations. I am deeply sorry about that. This is where many of our bishops have brought us. There will be pain for many of our churches and annual conferences. I wish I could change that, but this is where we are. What we can do is listen to everyone, acknowledge their very real concerns, and resource them in every way to make this transition less painful than it might be.

I hope people can focus on the positives. Churches will be free to join a new evangelical Wesleyan movement. They will have lower apportionments. They will have more say in who their pastor is. And we will be done with this battle.

One last thought: When we countered those who would move the UM Church away from the Scriptures, it was easy to be unified. But now we are going to create something new. The process will be painful for some and messy for most of us. And we will have real differences about how the new church is to be structured. But we must stay together. There’s something bigger than whether the new church will have bishops, and if so what their tenure will be, what the new name will be, or even agreeing on all the ins and outs of ordination.

We are being given the privilege and the responsibility of beginning a new denomination — one that we will share with people like you, one that will be committed to the Scriptures as God’s word and to Jesus Christ as Lord of all, one that will be led by men and women, black, white, Hispanic, Pacific Islander, Asian — whom we admire and respect.

This is a future we can look forward to. Let’s go there together.

Rob Renfroe is a United Methodist clergyperson and the president and publisher of Good News. 

Comments

  1. Randy Kiel says

    This article is very good, and the point made, “What is our goal,” is the main point. There is one concern with this article, though: Rev. Renfroe treats the Protocol add if it were a done deal. Nothing will be final until May 15, the last day of the coming General Conference. We absolutely should make plans for the potential of building a new denomination, but remain prepared for other things to happen, such as enough African & Philippino delegates refusing to split that we come back to the Traditional Plan and are forced to go through with many trials; or, the worst possible outcome, nothing of substance passes. More likely than not, I believe, a modified form of this position will pass, but what modifications are made can change everything.

    • Good comments on all points Rev. Renfroe and in your reply Randy. Also reference Dr. Timothy Tennent’s, “Reflections on the Proposed Protocol for Separation”. It does concern me that many or most smaller community churches (like mine) may not be staying current on the Protocol and how it will likely affect them. Most seem to think this is just the Bishops or Agencies up to more shenanigans. Plus members in smaller churches are older and I think just don’t want to bother, particularly with building a new denomination. Our progressive pastor in a progressive annual conference isn’t helping either.

  2. Stephen Andros says

    Rob… I have been waiting to see your response… and it is the best one so far. Thank you!

  3. Steve Rhoades says

    Thanks, Rob, for clearly explaining the rationale which lies behind this proposal AND thanks for the realistic appraisal of the challenges that will face the new Wesleyan entity. I believe both parts are critical.

  4. Brenda Ellis says

    Dear Rob,
    I know you have had much more time to come to terms with the separation than I or many lay people have, but I feel that the Traditionalists should not capitulate to the Progressives. What is happening within the United Methodist Church is much the same as the struggle within the different factions of our country. Progressives are trying to control all areas of our lives by chipping away at our Constitution. I do not want to cede my beliefs and values to Progressives in either the UMC or the USA.
    I hope the door has not been shut on other options.
    Sincerely,
    Brenda Ellis
    Kilgore, TX

  5. Robert Swofford says

    “They will have more say in who their pastor is.”

    This is a big issue for me. Over the last 30 years, I’ve seen pastors promoted for political and personal agenda reasons rather than their Biblical knowledge and devotion. For instance, we had a DS who was only 4 years post ordination with only 2 years in the pulpit as head pastor.

    The top down control in the Methodist church is a big factor in how we got to where we are today. If the church was more driven by the more moderate to conservative majority of members, bottom up, most of the “leaders” in our church would not be leaders.

  6. Excellent analysis, Rob. Many of us who have engaged this battle–and even been forced to leave our churches–will continue to lament what could have been. But what will be can be much better. My hope and prayer is that this process can be expedited quickly.

  7. Charles Armour says

    Brother Renfroe: As one who has worked in the ministerial trenches for 44 years, I could not agree more. I have never pastored a church that did not show significant growth. The current church in which I serve was built from the ground up with just twelve people armed with nothing more than their faith and their prayers. Over the years we grew exponentially with more than our share of adult Professions of Faith, an increasing rarity in Methodism.

    But of late, especially this last year, new visitors have trailed off to a faint trickle. Frankly, I do not blame them. Why would any Bible believing, evangelical Christian join a denomination in such tragic and seemingly endless turmoil when there are equally fine and wonderful alternative opportunities for worship right down the road?

    The current LBGTQ debate is just one of many I have had to explain with sad regularity. Hardly a month goes by that I do not have to explain that some statement issued from a board or agency is not the official Methodist position. Gun Control, abortion, left wing political pronouncements, Wespath’s refusal to invest in defense stocks, issues pertaining to lack of support of the police, and the recent challenging of ICE over immigration enforcement are just a few topics that people have repeatedly become frustrated over.

    Due to the above, the title of UMC can become like an albatross hanging around the neck of the evangelist. Rather than it being an initial draw to get folks in the door, it is something that now must be “contextualized” (to use a favorite term of so called progressive Christians). And more an more the corporate church tends to see the local church as merely a fundraising body for what they consider the more crucial ministries of those same boards which issue such elitist statements. It should rather be the the boards and agencies exist as an extension of the local church. But for many leaders, as institutionalism increases, the relative importance of the local church decreases in direct proportion. Increasingly it becomes our job to at once both “pay up and shut up”. The amount of funds dedicated directly to evangelism has over the last few decades steadily decreased while amounts for everything else including every “cause of the day” have increased.

    A new Wesleyan, Bible centered denomination, whatever it calls itself will I firmly believe, be much better positioned to fulfill the Great Commission. It has been my experience after a lifetime of ministry, that pastors with a successful track record of evangelism, grew their flocks in spite rather than because of the UMC title and its related institutions. And should separation actually happen, we will all have so much more for a new beginning than either Wesley, Coke or Asbury ever had. Remember, Abraham was told without compromise to; “Leave the land or your fathers.” As his descendants aren’t we glad he did? I firmly agree, “It is time to move on”.

    • Your points are why we walked away. One is naive if he/she believes that the decisive issue in this struggle is solely LGBTQ. It’s much more than that: it’s been an alignment between the UMC progressives & the liberal wing of the Democrat Party. Yes, it’s been a political movement that has extended beyond the confines of the UMC. What you reiterated regarding left wing political positions were topics about which we heard in Sunday sermons, not to mention the sermon on why we should not vote for Donald Trump; i.e., blatant politicking, often sprinkled with the all-inclusive & encompassing ‘diversity’.

      • Charles Armour says

        Yes Dave, to what you said. I have been a strong believer that Pastors are called to serve the church rather than lead it. Clergy should focus on evangelism, visiting the sick and infirmed, pastoral care and counseling, and most importantly, preaching the Gospel. All that is more than a full time job.

        Laity also have the right and in fact should demand that a pastor have a high level of expertise of both Biblical Studies and Theology, and that they preach accordingly. Clergy who see themselves as “physicians of the soul” have all they can handle. As a result the laity really need to take back and run the church. Paul preached and taught the Bible and offered Christ crucified while good saints like Priscilla and Aquilla as well as others tended to the rest. Francis Asbury admonished, “Offer them Christ.” That is true.

        One does not want a football coach to have to be an administrator, but focus rather coaching, develop character among his players, and recruiting. One does not want a surgeon to run the hospital but rather to busily and skillfully apply the specialized skills he/she is trained for. Sadly, too many clergy, possibly because they really no longer strongly believe in either the Incarnation or the Atonement, see the modern church as an institution for social work, community activism and social/political reform.. It is all upside down.

        • Jeffrey Parker says

          Interesting and enlightening comment, Charles. Thank you.

          We are struggling with a pastor that does not seem motivated to lead us in this challenging time. Your perspective that perhaps we laity ought to lead ourselves in this struggle and let the pastor stick to evangelism, preaching and pastoral care is food for thought.

          Blessings
          Jeff

  8. UM News by Sam Hodges — from the article praising the negotiator of the Protocol Plan contained this statement: “arrived at a plan that would let traditionalist-minded United Methodist churches separate to form a new denomination, keeping their properties and getting $25 million in United Methodist funds.” Most all statements regarding this Protocol Separation Plan are following that same line, even highlighting and emphasizing who is leaving.

    Rob, this is the very narrative and “ATTITUDE” that ruffles feathers and causes the pushback from traditionalists, as you well know. I’m sure you’re hearing it all. I am ruffled by this “attitude” and description, even if the description is technically accurate —- but know for the long range that we must separate for all the obvious reasons. How to get a message out there framing this an amiable, respectful, and equal SEPARATION is most difficult and, I believe, will be a significant challenge for the Renewal and Reform Coalition —- specifically the Wesleyan Covenant Association. I strongly, strongly suspect that the liberals will go out of their way to leverage the current name of the church – The United Methodist Church — to paint themselves as the preservers of the church and champions of the historic Methodist Church. That CANNOT be allowed!!

  9. Houston Parks says

    I am sorry I disagree with this take on the negotiated plan. Progressives, a majority of church leadership in the U. S., are getting their way, as majorities do. Traditionalists capitulated. If there is not a well thought out new Wesleyan Church presented soon, I will be joining the irretrievably dissatisfied and will have to consider leaving the Wesleyan tradition.

    • There already is the starting of a plan, if I understand you comment. Go to the Wesleyan Covenant Association website and see the proposed Book of Discipline.

  10. Andy Hansen says

    Excellent article that speaks directly to where the UMC is and the best option to move forward. Pray for the success and flourishing of both denominations moving forward. There is disagreement, but no villain in this, so hope and joy should replace bitterness now. Thanks for the article!

  11. Kelli Mize says

    This is what I’ve been waiting for. I appreciate an opinion from one who has been neck-deep, and sometimes entirely immersed, in this battle. I appreciate this measured article and greatly respect the author, Rob Renfroe. I can only imagine how difficult this entire process has been, especially the end of this last leg.
    I was disappointed, well okay, I was enraged when I first read the news, However, toward the 4th, 5th, maybe 10th or so time another article was published, yeah, well, I was still pretty much enraged. But this is what I have been waiting for. I appreciate the wisdom of restraint to delay your response.
    Personally, winning is my favorite, and accepting what looks like defeat is not what I want. I do not know what my congregation will decide, as their discipleship has been such that it could go either way. In itself, the practices of which have rendered unsure discipleship is reason enough to step away from the locked heads and begin a reformed denomination.. Ironically, this decision is indeed most-in-line with the character of John Wesley.

  12. Michael Huff says

    Love the positive message and forward looking thought process! I do not feel defeated, but feel set free to be part of a new thing shaped by the authority of scripture. Now is not the time for us who identify as conservative, orthodox, traditional and evangelical to squabble among ourselves. It is time to rejoice in the “privilege and responsibility” God has given to us.

  13. In boxing, to toe-the-line means literally to stand on a line ready to fight another round. To throw in the towel means literally to throw in a towel signifying you are beaten and will not fight another round.

    After winning 13 rounds on this issue (knocking the opponent down in the last one) you want to throw in the towel now?

    • Bartolomeu says

      Dear Rob

      Things have come too far. And many of us are tired to hear always the same music “LGBTQ” LGBTQ LGBTQ.
      About new name for I am sure God will enlight men and women BIBLICAL and Evangelically sounded. Like how UMC became a brand, likewise the new church that will be evangelical, Biblical and accountable surely will preach Christ…

  14. Dave Miller says

    I too am very disappointed by this latest proposal. As it was pointed out Traditional, Orthodox Methodists have won every vote since the 70’s. However, with each win our Bishops have decided to disregard the General Conferences. I have lost all respect for our leadership. Are they even Christian any longer? Now we Traditionalists are being asked to leave under the cloud of being disruptors. This is a hard pill to swallow. I recently read an article on the Gospel Coalition webpage that points out there comes a time to stop arguing and to walk away from difficult and fractious people and leave them in their error. This may be that time. My personal concern is I do not see a Wesleyan Church forming in my location here on Long Island and that means I will have no choice but to leave Methodism behind. However, this plan may not be approved at Conference and then what to do?

  15. Ommer Everson III says

    Why should either branch keep the United Methodist name? The mediator should have suggested that himself or maybe he did?

  16. I agree a split is necessary. But, as traditionalists split, leave, etc., what safeguards will be put in place to prevent libetals from doing this again with a new denomination?

  17. Matthew 6:13
    And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil…

    Are we about to have this part of the Lord’s Prayer answered with a new Wesleyan denomination?

  18. Steven Zinser says

    This article doesn’t addtess the difficult voting process that in envisioned for this separation. All congregations should have to vote, so that all voices truly are heard

    We’re told, though, that only prospective departees will be forces to vote. First, there must be a vote even to vote. Then there must be a church decision to use a threshold of 57% or 67% to depart. All of this will be under the proctorship of a hostile hierarchy.

    If all churches were required to vote, the stigma of voting would be removed, and the threshold question could be on that same ballot.

    • Thank you for your comments, Steve. Just to clarify. The local church council or Ad Board will decide if the threshold for realigning with a traditional Methodist denomination is either simple majority (50 percent plus one) or a two-thirds majority. The 57 percent is for the annual conference vote. So by majority vote your church could vote to realign.

      The most common feedback we have heard over the last few years was, “Don’t make my church vote.” A plan that requires every one of the 30,000 UM congregations to vote would not pass General Conference. We have tried to minimize voting by having the annual conference vote first, and then only those congregations that disagree with the annual conference would have to vote. This seems to be much more acceptable to most people.

      Tom Lambrecht

      • I don’t think you foresee how many annual conferences in the US will not leave.

        Yes, all congregations in this plan should have to vote. If not, then many traditional majority churches will never choose to go through a vote- only those who are overwhelmimgly already aligned in this manner will.

        I honestly don’t trust the wca on this- i think they are perfectly fine with not having to be saddled with mumerous smaller churches with nartow majority traditional congregations. It seems their focus has turned to protecting their own current wca member churches. This will make them financially healthy, but is not respectful to traditional believers in the midwest and north. It appears now that they never desired to represent traditional believers throughout the umc.

        • My thoughts exactly. How many annual conferences will vote to leave? Not many. That leaves the traditional churches stuck. The progressives who have control of the process will not make it easy for the traditionalists. All I see are people who will be forced to simply walk away. This is a bad deal. I cannot believe the African conferences will go for this either. No deal is better than a bad deal.

      • 57%. That is the problem. The problem is not separating. The problem is not giving up assets to buy our way out. The problem is 57%. An Annual Conference must reach 57% to join the new evangelical Methodist church.
        Realistically how many annual conferences can meet that goal? Few. That leaves all that large number of evangelical leaning churches to realign on their own with no annual conference in geographical range to which to join. There are enormous barriers to that action.

        That is no problem for the high commitment WCA churches. They can take their assets and leave (a good thing). Everyone else will be left behind (an incredibly bad thing). The vast middle of the church, many of which lean evangelical, will be abandoned to die a long slow death.
        Granted this is an emotional response. I believe that with a 50/50 vote in both the annual conference and the local church to realign we had a good shot at leading half of the church into a new connection. Realistically, in the protocol the pressure from a centerist pastor and a DS the local vote will likely cause it to be a 2/3 to realign in a local church. That along with other barriers, such as no close annual conference to join, will keep most churches in the UMC. Thus I fear that only the WCA and other high commitment churches will make it out. These are after all the folks doing the negotiating from our side. When I think of those polls showing so many laypeople being traditionalist leaning
        I am broken-hearted.

  19. I grew up in an EUB church. My first pastorate was in a non-UMC in 1984. I have been pastoring UM Churches since 1999 (full-time). When I first joined the ranks of the UMC I recognized right away the problem. No evangelism. Too much focus on social justice and inclusiveness and not on winning souls and preaching scriptural holiness. I discovered that many pastors and churches quit being evangelical a long time ago (if ever). Evangelism is a dirty word to them.

    After watching this slow moving train wreck play out over the last 20 years it has finally jumped the tracks. Humpty Dumpty fell and we’re broken. Now what?

    First I DO NOT believe the progressives and centrists are going to allow any church and annual conference to leave easily. They have proven how disingenuous and underhanded they are. They are like Joab who called Abner out to talk only to slip the knife into him while signaling peace. Regardless of what is passed at GC2020 they will find ways to stop churches from leaving. Once a snake always a snake. They have proven their disdain and disrespect for the rule of law and policy. Why would we expect them to play fair now?

    Bishops WILL NOT want their affluent churches to fly the coupe taking their money and property. The potential monetary loss in many ACs is staggering. They will throw up many roadblocks to stop churches from voting.

    The African delegates are all ready signaling they do not like the deal. They say the name UMC in Africa is important. Many believe they have been left out of the discussion. Many believe the Traditionalists have sold them out. Additionally they do not trust the American progressives to do the right thing.

    IN MY OPINION this proposal WILL NOT pass without some major changes. If a church or AC does not vote to leave the default is progressive. So the Bishops already have a mechanism in place to stall and hinder. This is unacceptable.

    The % numbers it takes to leave are set too high. It doesn’t matter if it’s 51% or 57% or 64% or whatever. Regardless of the vote the minority side is just not going roll over and accept it. I predict a mass exodus in some churches and ACs. There are many churches who would have abandoned the UMC long ago if not for the trust clause. Many of these churches will remain independent.

    There’s too much money left on the table. $26 million is nothing compared to the unrestricted assets the UMC has. And $13 million has to be set aside for other uses. Not a good deal.

    I could go on but I predict this proposal will NOT pass in its present form. Some of the progressive groups are already saying no to the proposal. The Central Conference delegates are balking as are many US Traditionalists. I would not be surprised if GC2020 becomes another St. Louis.

    I don’t think the WCA will be the recipient of most churches and members that leave. If the split becomes a reality some of these Methodist groups will be courting churches openly. Some pastors leading their churches out will want to remain indefinitely with their church because of job and professional security. Many pastors want itinerant ministry to go away. Lots of arm twisting to come. Once the bird is freed from the cage only the most regimented want to go back.

    I think the WCA needs to jettison the current BOD and start afresh. Don’t even use it as a guide. It is time for a new vision of Wesleyan holiness. Throughout the scripture God decrees he’s going to do a new thing. If the Traditionalist leave then do something new. Wipe the table clean and start anew. I predict if you don’t, in time, the WCA BOD will become as bloated and unenforceable and ignored as the current BOD.

    I just have a few years left until I retire from pastoring (if I’m not forced out). I’ll continue the fight for Orthodoxy. I see rough waters ahead and snipers and bushwhackers all around. Nehemiah said he was too busy to go down and talk to Sanballat and Tobiah. He knew treachery when he saw it. Be forewarned children of God.

    I applaud Rob, Tom, Steve, Beth Ann, Maxie, Riley and scores of other faithful Traditionalists who have stood in the gap. You will be in my prayers.

  20. Like many, I am frustrated by the Protocol. It is Progressives who do not like the historic stance of our church; therefore, integrity demands that they should leave. However, we are dealing with people who possess little or no integrity. We see that in leadership who refuses to uphold the doctrine and discipline of the church which they vowed to maintain. We see it in our clergy who promised to defend the church against all doctrine that is contrary to our established standards of doctrine, while violating the very promise they made. They either lied at their ordination or changed their mind. If there is a change of mind, integrity demands that they leave. These are the people we’re dealing with…people who believe standards don’t apply…people who treat as suspect historic teachings that don’t align with Progressive values…people who will embrace thuggish methods in order to bend the church to its secular Progressive will. Yes, it is time to come out from among them and be separate.

  21. Thanks, Rob, for stating your views. They are helpful leading to decisions at GC20. My concern is the difficulty in birthing a new denomination. The default position for many is the status quo. Will there be any conferences that become part of a new denomination? Many churches will let the issue ride rather than take the difficult vote to become a part of what is new.
    What really is at issue is how to interpret the Bible. This is the bitter fruit of decades of liberal theology out of seminaries. With enough buckets to discard uncomfortable scripture it is easy to empty the trash bucket on the garbage pile. The new denomination will be labeled anti-gay, and many churches will struggle with the easier path of staying put.
    The UMC (progressives) may eventually rue the day they failed to separate from the overseas conferences. The rapidly growing African church may well outvote progressives within a few years. There’s a lot to consider in all the issues facing GC20 not the least of which will be the Blessings of God on decisions and outcomes.

  22. William Harrison says

    Shame on you. You have completely jumped ship. That’s why it’s where it is now because y’all sat back and didn’t nothing while the other side were taking it all. Shame on you.

  23. Sandi A. Bosch says

    Rob, thank you for your well-presented, well-written analysis of this subject. Certainly, the devil has everyone running around with their heads cut off. The fields are ripe for harvest! There are no safeguards. These divisive issues are cutting across all sectors of our community. Stand and deliver the Word of God and bring people into the fold. Key your eyes on the Lord. He never said this would be easy.

  24. Richard G Jenkins says

    Rob, I agree with your explanation: the Great Commission is not about who gets to keep the UM flag. I will watch what happens after the evangelicals leave and the Progressives and Centrists are left staring at each other with no one else to attack but each other.

  25. Paul Thompson says

    Branding and name choice will be so important. Think of the generations to come as if this decision is to be made. Is 25 million enough to really start this? In small churches if a 2/3 majority is needed, many will vote to stay and not rock the boat. It is probably a 50/50 split, so you see why the progressives feel they will hold on to small churches. However, they will lose some members. As a pastor, I won’t be able to stay with a non-bible believing church. So, I’d predict many smaller churches losing members, but not leaving. The LGBT movement has done much to ‘reeducate’ people in our culture. So a simple statement and educational resources are going to be needed to help people become aware of the real issues forcing this action. It’s about souls and remember God hasn’t spoke, yet. One other thing, Abraham gave Lot his choice of land when they split, but he still had the land needed to tend to his flocks. Don’t forget the small churches….they are the backbone. We can probably win many even with the odds against us….with help.

  26. Benjie Bernardo says

    So the best remedy will be to throw in the towel and abandon our home which we protected against these progessives since 1972? After being adopted last year, the traditional plan, we will just surrender our heritage & faith. Is this what God want? Instead of steadfastlt standing strong on our ground of faith with God on our side, we just leave so that there will be no more hurts or nasty words? Are things seems impossible to retain? Is our God, a god of miracles & impossibility? United Methodist Church is our church, our home & our heritage! Do u allow devilish theology to infiltrate our faith and beliefs, just to succumb at end. Dont we trust God? “O men of little faith!” The progressives has more endurance, perseverance & strength to hold fast to their objectives. The traditionalists may be considered weak in faith & “losers” if this proposal will be adopted! That is precisely what the progressives want! To domonate the UMC, nothing less! And you are just going to give it on a silver platter! OMG, may God be merciful to the framers of these ridiculous and devilish proposal!

  27. Benjie Bernardo says

    A split means the UMC has to be divided, NOT for one side to leave and the other to remain. In which case, that means the one leaving LOST and the other remained to DOMINATE & do whatever to the UMC. Maybe those wanting this proposal would want to leave and DOMINATE the new denomination? Hmmm, something is fishy! If we will just adhere to God’s plan…the real choice is “Do we leave to avoid the unending battle & be at peace? Or, do we stand our ground and remain and protect the faith that God and our forefathers has established? The former is convenience but the latter is sacrifice and true perseverance. I pray that God will open your hearts & minds to continue the fight for His glory!

  28. William Harrison says

    That’s why we are in the mess we are in. Most have just stepped back and remained quiet not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings but the other side was working hard and speaking out and pressing forwards towards their goal. It’s time we (traditionalist ) speak up and share what we believe and what God instructs us to do. It’s a sad day for the church when most rather be politically correct rather than spiritually correct. Others can do what they want but I’m pressing forward in my walk with God according to what his word saids. Yes there are a lot of scripture that can be interpreted but this is one that can’t.

  29. Two observations:

    1. Rob is right. The BOD has almost nothing to do with it, General Conferences count for even less. Why? Discipline is not practiced. Any church or denomination that does not practice biblical church discipline, and it is in scripture to bind doctrine and not just cheating husbands, will fall. Vote all you want for the next every-how-many years, the progressives have the boards, agencies, and the bishops and will do what they want to do.

    2. The UMC name should not be a big deal. A, it is a tarnished name. Young evangelicals have no interest in considering a UMC. B., it is only 50 years old. Less than a lifetime. Frankly, it was doomed from the beginning and the problems that have brought it to this point began very early, nearly from inception. Let this be a lesson to the Church at large – big tent ecumenism does not work. Why? Because biblical Christianity is not about unity, it’s about life in the Spirit. Unity is a gift transferred by the Spirit, not something to be pursued. We can’t make unity happen – the Lord gives it to His people. So do not set unity up as an idol and pursue it as top priority. Sure – be gracious and longsuffering as possible or reasonable. But institutional, outward, public-facing unity is not the goal and is not set forth as the goal in scripture. “Be ye separate and come out from among them.”

    Here’s a guarantee. If any new denomination does not practice doctrinal discipline and seeks unity above all else, it will fail and fail quickly.

    • Excellent insights Dave! I agree that our UM name has been tarnished and as a pastor for over 40 years, I’m ready to move on as a retired pastor. Seeking a relationship with Jesus Christ and his Word is the priority that is the bedrock of faith and in fact a new Methodist denomination! Unity is the resulting gift of the Spirit poured out on His Church.

  30. Exodus Granadosin says

    Thank you very much for you response. Well said. My father was elected Bishop of the UMC in 1968 and every General Conference he attends, the same unresolved problem on gender issues are discussed. It is only now that the issue is discussed worldwide. I agree with the split if it happens. Let’s remain positive and pray hard. Let us lift the Name of the Lord our God Jesus Christ whom we love and serve, always.

  31. Romans 16:17

    17 I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.

  32. Gary Bebop says

    Traditionalists who are still wanting to fight it out should her Rob’s message that the Protocol is the best deal mediation could produce. That offends some Traditionalists. But we should hear the Bible when it counsels against taking up an offense. We should not be like stubborn blockheads who cannot take instruction. The Protocol opens the way for a local church to separate cleanly, without penalty, taking their assets and liabilities with them to a new denomination. This is a very good good for local churches.

  33. Phil Brewster says

    Among the many responsibilities/tasks for establishing a new Traditionalist Methodist Church, is evaluation of which if any of the current UMC social principles will continue to apply in the Traditionalist Church. There can be little doubt that as Traditionalists leave the UMC, the remaining “centrist/progressive” church will adopt social principles and positions that in this hyper-political age will be perceived as even more “hard left” than the current positions. For example Traditionalists were able to prevail in 2016 and end UMC funding of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. The post-traditionalist UMC will undountedly restore that funding and adopt more abortion-on-demand positions, to review only one example of political contrast. The possible opportunity that awaits the new scripturally-based Traditionalist Methodist Church is to become apolitical (as far as possible) in contrast to the remaining UMC which cannot fail to become even more politically aligned with more radical progressive politics.

    • “The post-traditionalist UMC will undountedly restore that funding and adopt more abortion-on-demand positions,”

      Did you mean to say the post-separation liberal UMC?

      There will no longer be any traditionalists’ voices heard, even those traditionalists trapped in this denomination. My guess is that this post-separation liberal church will keep fighting over how radicalized they want to make this denomination and how fast they want to implement their liberal agenda.

      Incidentally and glaringly ironically, what will actually take place if this Protocol Plan is adopted, the old Methodist Church (current UMC) will become a new denomination with relation to doctrine, theology, and beliefs while the new WCA Methodist Church will actually be the old, historic, and current (on paper – Book of Discipline Methodist Church.

      • Phil Brewster says

        Agreed – the names and lineage will become perplexing. Perhaps for purposes of clarity the “post separation UMC” should take a leaf from that great theologian Reverend Leroy of the comedic 1970s TV Flip Wilson Show and officially become “The Church of What’s Happening Now.”

  34. S. J. Davidson says

    I know God has the final answer.
    We judge when we should look at
    the thumb pointing back to oursleves.

  35. I know the wca doesn’t want to hear it, but they have abandoned traditional believers throughout the UMC. Endorsement of this protocol signals that they are primarily interested in starting their own church with congregations that are already affiliated with them.

    Let’s be realistic here on numbers. How many US annual conferences would have 57% agree to leave? Maybe in the range of 0 to 5? That leaves almost all the annual conferences in the staying position. Then the choices will move to the local church. In those annual conferences who stay, unless the gc stipulates that that those congregations must vote about affiliation, most of them will choose to avoid a battle on this issue by a simple council vote to stay directed by its liberal pastor. Only congregations already affiliated with the wca or with 80% traditional believers will press to vote.

    I think the wca leaders fully understand this – it makes setting up a new church for them much simpler- fewer churches, very few small and struggling churches, guaranteed beliefs among members. But make no mistake, this protocol is not about renewing the umc or standing for the gospel; it is about letting those churches who already know where they are headed and already have traditional pastors the easy ability to leave.

    I understand the logic of this. In some ways i support it because a huge problem at the local church level is that they are in a state of limbo of not knowing where their church is headed. Yes, this protocol does give a direction. But it is not much different from the simple plan proposed last year coupled with enhanced exit proposals.

    It will be interesting to see what the gc majority thinks of this plan. If liberals have the majority, it probably stays intact. If tradional believers have the majority, i expect that the defaults, the %s, and voting details for churches will change substantially.

    • Agreed. I am a afraid that the traditionalist coalition is going to be shocked at the small percentage of churches that vote to leave the UMC. Even in the deep South, most of these sleepy little United Methodist Churches are not nearly as conservative/orthodox as I think WCA and cohorts would like to believe. It is generally going to be people that leave, not churches. So any new denomination is going to develop gradually moreso than suddenly.

      I compare this to the Boy Scouts of America. The Boy Scouts surrendered to secularism and the LGBTQ/egalitarian agenda years ago. But even troops sheltered by churches that you might think would have some conviction have remained BSA instead of moving to Trail Life. Trail Life, the Christian alternative, is growing a little but very incrementally, family-by-family and not troop-by-troop. Many rural areas have no Trail Life alternative.

      Most people AVOID conflict. Activists on both sides of the split typically fail to understand this, but this misunderstanding is unfortunately most pronounced this time on the traditionalist side. The liberals agreed to the trust clause waiver because they know it will not come into play in significant numbers. And the trust clause waiver is really the only item of substance the traditionalists got in the mediation.

  36. A pastor in Ohio recently said that there have already been “two churches” under the same name for decades, and instead of dealing with the divide, these groups kept going in different directions. So, here we are. The legalization of same-sex marriage in the USA was the tipping point.

    I’ve read the posts of opposition to this plan, and I understand that. The optics are terrible. We really need to remember, though, that there was no credible way to expect enforcement or accountability under the Traditional Plan. The enforcement mechanisms were just not there. Honestly, to those who wanted to stay and fight, please think of and share a plan that might make this work. I could not. If enforcement were possible, it may have been very different.

    I am saddened by the giving up of the UMC name and logo. It carries a rich tradition and is associated with much good. It is an important part of our culture. However, understand how sullied it has become, especially over the last decade or so. This is not good. It appears that the traditionalist ‘leaders’ who know more than I understand the amount of baggage that comes with the UMC, and the advantages of getting out from under it. Seems this was motivating.

    Regarding the money, remember too that a very large part of the traditional wing is from poorer countries, where they cannot contribute as much monetarily. The amount seems reasonable to me. And as Rob states, it is not about the money.

    Winners and losers? The winners are those who are and will remain faithful to the Scriptures as the primary authority in matters of faith and practice.

    What concerns me about this plan, though, would be the opportunities (or lack thereof) for congregations to affiliate with the denomination of their choosing. According to everything I have read about this plan, the decision of whether to even hold a vote will rest with the church council and the threshold may be set as high as 67%. So, some congregations may not be afforded a vote, and others may fall just short of the threshold set in spite of an overwhelming majority.

    Also, there really needs to be a “white paper” or fact sheet that is agreed to by these parties — unless it is too late — with simple explanations of what it means to vote or not to vote. Accurate, unbiased information is going to be critical. I have already read an email from a bishop that reminds all of us that nobody needs to vote unless he/she really wants to. The message is pretty clear. The progressives and so-called centrists are portraying the potential new denomination as extremist.

    Why all of this matters most to me, at the congregational level more than anything, is that there needs to be a robust, well planted network of churches when the dust settles. Because then, people in the pews are going to start voting with their feet and will be hoping there is a sound, Bible based congregation in their own town.

    • Charles Armour says

      All any Member has to do to force a vote is get the signature of 10% of the members calling for a “Church Conference”, and and submit it to the Pastor and/or the DS who are then under BOOK OF DISCIPLINE, obliged to call one. A church Conference is comprised of all the members of the church who attend. And the Church Conference would decide whether it is 51%, two thirds or some other percentage as the deciding factor. Hence, if only 10% want to force a vote they, the leaders, lay or clergy, cannot stop it. And if one cannot get that original baseline of 10%, no sense in even having a vote in the first place.

    • The FAQ sheet you are asking for already exists as a companion document to the Protocol. They are pinned together at most sites. In the matter of the high bar for local church separation, that’s a local church council decision, not that of an annual conference, the district superintendent, or bishop. If there is a significant Traditional element in a local church, the church council may choose simple majority as the bar. This seems fair. The local church gets to vote, and the bar is set by the local church council. The beauty of the Protocol is that local churches are not shoved into a bag and told to accept default. But one more thing: Why would any Traditionalist want to continue throwing tithe money to pay salaries and expenses for a bloated UMC apparatus? It’s a black hole that will quickly become unsustainable. It’s time to pack lightly, go, and pay less. A new denomination is being born that comes into being without the girdle of stifling progressive maintenance policies and obligations.

    • Disagree with one point – the richness of UMC history. I do not consider myself an old man, and yet the UMC was formed after I was born. The denomination is only 52 years old. I would wager most in the UMC look at the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) as a relatively new denomination. In fact, the PCA separated from the liberal mainline PCUSA in 1973, only 5 years after the formation of UMC. The difference there was that the PCA grew almost entirely through planting, not transfer of assets. The controversies and theological divergence in the UMC was present at inception and cropped up notably in 1972. The UMC stands as an object less to the larger Church of all traditions – forced, big-tent, paper ecumenism does not work. Avoid it.

      The UMC name is no loss. Unfortunately, young, bible-believing millennials and Z’s are not easy to find in the present day – a sad condition that is largely the fault of an overly-comfortable, distracted, worldly Church, even among those that would call themselves conservatives. Among this too-small cohort, the UMC name is a major negative. Toxic, even.

      Rest assured, the loss of the UMC name is an asset, at least on the western world. The retention of the UMC name is an albatross going forward. Admittedly, this may be a bit different in some of the central conferences. But they will adjust.

      • Jeffrey Parker says

        Dave, you say:
        >> Rest assured, the loss of the UMC name is an asset, at least on the western world.

        Arguably true. However, in Africa, the loss of the UMC name is much more than an inconvenience, it’s a very real assault on the well-being of the Body there. Years have been spent building respect and acceptance for that name in countries where governments come and go and the rule of law is shaky.

        After educating us on this important fact, the WCA in its negotiation of the Protocol threw our African brothers and sisters under the bus, so to speak. Quite an insult to those whose steadfast faithfulness carried us through the turmoil of GC2019. I am greatly disappointed in this callous disregard for the fastest-growing segment of Methodism.

        Blessings,
        Jeff

        • Thank you for your comment, Jeff. Let me just say that the traditionalist negotiators were limited in what they could advocate for. The African representative in the negotiations (the only one, as determined solely by him) did not favor other denominations forming out of this agreement being able to use the United Methodist name, even with a modifier. It was impossible for our negotiators to press for use of the name on behalf of the African church when the only African person in the negotiations was against it. He thinks the African church will stay with the post-separation UMC. We think he is wrong about that, but that is his perspective. Unfortunately, the mainstream African perspective was not represented in the negotiations, through no fault of ours.
          Tom Lambrecht

  37. You have a good article BUT why did not Renewal Groups try to organize a better defense or outcome before 2016? It appears to me now that we are at the battle of Little Big Horn with no reinforcements and the attack group is growing bigger. The Die has been cast and the choice is made for us by the LGBT group. The outcome will diminish both groups now and the remnant’s effectiveness is left very questionable. I learned today at Church; many people who might be interested in coming are postponing doing so until GC2020 decides the issues and how the local Church stands.

    • Gary Bebop says

      The Little Big Horn analogy does not stand up logically. The Protocol was worked out by a fair, impartial mediated process that guaranteed Traditional voices and interests were represented all along the way right to the final buzzer. That’s the way mediation works. Nobody gets to force something on the other. There was no massacre or looting of Traditional interests. The Protocol is a great deal even for small churches because the threshold for separation need not be greater than a simple majority. Do you want to go on saddled with obligations to a bloated post-separation UMC apparatus? Do you want to continue a costly rearguard insurrengency?

      • The mediation is what it is, or was what it was. Aside from GC2020, it is about time to move on. It’s done.

        But – let’s not pretend that Kenneth Feinberg, a self-professed unbeliever, was a completely impartial human being in this. This is not a criticism, and Feinberg was probably/maybe the best option. But to think that a secular-to-the-core Washington, D.C. attorney was not at least a part of the uber-favorable terms in the liberals’ favor is just pollyanna.

        • Really? Why would you disparage a tough, fair-minded Protocol mediator with such a peevish comment? All the participants were thankful for the mercy of such reasoned mediation and believed it to be fair. Let’s receive what has been accomplished with a gracious spirit.

          • Every Good News column/opinion that I have read acknowledges that the deal is, on balance, unfavorable to traditionalists. The argument for the deal is the near impossibility of continuing to fight the fight without an enforcement mechanism. The argument is NOT that the traditionalists got a 50/50 fair deal.

            The mediated deal favors the liberals by some share – 75/25, maybe 70/30, maybe 65/35, maybe 60/40, I don’t know exactly. But when a mediated deal is unbalanced, even if in its unbalance it is still preferable to the sorry state of present affairs, it makes no sense to pretend the mediator and the process included no bias. They did. We accept this as another earthly indignity to be borne by the people of God, and understand through identification that our Lord faced bias at his legal proceeding.

            I’ve stated that the deal is preferable to continuing the nearly pointless struggle. Do the deal. But save the propaganda. The traditionalists deserved a lot more money and deserved to be on the other side of the default position. The mediator, Feinberg, basically de-emphasized or even ignored the BOD and General Conference almost to the same extent as the liberal squatters have done.

      • Jeffrey Parker says

        >> Traditional voices and interests were represented all along the way right to the final buzzer

        … unless those traditional interests happen to be African. Name? What’s in a name? Sure, progressives, take the UMC name, lock, stock, and barrel. Nevermind the decades of hard work that have established that name on the African continent.

        Pretty sad… that’s all those brave Christians ask for, really. Jesus as LORD, GOD’s Word as sacred Truth, and the UMC name they have fought so hard to establish.

        Did I mention that they are the ONLY segment of the UMC that is growing?

        Short sighted and incompetent negotiating. Plain and simple.

        • If you go into a negotiation with the idea that you must get a deal you will keep compromising and giving until you have a deal. We got a deal and it is a bad one. There should have been a walk away point and there wasn’t. Now they defend it by saying it was the best we could do.

  38. Jeffrey Parker says

    Tom, thank you for the insight.

    >> Let me just say that the traditionalist negotiators were limited in what they could advocate for.

    Then the (already outrageously outnumbered) traditionalist negotiators should have walked away from the table, Tom. Negotiations 101: “No deal” trumps “terrible deal”.

    It’s not like Bp. Yambasu’s progressive leanings weren’t already well known to WCA; doctrinally he is NOT representative of the overwhelming majority of African Methodists. Our two negotiators walked knowingly into a lion’s den and should have been prepared to walk right back out the way they came in before being eaten alive.

    I trust you read Dr. Matonga’s comment on Rev. Ritter’s PeopleNeedJesus.net blog article “The Separation Protocol & Traditionalist Angst”. If you haven’t, you should. As always Dr. Matonga is gracious and humble, but the pain in his heart is apparent. My own heart aches for him. Our brothers and sisters who work so hard and endure and risk so much to stand firm on the Word of GOD deserve better from us.

    Blessings,
    Jeff

  39. Rob,

    What happens to the UMC churches in Africa and the Philippines under this plan? As I understand, these churches are 90+% traditional, but if the progressives maintain their hold on the official denominational structure here in the US, then presumably the more conservative churches in places like Africa would be married to a now hyper-progressive US church. It seems like it would make more sense for the African churches to remain united with the traditionalists here in the US, though, rather than creating some kind of Frankenstein hybrid once us traditionalists leave the room.

    Thanks!

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