Why I Support the Separation Plan

Responses to the proposed plan for separation could hardly be more divergent. Some are shouting “hallelujah” and others are feeling dismissed, even sold out. We need to remember that nothing is final until General Conference has voted.

There are several components of the plan 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. That is the result we worked for at GC 2016 and GC 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 provide a long-term solution. It would prevent the church from adopting a non-biblical sexual ethic, but it would not end our struggle.

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 – and they were encouraging their delegates to support – 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, the disobedience and the division would continue.

Looking at who was elected as jurisdictional delegates, it is unlikely we will elect a single bishop in 2020 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 uphold 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 to vote 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 our not keeping the name “United Methodist.” 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.

Comments

  1. Dennis Ball says

    We had a DS here in Florida that was forced to return his credentials by Bishop Carter and those on the cabinet. He was probably doing the same thing the joint meeting was all about. I feel he was treated very badly and hope there is some way to help him going forward. He too was trying to envision what a new expression of Methodist would look like.

  2. “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.” This says it for me. I have no problem with gays. My problem is the distractions the church faces in a time when we are less relevant. And now we are identified with a preoccupation with sexuality. At our church, we are trying to read, study and understand the Bible and to follow Jesus. That keeps us pretty busy.

  3. George Johnson says

    My main concern is what happens when you have to vote at the church level to either stay in the old United Methodist Church or to join the new Church. This could cause a split in the church with some people leaving over the decision. This will not be good for the viability and well being of the local church. The minister or minister team might also have to take a side. This could all of a sudden become a big problem in some churches where the sexuality issue is not currently much of an issue or is not discussed much. Suddenly the problem would be thrust upon everyone as they would be forced to take a stand on the issue through their vote.

    • George, what you say is understandable but at some point, it is very likely that a same-sex marriage will be requested of your pastor or to be held in your church. At that time, the decision is unavoidable. I have said for over a year now that this is about the definition of marriage as taught in the Scriptures. Others have tried to frame this matter as one of being welcoming, inclusive, culturally relevant, etc. But it is well known that the status quo cannot hold for much longer. So, it can be now or soon. Either way, it is coming. Hang in there, friend.

  4. Noel F. R. Guzman says

    What happen if the GC 2020 scraps the Protocol of Separation? Shall we go back to the Traditional Plan and then wait for another bout on 2024? Many would still persist for this: “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.”

  5. Mark Collins says

    I left the United Methodist Church ordained ministry in 1999. I realized it had became to hard for me to agree to the church’s trend in ministry. I see it having left the way Christ’s church was intended and became a church of preaching social and political agendas and no longer the gospels. Because I did not fall into the progressive ways I was not as accepted by leadership. During my seminary (a UMC one) I learned to write fiction because conservative theology was not accepted. Being an elder was so important to me and that hurt saying goodbye. When leaving the church I was required to turn in my ordination which made me feel like the ordination meant nothing more than a piece of paper when I received it. This separation is the best thing for Methodists and I pray the new conservative churches won’t see so much growth that progressive ministers will flock to it for a job and force the decline of it too.

  6. Warren D. Watson says

    Congregations at the local level will suffer most, some with irreparable harm from having to make this decision. Although I was optimistic after the Central Conference delegation stood firm in 2019, it has become evident, even in the Central Conference, that the transformation of this denomination into a progressive, “anything goes” and “if it feels good, do it” doctrine is close to completion. It is time for those who support the Traditional doctrine to find that much-needed voice and move onto what really matters…not a name, but a way of life, a tradition of ministry and missions that is clear-minded in its adherence to biblical principles, and not distracted and deformed by the progressives obsession with changing the discipline to match their lifestyle choices. We need to move forward. What does that look like? Separation. Our denomination is on the threshing floor and it is time to separate the wheat from the chaff.

  7. I have become very confused as time goes on with this issue & it gets more so each time I read an article or news bulletin about it. Just like you mentioned above, I had thought the GC 2019 resolved this issue & right after learning that, I mistakenly assumed life would go on & the traditionalists would remain status quo & progressives would depart & form their own church with its own book of discipline. But with each issue of “Good News” I get more confused as I read what seems as though all decisions made at the GC were turned upside down. So now, I read that those who voted to maintain the traditional doctrine are the ones who now must leave & form their own church with it’s own book of discipline. So I join others in the confusion about why things have become the way they’ve become.

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