Coalition of Traditional Leaders Continues to Support the Protocol for Reconciliation and Grace through Separation

Over a year ago, a diverse group of United Methodist Church leaders released the Protocol for Reconciliation and Grace through Separation. Never before had leading bishops, general church officials, and leaders of advocacy groups representing centrists, progressives, and traditionalists agreed on a plan for resolving the church’s long dispute over its sexual ethics, teachings on marriage, and ordination standards. Among the members who negotiated the agreement were United Methodists from Africa, Europe, the Philippines, and the United States. Additionally, they had the services of Mr. Kenneth Feinberg as their mediator, a world-class attorney with a distinguished record of mediating conflicts and managing high profile settlements.

In response to the Protocol, we, the undersigned, met in Atlanta, Georgia, in early March of 2020 to cast a vision for a new traditional expression of Methodism. We are a group of bishops, clergy, and laity, men and women, African-American, Asian, Caribbean, Caucasian, and Hispanic persons from every U.S. jurisdiction, and three central conferences who seek a faithful future for United Methodists. Over the past year, and in light of the anticipated passage of the Protocol, we have focused on preparing for a new, traditionalist, and global Methodist church that is committed to making disciples of Jesus Christ who worship passionately, love extravagantly, and witness boldly. Like the mediation team that produced the Protocol, we have gone about our work in a spirit of grace and peace, looking forward to the future God has for us.

Our preparation for this hopeful future has been interrupted by the global Coronavirus pandemic. We grieve the loss of over two million people worldwide, the severe economic hardship caused by measures to combat the virus, and the geographic, racial, and economic inequities highlighted by the pandemic. The Christian Church, including The United Methodist Church, has been severely challenged to find new ways of ministering to the heightened needs of a broken world. Financial shortfalls are affecting all aspects of the UM Church, threatening the survival of some congregations and drastically changing the work of general church agencies and bishops.

In this critical time, it is all the more important for the UM Church to make crucial decisions about our future. Structural changes precipitated by this crisis must involve those who envision a long-term future together, while giving those who are called to different directions the opportunity to craft those directions unhindered by ongoing conflict. The absence of a decision on the way forward only exacerbates institutional inertia and loss of momentum for ministry.

We therefore urge the Commission on the General Conference, working with the Council of Bishops, to find a way in the spirit of the Protocol for the General Conference delegates to debate, deliberate upon, and ultimately pass the Protocol’s implementing legislation at the earliest possible time. Our local churches, annual conferences, and the church’s general boards and agencies can no longer remain in a state of uncertainty and unrest where there is no clear guidance or official direction for the future. For the sake of the greater mission of the church catholic, we must bless one another and then be about God’s mission as each new church discerns it.

We affirm and support the Commission on the General Conference in their significant responsibility to provide for a General Conference experience that can accomplish what needs to be accomplished for the present and future of the church within the limitations imposed by current circumstances. We uphold the non-negotiable principles of ensuring the greatest safety practical for delegates and participants, as well as the equal voice of all delegates, regardless of geographic location or access to digital technology. We urge the church to continue in fervent prayer for the Commission and all charged with planning and administering the General Conference.

We continue our wholehearted support for the Protocol as the best mechanism to free our church from its debilitating conflict and position the church to move forward in ministry. We support the passage of the Protocol’s implementing legislation that would allow for an amicable separation of the UM Church into two or more new churches. It is our prayer that the people drawn to them will be given the freedom and space to discern God’s will for their missions as they seek God’s guidance. We call on all bishops and clergy to allow local churches, annual conferences, and central conferences to determine freely with which new church they wish to align, once the Protocol’s implementing legislation is adopted.

We reiterate our intention, after the Protocol is passed, to form a global Wesleyan movement committed to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, the authority and inspiration of the Scriptures, and the work of the Holy Spirit in conveying God’s truth, grace, renewal, and sanctification to all people who repent and believe. The pandemic-occasioned crisis in our church only increases our urgency to bring to fruition the vision articulated in our statement of last year. We remain committed to a global church that ministers to all and is mutually accountable throughout our connection to the high calling of our identity in Jesus Christ.

We urge conferences, districts, clergy, and congregations to prepare now for the changed reality of a post-pandemic church, including a post-separation church. Knowing the identity of our churches coming out of the pandemic will facilitate reengaging members who have fallen away in the interim and will form the basis for new outreach in mission to the world. As we long to move forward into a new reality, we embrace by God’s grace the current reality of expectant waiting, trusting God to provide the wisdom and strength needed for this liminal time.

February 16, 2021

Rev. Keith D. Boyette, Co-convener

President, Wesleyan Covenant Association, Spotsylvania, VA

Virginia Annual Conference

 

Bishop Scott Jones, Co-convener

Resident Bishop

Houston Episcopal Area, Houston, TX

 

Patricia Miller, Co-convener

Executive Director, The Confessing Movement, Indianapolis, IN

Indiana Annual Conference

 

Bishop Young Jin Cho

Retired

Southeast Jurisdiction, Centreville, VA

 

Bishop Eduard Khegay

Resident Bishop

Eurasia Episcopal Area, Moscow, Russia

 

Bishop J. Michael Lowry

Resident Bishop

Fort Worth Episcopal Area, Fort Worth, TX

 

Bishop Pedro M. Torio Jr.

Resident Bishop

Baguio Episcopal Area, Baguio City, Philippines

 

Bishop Mark Webb

Resident Bishop

Upper New York Episcopal Area, Liverpool, NY

 

Rev. David Alexander

Senior Pastor, First UMC, Mansfield, TX

Central Texas Annual Conference

 

Rev. Nola M. Anderson

District Superintendent, Crossroads District, Liverpool, New York

Upper New York Annual Conference

 

Rev. Dr. Joe Connelly, J.D., D.Min., M.Div.

Pastor, Bethany UMC, New Orleans, LA.

Louisiana Annual Conference

 

Rev. Dr. Jan Davis

Senior Pastor, Central UMC, Fayetteville, AR

Arkansas Annual Conference

 

Rev. Dr. Maxie D. Dunnam

Minister at Large, Christ UMC, Memphis, TN

Kentucky Annual Conference

 

Rev. Walter B. Fenton

Vice-President for Strategic Engagement

Wesleyan Covenant Association, Spring, TX

New Jersey Annual Conference

 

Rev. Dr. Jeffrey E. Greenway

Pastor, Reynoldsburg UMC, Reynoldsburg, OH

Vice Chair, WCA Global Council

West Ohio Annual Conference

 

Rev. Jay Hanson

Pastor, The Chapel UMC, Brunswick, GA

South Georgia Annual Conference

 

Rev. Eric Huffman

Lead Pastor, The Story, Houston, TX

Texas Annual Conference

 

Rev. Thomas A. Lambrecht

Vice President, Good News, Spring, TX

Wisconsin Annual Conference

 

Rev. Jae Duk Lew

Senior Pastor, Valley Korean UMC, Granada Hills, CA

California-Pacific Annual Conference

 

John Lomperis

Director of UM Action, Portland, OR

Indiana Annual Conference

 

Rev. Dr. Ken Loyer

Lead Pastor, Spry Church, York, PA

Susquehanna Annual Conference

 

Rev. Dr. Carolyn Moore

Lead Pastor, Mosaic Church, Evans, GA

Chair, WCA Global Council

North Georgia Annual Conference

 

Rev. Martin Nicholas

Lead Pastor, First UMC, Sugarland, TX

President, UMAction

Texas Annual Conference

 

Rev. Rob Renfroe

Pastor of Discipleship, The Woodlands UMC, The Woodlands, TX

President, Good News

Texas Annual Conference

 

Rev. Steven Taylor

Pastor, Panama UMC, Panama, NY

Upper New York Annual Conference

 

Mark Tooley

President, Institute on Religion and Democracy, Washington, DC

Virginia Annual Conference

For more information, contact Keith Boyette at president@wesleyancovenant.org or at 540-891-4007.

Comments

  1. David Miller says

    I am very concerned that Progressives and Moderates will seek to postpone General Conference again. This must be opposed in the strongest terms. Another postponement will allow the Progressives to continue ordaining gay clergy without opposition effectively making the Church progressive. Any postponement must be accompanied by a willingness by Traditionalists to bring charges against Gay clergy and anyone who seeks to ordain a gay clergy. If there is no such commitment to holding people accountable then the Church is de facto Progressive and the Traditionalists have lost. We laity can easily find another church but what do faithful clergy do?

  2. Tom,
    Double-mindedness has always been a problem for the church in society. The bible teaches that there is one way to peace with God. You have said in the past that there are no winners or losers in this disagreement. I don’t believe this is to be true. If Jesus Christ is the only way forward to God-then one of these two (traditionalist/progressive) interpretations of scripture is dead wrong. There can be no “going about God’s mission as each new church discerns it”-as you say in this post. One of these churches-from the viewpoint of scripture- are either right or wrong about God’s mission. For us to remain “accountable throughout our connection to the high calling of our identity in Jesus Christ” may require that we fight to the death for His Great Name. To suggest that we give up the “highest calling of our identity in Jesus Christ” merely for the sake of “mission as each new church discerns it” tells me that we have neither a “high calling” or a “mission”in our future church identity-but rather instead only a death-warmed-over double-mindedness that changes with the whims of culture. Yes, my friend-we are indeed in a fight-a fight for the soul of the church. We are either on God’s side-or we are on the other side. As it is in love-so it is in faith- for there are no safe answers in the affairs of the heart.

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