March 5: The Methodist Church -- United or Untied?
On January 3, I was surprised when a news alert popped up on my phone saying, "United Methodists Agree to Split." The headline was misleading. Sixteen people representing various factions within the denomination had unanimously agreed to recommend a proposal that would make the United Methodist Church (UMC) into two denominations. Here's the news release from UM News.
The proposal, called a "Protocol for Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation," is just one of many proposals that will come before the May 2020 General Conference, a global gathering of United Methodists.
I suspect the Protocol will pass, but who knows? This tenuous coalition could fall apart. We'll have to wait and see. If it's approved, then we would have at least two denominations -- a more liberal one that retains the UMC name, and a more conservative, yet-to-be-named Methodist denomination. The more liberal denomination is expected to allow same-sex weddings and ordain and appoint LGBTQ persons in open, non-hetero relationships. The Protocol document refers to this denomination as the post-separation UMC.
The more conservative denomination would organize in the fall of 2020. It's expected to maintain the UMC's current policies, which holds to the sacred worth of all persons but does not permit same-sex weddings on church grounds or by its clergy, and which permits the ordination and appointment of gay persons who agree to remain celibate.
The Protocol reminds me of a couple planning to divorce as amicably as possible. And while any divorce is tragic, to do so peaceably after decades of conflict is no small thing. If the Protocol passes, each local church that chooses one of the approved post-separation denominations gets to retain all its assets, including land and buildings.
Remember, nothing has been decided yet. We'll have to wait for May. In the meantime, I hope you will pray with me long and hard about the future of FaithWestwood and its place within the new "Untied" Methodism.