The Protocol for Reconciliation and Grace through Separation falls short in my estimation. The Protocol calls for the peaceful separation (split) of the United Methodist Church along traditional and progressive lines.
Traditionalist believe the Bible to be the divine inspiration of God, and not subject to subjugation to new social norms, while Progressives believe scriptures in the Bible that don’t align with modern social norms on homosexuality, and more specifically the ordination of gay clergy and same sex marriage in the church, should be set aside.
Both Traditionalist and Progressives are welcoming of gays in their congregations. Traditionalist however draw a line at ordaining gay clergy and same sex marriage. Progressives support having gay clergy and want to perform same sex marriage in the church. That’s the long and the short of it. The two sides have been battling it out for decades. That comes to an end in May 2020 at the denominations General Conference (or law making body).
The Protocol has many good features that would allow Traditionalist to separate and form a new denomination (name yet to be selected). Progressives would continue on as the United Methodist Church, which seems very odd to call your group “united” after a split. Progressives would hold on to a brand (UMC) that has been tarnished for decades and resulted in an overall decline in membership. Doesn’t seem like a good choice for Progressives, but it is the one they want to make.
Traditionalist will leave the UMC with 25 million in seed money to found the new denomination. Traditionalist will be free of the baggage the UMC will be carrying and stand poised to grow. The Progressives of the new UMC will become known as the “gay church,” following the press attention this split will receive. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with being the gay church, but you do have to look at who they will appeal to. Gays and the LGBTQIA community make up 4.5% of the population. That’s the target audience for the new UMC.
Thinking out loud, I have to wonder how many church shopping families are going to say to themselves “hey let’s check out the gay church.” I suspect that number will be low. I personally wouldn’t be opposed to visiting a new gay UMC, but I am opposed to the liberal views of the new UMC. For instance, the 2016 Book of Discipline (the denominations book of laws) says:
“Our belief in the sanctity of unborn human life makes us reluctant to approve abortion.”
I point out the word reluctant, because the UMC does in fact support a woman right to abortion. I can’t support the senseless murder of the unborn, but the UMC fully supports it although reluctantly.
But while trying to set the stage for you on where I think the Protocol fails, I have digressed.
The one key area where the Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA) who represents the Traditionalist movement falls short is in how the separation actually works. Under the current plan conferences would vote on going either Traditional or Progressives. The problem with that is it leaves out the voice and vote of individual members of congregations. Delegates to the conference who actually get to vote, are representative of their district superintendents beliefs, not the congregation. The same goes for general conference.
Any plan that does not mandate congregations hold votes of its membership by a prescribed date, falls short a fair and open process. I have spoken with members of more than a dozen UMC congregations in my area, and only a handful say their church has even breached this subject with the congregation. Several indicate that their leadership has no intention of discussing this with members, but will vote the will of the church council.
This lack of open and fair deliberation by individual congregations sets up churches for later conflict, animosity and discontent when members later learn what the separation really means.
The WCA should close this loop ahead of the May general conference.