By Timothy Tennent –
Quite a stir has rippled out across the country because of reporting by Christianity Today, CNN, New York Times, among others, with headlines like this: “Methodists Agree to Split Denomination” (Christianity Today headline), “United Methodist Church Proposes Historic Split over Gay Marriage and LGBT Clergy” (CNN headline), and “United Methodist Church Announces Plan to Split over Same-Sex Marriage” (New York Times). In case you were wondering, the United Methodist Church has actually not agreed to split, and none of those who met and signed this agreement were authorized to make such a decision. Any possible separation of the UMC cannot be made until May 2020 when the next General Conference of the UMC convenes to consider various petitions, since that body alone has the power to officially represent the denomination.
What the articles were talking about was actually an unofficial agreement on the terms of a proposed denominational separation signed by 16 leaders in the UMC who are regarded as representative of the various “conservative,” “centrist,” and “progressive” wings of the church. The agreement is known as the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation (read it here). It includes eight shared principles, followed by six articles outlining the terms of the agreement, definition of terms, proposed timeline, financial considerations, and so forth. In the UMC, it is newsworthy whenever clergy and laity across such a wide theological divide find agreement, especially with a statement as detailed as this one. I want to commend them for the time and effort it took to create this document (and the stellar work performed by Kenneth Feinberg, esquire who led the mediation). I am confident it was done out of a genuine love for the church and heart for reconciliation. They did what was supposed to be done years earlier by the “Commission on a Way Forward,” which was officially authorized by the 2016 General Conference in Portland to come up with a solution but ran aground by supporting a plan which had already been rejected three times by previous General Conferences. We are now in 2020, and this new “Protocol” has been placed on the table and will probably end up before the General Conference in May of 2020. The “Protocol” carries particular weight because, even though it has not been authorized, the leaders involved have agreed to not support any other legislation which contradicts any portion of this agreement. However, before any actual delegates to the 2020 Conference endorse this plan, we should have a robust conversation about some of the possible implications of this Protocol.
You can read the rest of his post here.
As an Elder American and a pastor who served small United Methodist churches for 40 years in south Indiana I have been part of an organization that destroyed the Evangelical United Brethren church and has lost thousands of members each year since the so-called merger in 1968. Having grown up in the former Methodist Church I sadly realize that a division is necessary if those who are truly interested (should I say, faithful to the Word of God?) want to follow John Wesley’s decree to “spread Scriptural holiness across the nation.”
I’m good with everything but the other side keeping the UMC name. Both sides should have to come up with new names.
I believe that only a simple majority should be needed for a Conference or Church to leave and join a Traditional organization. I also believe that the money set aside for marginalized peoples should be funded primarily by the post separation UMC. The $25 million given to Traditional Churches should be separate from this fund.
What happens if this plan is not approved at Conference?
The LORD can work his will in either a simple or a 2/3 majority. I believe his will is for an individual to exercise his/her own free will via voting, literally and then if necessary with his/her feet, so as to continue to bring things from the dark into the light. Requiring a vote might reveal more of what is going on in people’s hearts than a no-vote default liberal position. Also, if a simple majority at the Conference level votes to leave, say 51/49, then the 49% or a large percentage thereof may possibly also leave and then seek to continue to undermine the 51% in the new affiliation. That may not seem to make much sense for an individual to do so, but the present lawlessness within the UMC is destructive and not rational either.
A required 2/3 vote to either leave or stay would seem to be more indicative of the direction and commitment of leadership at the general conference level. It is important for local churches to be aware of whatever commitment that is. It does seem to make sense to have either a simple or 2/3 majority at the individual church level, given what a particular church determines to do. Hopefully any new affiliation organization with be structured so as to be able to maintain stated beliefs and confession true to the word of God and focus on the furtherance of the true gospel.
As my father told me when I got married, “sometimes you have to choose whether to be right or to be happy”. Traditionalists like me could keep passing resolutions affirming the bible ad infinitum but the bishops will never enforce them and the UMC goes farther down the drain as we keep fighting. Yes, those who support the existing church doctrine should the the “Post-separation United Methodist Church”, but that’s not going to happen. The progressives own the bishops and will never walk away from the bulk of the assets or the name. They would rather see the existing United Methodist Church die, and they have the ability to slowly make that happen. This agreement lets traditional conferences and churches join a new, revitalized, Wesleyan-believing church with their buildings and other assets. That is a great foundation on which to build. If it sounds like I am trying to convince myself as much as anyone else, it’s because I am…
Agree, no one meeps the UMC name as is, and EVERY church should have to vote in or out. Much too easy for districts, annual conferences, or even local church leadership to manipulate whether a local church will be able to choose their path forward. If 57% is the agreed upon number for an annual conference or district, should be the same for a local church. a 51/49 split would pretty much guarantee a failing local church.