Uniting Methodists along with people across The UMC have today received a gift from a cross-section of faithful leaders proposing a “Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation.”
We commend the participants, who represented an array of perspectives and groups across The UMC, and worked with world renowned mediator, Kenneth Feinberg, for their diligent efforts. They have offered a creative framework for steps we can pursue that can free us from debilitating conflict, allowing each part of the Church to anchor their mission and ministry in their core theological understandings.
As the Uniting Methodists movement, we are shaped by the Wesleyan affirmation: “Grace pervades our understanding of Christian faith and life. By grace we mean the undeserved, unmerited, and loving action of God in human existence through the ever-present Holy Spirit” (¶ 102 The Book of Discipline). In that spirit we dream and act with others to embody a United Methodist Church that is a community for all who seek to love and serve God and all of our neighbors.
Based on our first reading of the just-released protocols, we concur with this plan of action that provides for sustaining the Wesleyan heritage and vibrant witness and mission of The United Methodist Church, while offering a graceful way for those who wish to depart the means to do so (along with start-up monies) and provisions for sustaining pension plans for clergy who may choose to align with a spinoff denomination.
Elements of the protocols that are especially welcome include:
- Providing for greater self-determination and self-governance in each major geographical region, which will enable more contextualization of ministries and decision-making.
- A vivid expression of commitment to stand with all marginalized communities, including earmarking funds to strengthen ministries by and for Asian, Black, Hispanic-Latino, Native American, and Pacific Island communities and to support efforts such as Africa University.
- The immediate voluntary cessation of the processing of charges related to LGBTQ clergy and same-sex weddings, including the Traditional Plan provisions added to The Book of Discipline during the Special General Conference in 2019, assuring a safe space for LGBTQ persons and all who minister with them.
The Uniting Methodists Coordinating Team will continue to review the protocol document, evaluate the components, and speak about its implications in the days to come. For the present, we heartily welcome this offering as a constructive and positive initiative. If enacted, these steps will help all move beyond the current impasse, and release those whose hearts are with our hearts to make plain that the continuing United Methodist Church is striving in every way to be passionate followers of Jesus Christ, committed to the Wesleyan vision of Christianity, anchored in Scripture interpreted by tradition, experience, and reason, who energetically fulfill our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.