Many of you read the news this weekend concerning The United Methodist Church. On Friday, The Council of Bishops issued a press release announcing “A Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation.” Since July 2019 a diverse set of significant leaders in the United Methodist Church have been meeting to negotiate a way through the UMC’s impasse on the issue of human sexuality.
These negotiations have been aided by an outside mediator, Kenneth Feinburg (special mediator for the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund). All parties involved agreed in principle and unanimously endorsed a protocol to allow for churches and Annual Conferences to exit the United Methodist Church and form new Wesleyan denominations. The protocol plans for a new “traditional” Methodist denomination to form. (The word “traditional” has come to mean those who affirm human sexuality expressed within the boundaries of marriage, defined as a union between a man and a woman.)
The word “split” is being used to describe this protocol. While a church split is negative, I tend to see this development as a positive for our denomination, and possibly our local church.
The division of the United Methodist Church is deep and growing deeper. Allowing churches and Annual Conferences to separate from the United Methodist Church in order to reorganize into new expressions would allow us to move past these arguments and refocus on our mission of making disciples.
I’ve had several people ask me where Schweitzer is at and what Schweitzer is planning to do. I don’t have a comprehensive plan to offer you, but here is where we are at now:
- It is important to remember that there is nothing final about this protocol. Many news outlets made it seem like the protocol was certain to pass General Conference. There is no way to predict what will pass General Conference. There may be a generous separation plan passed at General Conference, or there may not be. I have no idea what will happen at General Conference and therefore am focused on our work together in our mission field here in Springfield.
- Currently there is no need for any sort of voting to take place at Schweitzer.
- We are assembling a Study Group of lay-people to assess possible outcomes of General Conference and any action Schweitzer may need to take. This Study Group will report to our Board, and we will share more information as it becomes available.
- The position of Schweitzer has not changed. The pastoral team will continue to hold a traditional understanding of human sexuality. However, we also have people in our church who disagree. It’s okay to disagree. I want Schweitzer to be a church that makes room for people and doesn’t get caught up in the fighting and bitterness we see on the General Conference level.
- If a protocol for separation is passed, we will bless those who go a different way than us. We have no animosity towards any other churches and want the best for those who feel the need to be in a different expression of Methodism.
- My main goal as your pastor is to keep us focused on Jesus. He is our Source, our Guide, our Head. He is the reason we exist and we will continue to teach and preach the way of Jesus. Because I want us to stay focused on Jesus, I do not expect us to spend any time on Sunday mornings in worship talking about the dysfunction of our denomination.
For more information:
- Official Press Release From the Council of Bishops
- Frequently Asked Questions From the Council of Bishops
- Missouri Bishop Bob Farr’s Statement
We are in a season of prayer and discernment. I hope you’ll be committed to praying with me for what God would do through the United Methodist Church.
Grace and Peace,