January 9, 2020
As you may have heard, a framework to create an amicable division of the United Methodist denomination was released last Friday. Leaders in the UMC (including clergy and laity, conservatives and liberals, and with the notable participation of our neighbor pastor, Rev Tom Berlin) announced a plan for separation to be considered at General Conference in May 2020.
We’ve been “united” as United Methodists for 52 years, which is a pretty good run historically. Now, however, differences over the issue of homosexuality which have clashed for as long as I have been a pastor seem at last to be irresolvable—or best resolved by a formal split, so that good people can in good faith go in different directions.
So what’s the plan?
Let me say first that I am hopeful. The plan is encouraging for the way it was was developed. Leaders from multiple branches of our denomination (progressive Uniting Methodists, traditionalist Wesley Covenant Association, and others) did not come up with this in isolation, but came together to find a path forward for all. Further, they engaged a professional mediator from outside the church to help develop the plan. The goal, plainly, is not total victory for one side.
Pastor Jason reads the new plan released by leaders of our denomination.
You’ll find an FAQ and other links about the plan below, but in short the idea is that at least one new denomination will be formed consisting of traditional Methodist churches with a strong commitment to the Book of Discipline, with the continuation of a separate denomination made up of moderate or progressive Methodist churches who will allow greater openness toward homosexuality.
Galilee and the Chapel may decide to head in one direction or the other. But such a decision will not happen soon. Nor will the process necessarily happen as I’ve described; there is much detail that needs to be sorted on a national and state level before the question comes before Galilee.
For Galilee and Chapel congregations, we have time to reflect, discuss, discern and decide before we consider which possible denomination to affiliate with.
Your pastors are praying about this matter and here’s specifically how I’d like you to join me in prayer, with this direction and this hope for our church:
“With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” —Ephesians 4:2-3
A livestream discussion with members of the team that developed the new proposal for separation is set for Monday, Jan. 13. It can be viewed here.
District Superintendent Sarah Calvert issued a letter with her thoughts on the plan.
The Council of Bishops has an FAQ on the new plan posted on its site.
The plan itself is called the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation.