Last Friday, the Council of Bishops the United Methodist Church released a statement to the churches and the media. A proposal has been put forward by a select group of people representing various interests within the United Methodist Church called the “Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation.” You can find the full document by following the link above. I highly recommend you read the document for yourself. It’s only eight pages in length. You may also want to read the FAQ document that goes along with the proposal. Protocol FAQ
The protocol comes at a time when the denomination continues to be in turmoil following a divisive Special Session of the General Conference held in February 2019 to address matters of inclusion and human sexuality. The protocol provides a framework for individual congregation and annual conferences to leave the United Methodist denomination in order to form a new denomination more consistent with their theological stance with regard to same sex marriage and the ordination of LGBTQ persons. The authors of this plan called such a separation “the best means to resolve our differences, allowing each part of the Church to remain true to its theological understanding, while recognizing the dignity, equality, integrity and respect of every person.”
Separation comes at a cost, but so does staying connected. The Wesleyan Covenant Association has already taken steps to form a new denomination that would favor their views. This protocol provides a framework for an amicable and gracious separation. Some of the news coverage has suggested this presentation of this proposal settled the matter. It does not. The General Conference will meet again in May 2020 and only the General Conference can act on this and all other matters concerning the denomination. But given the people that took part in drafting the protocol, this proposal seems to warrant more prayerful consideration than others put forward to date.
I would echo the invitation of our Bishop, Latrelle Easterling, who calls us to a time of study, prayer and fasting about the future of our church.
Grace and peace,
Rev. Steve Larsen