Are We Splitting?

Prepared for Church Council – 21 January 2020

About the Protocol Itself

Announcing the “Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation”
The announcement about the proposal that ignited the conversations.

https://www.umnews.org/en/news/diverse-leaders-group-offers-separation-plan

The Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation
This is the actual signed document of the agreement. It lays out all of the elements agreed to that could ultimately bring about the separation.

https://cdnsc.umc.org/-/media/umc-media/2020/01/03/15/48/Protocol-of-Reconciliation-and-Grace-through-Separation

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) about the Protocol
This one will answer some basic questions about the group who negotiated the Protocol and their processes for coming to an agreement. Easy to breeze through and skip the questions you don’t care about.

https://www.umnews.org/en/news/protocol-of-reconciliation-and-grace-through-separation-faq

Livestream (archived) from January 13, 2020
Video – 1 hour, 13 minutes. The 16-member panel (and the world-renowned mediator) that developed the Protocol sits down to answer questions and address some concerns. I expected this to be blather, but it was very good! I would recommend this over the FAQs. When it gets toward the end (53:10), they sort of pass the mic for everyone to say whatever they want – that’s a good point to stop watching (in my opinion).

https://www.umnews.org/en/news/um-news-to-interview-protocol-developers

Three Definitions That May Help

While there are many other issues involved in the 48-year-old impasse in the United Methodist Church, the primary presenting issue is how the church relates with practicing homosexual people regarding ordination and marriage. To many who have not been paying attention in recent years, it may seem like this is a yes or no issue. However, three main approaches exist, and understanding these three approaches is important. Although this is overly simplistic, I’m defining the three based on what they believe the Church’s position should be regarding homosexual practice.

Traditionalist (prohibited) –The Church will not ordain practicing homosexuals or permit same-gender marriage ceremonies on their property or officiated by their clergy.

Centrist (permitted) – Each church and clergyperson can decide whether they will permit/officiate same-gender marriage ceremonies, and each Annual Conference can decide whether they will ordain practicing homosexuals.

Progressive (mandated) – The Church will ordain practicing homosexuals and permit same-gender marriage ceremonies on their property and their clergy will officiate.

Reactions to the Protocol

Bishop Gary E Mueller (Arkansas)
An extremely pastoral word particularly for laity throughout the connection.
If you only read one in this category, I recommend this be the one.

Dr. Timothy Tennent
Tennent is President of Asbury Seminary, so his bent will be noticeably traditionalist. However, this reads more like an evaluation than a support piece.

Rev. Chris Ritter (support piece)
Ritter is a pastor (Ordained Elder) in the Illinois Great Rivers Conference. This piece is decidedly traditionalist. The reason I recommend him as a resource is because he has written multiple “plans” for General Conference before it was even considered that we needed “a plan”. So he knows the ins and outs of the legislative process and our Constitution better than most of the other authors available.

Jan Lawrence (support piece)
Lawrence is the director of Reconciling Ministries Network is the predominant progressive caucus group in the UMC. Lawrence was a part of the group who are presenting the Protocol. She presents why she agreed to be a part of the group and why she supports the resulting proposal .

Rev. Dr. Mark Holland (support piece)
Holland is the director of Mainstream UMC, a centrist caucus in the UMC. There isn’t a lot to this piece, it’s basically an announcement of the protocol and unanimous support by the Mainstream UMC board.

A Final Word – Read and Pray!

There is a TON of reaction and information available on the Internet. Please read a wide spectrum of opinion pieces! You need to know what all three of these approaches think about the proposal and the future of the Church. If you’re only reading the opinion that agrees with you, your unchallenged opinion isn’t very strong.

Along the way, pay attention to the source of your information. Secular media will not be a good resource for this yet, because they don’t understand our polity (governing structure). So, they will likely make statements that are simply not true (like many of the headlines that announced the UMC is splitting).

No individual or committee can speak for the United Methodist Church. The only body authorized to do that is General Conference, which doesn’t convene until May 5-15, 2020 in Minneapolis. Until they convene NOTHING OFFICIAL CAN HAPPEN! So, let that drive you to pray for this conference, and pray specifically for the outcome and St. Mark’s response to the outcome.

Moving forward, I see the Protocol as have a high likelihood of passing. I could be surprised, but if it does pass, St. Mark’s will need to be prepared to make some decisions. According to the Protocol’s proposals, those decisions would all begin with the Church Council! So pray for each other, that the Holy Spirit would lead us as we consume information about this, and as we consider any decision that comes before us. Once something passes GC2020, I can see some Town Hall meetings and lots of communication being needed to explain the ramifications and how St. Mark’s may choose to move forward.

As I’ve told the congregation, I am available to talk about all of this. I am choosing to NOT have extended conversations about this via email or text because text-only is a poor medium for this conversation. I would welcome the opportunity to sit down with one or more of you to discuss the implications, my opinions, and even what I think may happen. As I said in my newsletter article – I won’t give you a pre-chewed opinion for you to simply swallow or spit. I hope you chew on this issue a LOT before settling on you opinion.

Finally, don’t forget your first love. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. And regardless of what happens in the global church, the national church, or even at St. Mark’s, Jesus Christ is still sent by Yahweh as savior of the world! Nothing will ever change that, and that Truth should be the source of our confidence as individuals, as families, and as a church.

Bishop Mueller said it better than I could:
“I consider it an honor and a privilege to walk with you. I believe in you. I trust you. And, most importantly, I love you.”

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