Proposed Agreement on a Possible New Future for the Methodist Movement Announced

General Conference 2020 is expected to consider a proposal put forth by United Methodist Centrists, Progressives, Traditionalists & Bishops aimed at ending the long-standing argument over issues of human sexuality.
A diverse, 16-member group, which included eight United Methodist bishops and eight representatives from centrist, progressive and traditionalist United Methodist advocacy groups, has announced a plan to move the denomination beyond its decades-long impasse over same-sex marriage ceremonies in UMC churches and the ordination of self-avowed, practicing homosexuals.
 
The proposed plan, titled the Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation, received unanimous support from all contributing parties and proposes the formation of a new, traditionalist Methodist denomination as the best way to resolve the continued tensions in the church over conflicting views related to human sexuality. Legislation to implement “The Protocol” statement – an eight-page document which details terms of a split of the 13+ million-member church - is expected to be put before the 2020 General Conference during the May 5-15 legislative meeting in Minneapolis, Minn.
 
“I commend to the clergy, lay members and friends of the Central Texas Conference of The United Methodist church a prayerful and careful reading of the proposed Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation statement,” said Bishop Lowry upon the statement’s release. “This is a time for thoughtful, prayer-bathed conversations that span the theological divide. There is time before General Conference meets this May for the type of prayerful conversations that will help us think this through. Proverbs 3 reminds us to ‘Trust in the LORD with all your heart; don’t rely on your own intelligence.’” (Proverbs 3:5 CEB)
 
While calling for a prayerful and careful reading of "The Protocol" statement and prayers for the CTC Delegation, Bishop Mike Lowry reminds that this is just a proposal and that General Conference is the only body that can make such decisions for the denomination.
Bishop Lowry also was quick to dispel misconceptions from various news reports that today’s announced Protocol agreement cemented a split in the denomination. “Only General Conference can make such decisions,” stated Bishop Lowry. “It is important to understand that this is only a proposal – the Book of Discipline has not changed and nor can it until General Conference meets this May.
 
“I ask us to be in prayer for the General Conference and particularly our Central Texas delegation that, as they receive and discern this information, they do so wisely and with a sense of spiritual peace in their hearts.
 
“More than anything else, I invite us to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit,” Bishop Lowry continued. “Throughout this process, and in all things, it is important to remember to Breathe Deep, for Jesus is truly Lord and this is His church, not ours. As the Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus, ‘God put everything under Christ’s feet and made him head of everything in the church, which is his body. His body, the church, is the fullness of Christ, who fills everything in every way.’” (Ephesians 1:22-23 CEB)
 
The document’s signers include persons from Europe, Africa, the Philippines, and the United States representing Methodist advocacy groups Affirmation; The Confessing Movement; Good News; The Institute on Religion & Democracy; Mainstream UMC; Methodist Federation for Social Action; Reconciling Ministries Network; UMCNext; the United Methodist Queer Clergy Caucus; Uniting Methodists; and the Wesleyan Covenant Association; as well as bishops from the United States and across the world. The representatives have pledged to work together to support the proposal and develop legislation to implement it.
 
According to The Protocol statement, the 16-person group of signatories believes this plan bridges the differences which exist in the other plans to be considered by General Conference 2020 on this issue. “The undersigned propose restructuring The United Methodist Church by separation as 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,” says the Protocol Statement.
 
The full Protocol statement is available on the UMC Council of Bishops website at unitedmethodistbishops.org/files/websites/www/pdfs/signed+umc+mediation+protocoal+statement+-2020.pdf. Some of the main points of the statement include:
  • The anticipation of the formation of a new traditionalist Methodist denomination.
  • The newly formed traditionalist Methodist church would receive $25 million for four years and give up further claim to UMC assets.
  • An additional $2 million would be allocated for additional new Methodist denominations, which may potentially emerge from the UMC.
  • $39 million to ensure there is no disruption in supporting ministries for communities historically marginalized by racism.
  • Under the Protocol, conferences and local congregations could vote to separate from The United Methodist Church and affiliate with new Methodist denominations created under the agreement within a certain time frame.
  • Churches wishing to stay within the UMC would not be required to conduct a vote. Provisions exist for entities that choose to separate to retain their assets and liabilities.
  • All current clergy and lay employees would keep their pensions regardless of the Methodist denomination with which they affiliate.
  • All administrative or judicial processes addressing restrictions in The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist related to self-avowed practicing homosexuals or same-sex weddings, as well as actions to close churches, would be held in abeyance until the separation is completed.
The Protocol also references a plan that calls for a special general conference of the post-separation United Methodist Church. The purpose of the special session would be to create regional conferences, remove the current prohibitions against LGBTQ persons, and to repeal the Traditional Plan.
 
The signatories to The Protocol have provided a FAQ document to provide additional information about the agreement. Comments and questions may be directed to the signatories at mediationprotocol@outlook.com.
 
Members of The Proposal statement group
  • Bishop Christian Alsted (bishop@umc-ne.org), Nordic-Baltic Episcopal Area
  • Rev. Thomas Berlin (tberlin@florisumc.org), representing UMCNext, Mainstream UMC, Uniting Methodists
  • Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton (bishop@nyac.com), New York Episcopal Area
  • Rev. Keith Boyette (president@wesleyancovenant.org), representing The Confessing Movement, Good News, IRD/UM Action, and the Wesleyan Covenant Association
  • Bishop Kenneth H. Carter (bishop@flumc.org), Florida Episcopal Area
  • Rev. Junius Dotson (jdotson@umcdiscipleship.org), representing UMCNext, Mainstream UMC, United Methodists
  • Bishop LaTrelle Easterling (bishopeasterling@gmail.com), Washington Episcopal Area
  • Rev. Egmedio “Jun” Equila, Jr. (jun@brmc.org.sg), Philippines Central Conference
  • Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey (bishop@la-umc.org), Louisiana Episcopal Area
  • Bishop Rodolfo Rudy Juan (bishoprudyjuan@gmail.com), Davao Episcopal Area, Philippines
  • Janet Lawrence (jan@rmnetwork.org), representing Affirmation, Methodist Federation for Social Action, and Reconciling Ministries Network
  • Rev. David Meredith (dmeredith@cliftonumc.com), representing Affirmation, Methodist Federation for Social Action, and Reconciling Ministries Network, member of UM Queer Clergy Caucus
  • Patricia Miller (pmiller1224@gmail.com), representing The Confessing Movement, Good News, IRD/UM Action, and the Wesleyan Covenant Association
  • Dr. Randall Miller (randall4015@hotmail.com), representing Affirmation, Methodist Federation for Social Action, and Reconciling Ministries Network
  • Bishop Gregory Vaughn Palmer (wocbishop@woc.org), Ohio West Episcopal Area
  • Bishop John K. Yambasu (bishopyambasu@gmail.com), Sierra Leone Episcopal Area
For questions or comments, please contact: mediationprotocol@outlook.com.