A few weeks ago, a proposal was released, “Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation” that seeks to end decades-long debates and contention in the United Methodist Church. For the past 47 years, the United Methodist Church has struggled unsuccessfully to reach consensus with regards to homosexuality. The result has been a significant amount of harm to our churches, to our witness, and most importantly to our people. The Protocol is a faithful attempt to not replicate that harm, while acknowledging that remaining together as one denomination is unrealistic and self-destructing. If you wish to know more about the details of the Protocol itself, you may find that link here: Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation FAQ’s.
What does it mean for the United Methodist Church? The only body able to speak for the United Methodist Church is the General Conference. That gathering will be in May 5-15, 2020, in Minneapolis. The General Conference speaks by voting on proposals to amend or change the United Methodist Book of Discipline. The Protocol is one plan among many to be presented. What makes the Protocol different and promising is that a wide variety of folks with every lobbying group on every end of the theological spectrum in the Methodist Church met with a mediator and came to an agreement on how to bless one another into a new reality of separate denominations. Again, there are many plans and proposals that are set to come before the General Conference body. No specific details are known for sure until after General Conference meets.
What does it mean for Heritage United Methodist Church? Until General Conference meets, there are no decisions to be made, or votes to be taken. There will, however, be prayer, discussion and discernment. Identifying who we are as a body Christ in this particular place and time is our work to do. Knowing the language for discussion, discerning the best direction for Heritage, and naming what we believe as a local church body is our next step as a community of faith. Over the next few months, working with the lay leadership, we will be providing opportunities for study, discussions, and clarity in what it means for us to feed people and change lives.
Our website will include a new page, titled UMC 2020, with links to further information for reading. Take the time to read and pray. Sign up for United Methodist News Service. Listen to one another. Ask me if you have any questions. We are willing to meet with individuals and groups to talk over your questions and concerns.
Some of you reading this have already groaned. Some of you are done with the discussions. Some of you simply want to avoid mentioning this all altogether. And I understand. Many have lost patience with United Methodists because we are not welcoming enough, we are too welcoming, or we just can’t seem to get past this issue. I hear you. For many, though, it isn’t an issue. For many it is who they are or involves the lives of their loved ones. For many it isn’t an issue, but simply living fully into what it means to be a blessed child of God.
If you have listened to any of my sermons, or had any discussions with me, you will not be surprised to know that I am inclusive in my theology and practice. I support LGBTQ rights on all levels. I made a public statement in the newspaper last year lamenting the passage of the Traditional Plan after the Special Called General Conference. My statement was then, and continues to be, I want a space for everyone at the table. That means that if you don’t look like me, live like me, believe like me, vote like me, or love like me, I still believe you have a seat at the table. As your appointed Elder at Heritage United Methodist Church, I will reserve that spot at the table for you. Let’s gather at God’s big, messy table and be fed together by one bread, one body, one Lord.
Let us walk together through the next few months with grace for one another, love for Gods’ people, and hope for God’s kingdom to be revealed among us.