After months of private negotiations, the deal is done. And so, perhaps, is United Methodism as we know it.
A Negotiated Plan of Separation
As outlined by United Methodist News, in 2019 a group started by Bishop Yambasu, the Bishop of the Sierra Leone Annual Conference in Africa, began negotiations for a plan of separation of The United Methodist Church. Along the way, they recruited a professional mediator to help them overcome some of the sticking points. You can read the released documents here:
Without replicating their publications, I’ll try to explain it (including one critical piece) and will save critiques and commentary for when I have had more time. This article is as much for me to explain to my local church as it is for you so feedback is appreciated!
Let’s start with the end in mind. If all goes as planned under this Plan of Separation:
- In 2022, The United Methodist Church will be smaller globally but with stronger regional independence on some polities and practices. Several regions—including the USA region in either 2020 or 2022—will have removed the anti-LGBTQ language from their regional polity. The denomination will be structurally similar to its current makeup (general agencies, bishops, general conference, etc), just smaller and with real decisions about reorganization and funding and branding on its plate.
- In 2021, the Wesleyan Covenant Association will create its own denomination (name pending) and will be recruiting annual conferences and local churches to disaffiliate from United Methodism and reaffiliate with them. This new denomination will be funded by their own membership, along with…wow…$25 million dollars to be paid them from United Methodism (total amount paid over four years by GCFA—where the money comes from directly is an open question). Very importantly, the WCA gives up any claim to any other property or resources of The UMC beyond the local churches or conferences that affiliate with them.
- In 2021, Liberationists (or I guess Centrists or even a region like the entire Western Jurisdiction) who wish to leave United Methodism and create their own denomination will have access to $2 million dollars in seed money for their effort. Yeah. The difference in cash is appalling! If they leave, they likewise give up all claims to common property or resources.
- Expressions will tentatively be eligible to retain their pensions at WesPath (Wespath will make some basic requirements) and have some shared general agency resources between them. For eight years, there will also be a shared fund of $39 million dollars which will support racial ethnic churches, national plans, and Africa University. It will be distributed by The United Methodist Church but any expression is eligible to apply for those funds for their ministries.
Okay, so that’s the endgame. Now, how do we get there?
A Methodist Turducken: Three Conferences in One?
Article VI, section 5-6 outlines how this proposal will work at the 2020 GC. It seemed to really skimp on details and timeline, so I consulted and got more information and…I have to say…one of their proposals for how it would work is pretty bonkers on the surface but it makes logical sense. One proposal plans for THREE Conferences one after another, in the same week, like an ecclesial turducken. Here’s one way it could turn out:
First Conference: Everyone all together
On May 5th when the 2020 General Conference meets in Minneapolis, at the first opportunity a motion will be made to suspend the Rules and to adopt the Plan of Separation’s financial and legal agreements (read it here). All 862 delegates will vote on the Plan of Separation (and any other enabling legislation). Assuming it passes, the Bishops are expected to close the 2020 General Conference, while calling for a Special General Conference to meet…the next day.
Second Conference: WCA and Post-Separation UMC separate
The next day, the delegates will have decisions to make because there will be two options.
- Those delegates and other Traditionalist leaders who wish to start the Wesleyan Covenant Association’s new denomination will meet separately (either at the Convention Center or close by). They are not under any Discipline and can do whatever they want, however they want.
- The Special General Conference of those delegates who wish to remain United Methodist will convene to consider the Regional Conferences Plan (either the one by the Connectional Table or another). They might likely also consider the proposed Global Social Principles and some other petitions with significant global impact.
For the latter, whenever the Special GC is done, the bishops are expected to gavel it closed, and announce that the Regional Conferences will meet…the next day.
Third Conference: Regions of Post-Separation UMC
Finally, for the remainder of the 2020 General Conference allotted days (until the 15th), the various regional conferences will meet like mini General Conferences and pass legislation which will (eventually) apply only to their regional contexts. This is when the antigay language will be removed from the Discipline that will apply to United Methodists in the USA (and perhaps other regions as well). The WCA will continue to meet separately until the time runs out.
…Yeah. Me too. This is bonkers but as long as the constitutional questions are answered (how on earth do you amend the constitution for the Regional Conferences and then hold a regional conference before the amendment has been ratified by the global electorate?) AND everyone plays the game as agreed (this is my concern), it could work out as planned. If not, then some adaptations might mean it is just two conferences in sequence (no Regional Conferences until 2022), but regardless: the plan is to have the major pieces AND the harmful language removed by May 15th. Wow. Get out the popcorn!
Shutting down and shutting out
In the interim time leading up to the Turducken General Conference, there’s some immediate changes that will take place.
- Immediately all complaints and judicial processes against LGBTQ+ inclusive acts will be “held in abeyance.” It means any complaint made will not be processed until the end of GC2020, which if all goes well they will be dismissed at that point. So not a moratorium, but effectively one. This is 100% necessary and the only reason any progressive could support this deal. Stop the harm. A sigh of relief to LGBTQ+ inclusive communities everywhere.
- Part of the negotiated agreement is that the influencers and caucus group leaders will advocate for the deal with their constituencies, and the parties will cease supporting other competing plans. The Indianapolis Plan? TOAST, BABY. Next Generation UMC? New Expressions Worldwide? Bard-Jones? Without the collective support of these representative caucuses and regions, it is highly unlikely any other plan will merit a majority, although some of their ideas may live on in other expressions (such as All Belong’s series of petitions that are not a “plan” and thus are not in competition with this Plan of Separation).
- Annual Conferences are forbidden to close any churches between now and the 2020 GC (with some exceptions). Kinda unnecessary, but I get why we don’t want conferences going heavy-handed on minority-viewpoint properties between now and then.
After GC, Who votes and When?
The biggest question that every church has for each plan is “will each local church have to vote?” The answer seems to be “Not unless they want to.”
- By May 2021, new expressions like the WCA and perhaps others will need to have formed and be ready to be affiliated with.
- From now until July 2021 (outside of the USA it is December 2021), an annual conference can be compelled to vote whether to leave the UMC and affiliate with another new denomination. The threshold is 57% (such a random number, but I’m sure it was negotiated between the Traditionalists’ desire for 50% +1, and the other’s desire for the traditional two-thirds 66.7%).
- Until 2024, if a local church wants to go along with the annual conference, they don’t need to vote. If the local church does want to vote on whether to go a different direction than the annual conference, then they have to vote. Finally, if a local church wants to leave altogether and NOT affiliate with a new expression, then the Discipline applies (trust clause, pension payments, votes by the annual conference, etc).
So there you have it. No action required by your local church except if you feel strongly to go another way than your annual conference.
One lament is that Central Conferences after the 2020 GC will have a LOT of social pressure to go along with their region. A holdout (progressive or traditionalist) annual conference will feel rather alone if the rest of their central conference goes with a different direction. And the potential framing of this choice as “are you pro-gay or anti-gay?” will be really problematic for honest conversations in Africa and the Philippines. Ugh.
Challenges going forward
Yes, the 2020 General Conference delegates will need to decide whether to support this plan or another plan. That’s a given. But in the coming months, there’s some unique challenges for some other groups.
First, the Judicial Council will have to weigh in on this plan—particularly the mechanism of the Regional Conference before the Constitutional Amendments are ratified. That is one for the Council members, not armchair lawyers, for sure! If that doesn’t pass, then it will be 2022 before the regional conference can meet.
Second, Traditionalists will have a lot on their plate. In addition to creating a new denomination, the sequence of events at General Conference means that Traditionalist GC2020 delegates will have to decide to shape the WCA denomination before their annual conferences have voted to separate. That sounds really tricky but in the four months ahead, annual conferences could make their leanings known—even though the administration and nominated leadership of the conference may not be in sync with their annual conference delegates. I fear reactionary pushes will lead to short-sighted votes…
Third, Progressives (especially in the Western Jurisdiction) will have to hold their dreams of a new denomination more lightly because we will be stuck with the church as it is, just less anti-gay. So efforts to create a denomination from the ground-up, absent of its inherited colonialistic and systemic sins, will need to shift to reform rather than build. Although with some nominal seed money for a new progressive expression, there still might be the chance for congregations or conferences that are willing to try.
Finally, the general church will have some decisions to make. General Conferences and Agencies and Independent Commissions will have some strategic decisions to make as to whether they will pivot themselves to serve multiple expressions or whether they will focus on the Post-Separation United Methodism. And the Council of Bishops will shrink or become so top-heavy that reform is needed.
Okay, that was too much, too quickly. There will be better explanations and questions answered in the coming days, and I have definite opinions I’ll be offering up about this proposed plan of separation.
But at least for the interim time, here’s the best Hacking Christianity can offer to explain it. Leave questions in the comments and the post will be updated as necessary. Finally, churches are welcome and have permission to reproduce or link to this post with attribution.
Thanks for reading, commenting, and sharing on social media.
How do I prevent apportionments from my donations from going to a blank check to a free-reign WCA?
It says it comes from GCFA, but I agree my local church will lose its lunch if any of our apportionment goes to it. Surely there are other sources.
Agencies have unrestricted reserves over $120 million. The various funds will come out of that.
Important to note that this proposal is not binding in any way unless/until it is adopted, so to say that “all complaints and judicial processes against LGBTQ+ inclusive acts will be “held in abeyance” ” is only aspirational (is that the term we use in these situations?) language and will be up to each bishop.
I believe the held in abeyance language is from the bishops. So long as the CoB agrees to it, then the complaints are not to be acted upon. So they don’t have to wait until GC, but it is true that a rogue bishop has the authority to pursue charges if desired.
Scott Jones is still a bishop, right?
Yep, Mr. “100 Church T
rials” is both the bishop of the Texas Annual Conference and one of the movers and shakers in the WCA.
I am in the TAC, so I am greatly concerned about efforts to “lead” our conference out of the UMC into the WCA. A Bishop in the WCA (speaking metaphorically) is getting paid by the UMC, and should recuse himself or herself from leading a vote in that respective Annual Conference. Everything could not have been included in this Yambasu document, but I think that is a shortcoming Jeremy.
But then shouldn’t every bishop recuse themselves from leading a vote — or advocating a decision to not vote — in that respective Annual Conference?
Texas AC is precisely where voting by AC and churches will get messiest. First, will 57% vote to join WCA? Then, how many congregations will vote to remain UMC? The protocol indicates each congregation will decide the voting percentage that would sustain their separate decision. Those layers of dispute and decision will be hard. Pray for every congregation.
Thank you for making this just a bit clearer for me!
Annual Conferences aren’t forbidden from closing churches between now and GC2020. In fact, that hides a central challenge with this proposal – while the signatories have bound (covenanted) themselves to each other/this plan, no one else is held to anything in the proposal. This includes any call for charges to be held in abeyance, and for the plan to be taken as an all-or-nothing package by GC.
Once legislation is actually written (and as they say, the devil’s in the details) and submitted to GC, only GC delegates have control over how it’s handled.
I’m not trying to deconstruct things out of hand, but there’s been really inaccurate reporting ALREADY, so I think it’s vitally important to emphasize that none of the things that purportedly go into effect now can be counted upon – particularly by LBGTQ clergy who might erroneously assume they’re now safe. News coverage also indicates that certain caucus groups were “represented” by participants, but their personal negotiations will not necessarily be accepted by the membership at large.
Something else crossed my mind:
Do the agreements made in the Protocol by the signatory individual representatives of larger groups bind those groups to the Protocol as well?
In other words, has major grassroots organizing for improvements to things the Protocol covers (or amendments to the Protocl as currently written) been shut down by their signature?
If so, putting up the white flag of surrender in secret like this, seems very undemocratic and a nothing but a move to take power away from the People….
Sadly I find it hard to accept that in Conference 2 of your scenario, conservative delegates will just step away from voting on the legislation of the UMC, it’s BOD, and it’s budgets. Since their conferences will not yet have made any vote to disaffiliate, they are still elected representatives.
This is my biggest fear, too. Shenanigans could abound.
Lol. Considering the various shenanigans from revisionists over the years perhaps it would be best if we each tended to our own knitting.
I think the WCA is playing this brilliantly. Leave a denomination suffocating on its own bureaucracy and go off to form something new with a cool $25 million. The remaining groups within the UMC will either lack the ability to properly enact the reforms needed or tear itself apart while trying. $2 million here, $2 million there, and lots of properties sold in the process.
As I read it, the $2 mil will be available to “any” group, orthodox or pro-aggressive, who wants to align themselves outside the UMC or WCA. But here’s the question, the majority made a decision in Feb., a majority decision that has been upheld since the 70’s. Why should the majority receive only a token of the assets? From articles I have read, the progressive/pro-aggressive annual conferences cannot afford to pay their bishops alone. If this “assertion/assumption” is true, that we are beyond repair–the most logical and best suited solution is to totally dissolve the UMC.
That’s not the read. It is for non-Traditionalist expressions, as the Traditionalists will get $25m. They can then divide that up however they want, but it isn’t the remaining UMC’s call.
Kudos to Jeremy for ignoring the childish “pro-agressive” epithet. I suppose Randy could have called us “libtards” as well…
Let’s keep politics out of the ÇhurchR
39 million will be available to any group!
The proposal doesn’t read to me as contrasting the $25mil to the WCA with $2mil to any other new denomination. The $2mil is for planting new churches in general, isn’t it? It seems to me that any other new denomination to be created would be a brand new conversation, which this proposal leaves room for without allocating funds yet. Because none have developed to that point.
It’s not for planting new churches. It is for progressives or centrists or annual conferences that want to strike it out on their own will receive $2m (or split it).
What are the chances we are given more understanding as to why the 25 million/2 million difference?
Is it realistic that all of this can happen in the next 4 months? That conferences can decide their stances that fast? And that enough delegates will get on board that fast? Because from where I’m sitting, nothing has been fast in this saga.
It’s been going for five months already, and the Traditional Plan was written on a napkin, so anything is possible.
Please pardon the language. This is in reference to your napkin comment.
Thank you for clarifying this. I was reading summaries and still coming up all questions. Not sure how GC delegates will be chosen to represent everyone appropriately in mixed conferences — you know, the ones where you don’t know what you’re getting until you walk in the door, and even then the pastor might have one view while over half the congregation has another.
The $25 million thing is insulting, but at least the dividing party doesn’t get to call themselves United Methodists. I do hope all goes as plan. I suspect that, if the various progressive movements are willing to stick with the centrists, the post-separation UMC will be able to accomplish a lot of the needed reforms. Kevin is right that shedding $2 million here and there because people are out of patience with each other after this fight will probably kill the denomination that remains.
GC delegates have already been elected. A lot of the US delegations tilt much more progressive this time than in the past.
Are churches and Annual conferences obligated to pay their apportionments if they choose to leave? Wouldn’t this plan encourage churches and Annual conferences who hope to leave to stop payment now? Is there a mechanism to prevent this?
Or some who have been withholding apportionments for some time. So, a church has withheld for several years, leaves, takes property, and gets some $ from the $25 M. I guess that was part of the compromise
James Dwyer Ph.D.
Perhaps there’ll be a deduction of unpaid apportionments from the 25,000,000?
That would seem most fair. It was my understanding that churches within the WCA were the contributing he least and while they were “evangelizing” in Africa and dispensing non inclusive literature, the majority of funding was coming from other areas…. so basically they have been paying little into a system they fleecing at this point. I still feel it is one of the greatest long cons in history and they should be getting far less. It seems to me their views are actually the radical ones that are not compatible with Methodism and while I appreciate their hate can not bare any part of the Methodist name in their new group, I don’t see why they Methodist church should have fund their club.
That would seem most fair. It was my understanding that churches within the WCA were the contributing he least and while they were “evangelizing” in Africa and dispensing non inclusive literature, the majority of funding was coming from other areas…. so basically they have been paying little into a system they fleecing at this point. I still feel it is one of the greatest long cons in history and they should be getting far less. It seems to me their views are actually the radical ones that were not back in the civil rights movement when more conservative sects were “United” in order to de segregated churches, which geopolitically seems to have also never happened… and while truer Methodist type views of inclusion were hoped to spread to the hearts of the exclusionists, instead, they slowly and insidiously worked their way into voting their views into the book of discipline rather then the intended outcome of unification originally.
It seems to me, their views are what are not compatible with Methodism and while I appreciate their hate can not bare any part of the Methodist name in their new group, I don’t see why the Methodist church should have fund their club. I just see this as way to get them to go, but by allowing $2 million here, $2 million there, what is to stop WCA from not knowingly not having churches join at the initial split, then encouraging them to separate only to join WCA for a low price of the $2M seed money the UMC would have paid to that church until the Methodist coffers are drained. It would seem more just that a decision be made all at once for each church… if the decision is not made initially, then normal protocol is used…. the way this is written right now, instead the WCA being the only Judas, they get have Judas come again and again until nothing is left.
Jeremy – I’m not sure of the source on the “three conferences” plan, but it’s the first I’ve heard of it. It totally sounds bonkers.
I agree. Talk to your colleagues and see if a clarified position can be made public. The Section VI paragraphs 5-6 are scant on details.
LONNIE D BROOKS
Kris, no local church or annual conference has any kind of enforceable legal obligation to pay apportionments now, let alone as the Church moves to divide itself.
Nothing will pass without enough central conference votes. I know that they were at least represented in this negotiation (unlike previous plans), but will their delegates support it after all they have said about not splitting up the church? It seems like there will be some interesting conversations: they can still call themselves United Methodist and use the cross and flame, but they can’t do that and be virulently anti-gay. That will work for some but I wonder if it will work for enough.
Amy L. Anderson
What about the clergy? We talk about churches changing conferences, but what about clergy? What if they are a closeted pastor at a conservative church (been there, done that) – do they get to change churches and well as conferences?
My only point is: What happens with our slogan “ open main, open heart, open doors “ they use like toilet paper??
Jeremy, thanks for putting your perspective and understanding out here for us!
I’m not sure how the rules work, but as to the “can we hold a regional conference without ratification of the amendments” thing, is it possible for conferences to *say* “we ratify this if passed”, so that the ratification takes place as soon as it’s passed?
Nope. Constitutional amendments have to be ratified by aggregate vote of the Annual Conferences.
One question that arises in places like the comments section of the IRD website is why the right, after winning the vote at GC19, is willing to strike off on its own rather than force out the progressives (who lost the vote). There are at least 25 million reasons for that. But it has also become clear in recent months that some Central Conference leaders got cold feet after GC19 when they began to see what the victory of the TP really meant, especially relative to funding for their conference programs. That’s why they started supporting the idea of regionalization for the US church. But the WCA and their ilk know that regionalization would doom their political project, as they don’t have a majority of the US vote, especially after last year’s delegate selections. So rather than continue to duke it out in an environment where they had won a huge battle but were on the verge of losing the war, they decided to take the money are run.
Is there a “this” button? Because this.
Got that right
This is dead on.
The challenge before us is to prevent them from wrecking us or setting us up for failure after they leave. We need the reformation they prevented Ecuador they built power for themselves in the old polity.
Our work is still before us
James Dwyer Ph.D.
I’m with Paul’s interpretation.
100% right, sir.
In addition, I’m concerned that if all this happens as planned, what would stop the IRD (a non-UMC and anti-social justice organization) from renewing their attack on the UMC? I doubt that they and other anti-UMC organizations will just walk away and be happy living in WCA land.
They won’t stop. We see they kept antagonizing the TEC and PCUSA long after those denominations’ conservative factions split off.
You better believe it, Jeremy! Especially since none of the IRD’s hired guns (Tooley, Lomperis, etc.) signed off on the Protocol agreement to ‘cease and desist.’ So I’m expecting John Lomperis to keep filing his complaints. Just to keep his fingers nimble and busy. And to keep those angry Methodist dollars flowing into his pockets.
Numbers don’t lie. They can be manipulated I would concede, but at some point, you have to look at what is really behind the numbers. To think that the UMC is not going to lose a lot of people because they redefine the BOD is not a good way to carry on or honest. Just like the WCA thinking that there will be a bunch of people going their way. The biggest group of people rising is the ‘nones’ who want nothing to do with religion. THAT is why I have checked out here on this debate. We have wasted too much time on this, instead of being in addition to our mission and vision. In my state, I know that same sex couples have left, and they aren’t coming back, even with the potential we see ahead. I think that there are unintended consequences that no one knows will happen. We can prepare all we want, but it will be years before the true cost of this ‘split’ will be known in my opinion.
There is a difference between institutional leaders like the bishops in the CCs versus the rank and file delegates.
Since the new traditional denomination will be global, then that should meet the main concern.
What happens to the seminaries?
We can assume that Claremont, which survived a ludicrous attack by the right, will complete it’s move to Willamette (“dammit”) and its continue to manage its pecuniary woes. Asbury, never officially a UMC seminary, will certainly be the seminary of choice for the WCA. Will WCA have a university senate to above or disapprove studies at UMC seminaries? Will it matter? Will the continuing UMC find increased impetus to support progressive theological education without the gnawing opposition of anti-inclusive would-be “Evangelicals”?
Hope all can correct my uncorrected mistypings. For “above” read “approve” — I’ll blame my iPad for that one! (…and for the “It’s” for “its”!)
Who did you consult that indicated the three conferences would all happen in May of 2020? That seems like a wild theory, barely worth commenting on. It does not make any sense for delegates elected to the 2020 General Conference of the UMC to be allowed (or forced) to decide which of two “special called sessions” to attend on behalf of their AC. And then it is even more bonkers to think the Regional Conference could meet, when delegates were not elected to them, and constitutional amendments have not passed AC’s. So back to my question – where did you get this idea that made you take it seriously?
This was shared by at least two members of the mediation team, separately. And then disputed by one member of the team. So I guess we wait until the legislation and proposal.
When the African’s left and began the AME they did not get 25 million — they got their hymnals —- then they welcomed with open hears their white brothers and sisters with love
Thank you, Jeremy, for your efforts at both explaining this proposed Protocol and lifting up seeming ambiguities.
When I first read of this, seemingly, just another “plan,” being proposed, I remembered a conversation I was having, last fall, with several other “polity wonks” in the UMC. The question that was being discussed was that because of the WCA with its “draft” Book of Discipline and the plethora of “plans” (all with minimal Central Conference participation) being lifted up: is it possible that NO plan would get a majority and we’d be left with NO resolutions to our dysfunctions?
This Protocol is what we UM’s are good at creating: a compromise good enough to get at least 60% support and move us on to the level, while kicking the can of the remaining dysfunctions down the road to the next General Conference. Not even its drafters are calling it anything but a compromise. It is a framework that allows a gracious separation, let’s the Traditionalists go, and then those in the remnant UMC will spend the next two years trying to figure out how to design a U.S. Regional Conference that could work.
If this all passes, we will need fewer bishops, and Annual Conferences will have to consolidate into geographically larger bodies.
It will take us a couple of quadrennia (at least) to get it all worked out, ( just as it did with the 1968 merger.
God help us all!
Excellent work, thank you for your summary. You and Chris Ritter are the most reliable and quality sources in the UMC for this discussion. Though you don’t agree, you write well and you point out the pitfalls on all the arguments. I respect that.
Sadly, I am left with the critical concern around trust. The delegates didn’t trust the General Church leadership enough to pass the One Church Plan and I’m not sure that they will trust these leaders either. As has been observed, the devil may be in the details, and with no untoward feelings about any of the individuals on this team, I think there is a general lack of trust that prohibits us from making any practical progress. If the details are not completely clear, and it doesn’t seem they are from some of these comments, I believe the delegates will be suspicious of the plan.
Jared Gadomski Littleton
The difference here is if most of the conservative and progressive caucus groups get on board. The One Church plan was opposed by the traditionalists from the start and progressives were like warm to it. If RMN, MFSA, and the WCA (not to mention UM Next), can sign on, it’s got a good shot.
Honestly, on first read…it’s fine.
I don’t care about the $25mil. Let them have it. And the property and the smug attitude. We lose the discriminatory language, which is basically the Simple Plan. It always seemed to me that losing the language means we open up to new expressions. The rest of the church that I love remains intact.
I also don’t care about being smaller. Let’s just be smaller. It’s okay. So we’ll have to be lean, focused and tenacious about our principles…that’s good. We need that regardless of how this particular crisis plays out. WWIII is starting and the planet is melting. The planet needs its churches to be principled, focused and disciplined. The grace we carry as Christians in the Wesleyan tradition is soooooo needed everywhere I’ve ever been. With this plan…we can all get back/move forward to being the church we’ve always been called to be.
Amen brother Christopher.
I very much agree with Christopher. I can finally belong to the church I love without having to feel like a hypocrite. Let the WCA folks go, if they feel they must. When they are at heavens gates, they will , I hope figure out they were wrong.
God help us all…
So let me see if I understand this all…
Those who want to remain the United Methodist church as it is now(a majority)- are to dis-unite, leave it and change their name.
Those who want to change the United Methodist church from what it is now, AND WHAT IT WAS WHEN THEY JOINED IT, will still be called UNITED Methodist, though they are pushing disunity and a minority of current membership?
This is no different than the U.S. Govt.- it’s all power and money(but pensions and clergy benefits specifically).
Where is God in any of this, where is spreading the message of Jesus Christ in this, where is the Spirit of John Wesley in this?
My heart is sad.
I am saddened both by your misunderstanding of our church and by your pain — a pain I have also felt as a closeted gay clergy since 1972, when the church effectively closed the opportunity for me to be fully open and honest in my ministry to people with similar issues.
Good write up!
Thank you for clarifying the process for GC 2020.
From my read the proposal, $25M to the Traditional denomination is actually $12M because the Traditionalist have actually agreed that $13M (which will be retained by GCFA) will be applied to the $39M which GCFA will distribute to support racial ethnic churches, national plans, and Africa University.
Sorry, that’s a misreading I had until corrected by someone on the team.
They get $25M to start something new.
The UMC that survives then gives $26M to the churches of color fund in their Own name AND $13M to the fund in the name of the WCA, Similar to people who make a donation in the name of a loved one or as a gift. All the money comes from surviving UMC.
Another way to think of it is that WCA thinks they deserve $38M (25M + 13M) but is willing to allow 13M of what they deserve go From UMC into this fund, that their churches can apply for grants from.
A cynic would view this as a promise to Korean or African churches that the money is there for them even if they make the switch to WCA, or, more charitably, it allows ethnic churches of need To not feel trapped by financial considerations in making their choice of where to home.
It’s what we should be doing anyway, so there’s that.
As best I can tell from my reading of their English, you got that SO wrong (and that possibly or likely reflects misunderstandings on the negotiating team)! The WCA reps agreed to kick in $13 million (from where, nobody knows, since that denomination has yet to be created, let alone funded), just to have their name on the package for PR reasons (read: supporting Africa University to keep the African GC delegates happy, plus Traditional-Plan-supporting minority groups like the Koreans, etc.).
Remember bank robber Willie Sutton? When asked why he robbed banks, he famously answered, “Because that’s where the money is!”
Well, we all know exactly where the money is, including the Rev. Keith Boyette. And it ain’t (yet) in the WCA’s account.
So that’s exactly why the text of the FAQs reads:
“Thirteen million dollars of the sum represents a contribution from the post-separation Traditional Methodist Denomination, made possible by their decision to forego receiving these funds and instead contribute them for this purpose.”
How generous of those guys!
They’re ‘diverting’ a cool $13 million bucks that they don’t possess from funds they think they could squeeze outa this negotiated holdup to benefit some of the ethnic/minority Methodist causes they (and we) like.
It’s all part of the Art of the Deal, folks.
So yeah, these guys are promising to leave us alone and not come back with highly paid lawyers for another trip to the vault, all for a cool $37 million out of our predictably reduced future contributions.
So at least it’s NOT their original demand of HALF of all United Methodist assets!
And at least the lawyer/mediator who managed this deal pro bono kept the cash payoff out of other lawyers’ pockets. And may have avoided protracted litigation.
I personally would hate to reward Keith Boyette, Esq. with a single nickel for his documented disloyalty to the United Methodist Church.
But some deals you gotta take as the least horrible likely outcome of a negotiated holdup.
As they say, better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.
“I personally would hate to reward Keith Boyette, Esq. with a single nickel for his documented disloyalty to the United Methodist Church.”
I can probably come up with 30 pieces of silver, though.
LLOYD E FLEMING
I am trying to digest all of this. I think I need more TUMS. After spending two years and precious resources creating the One Church Plan, which many who participated in the Way Forward then worked hard to defeat, we are now adopting virtually the same thing with a big difference. We are now paying $25 million to those who have conspired to discriminate against our LGBTQIA+ members and clergy. We are also freeing them from their Trust obligations, and setting up a veritable Pied Piper of Hamlin situation in which they can work their insidious spells across the entire denomination. Most members of the UMC DO NOT know the details of our human sexuality morass. In their ignorance, they would be susceptible to the siren song of the WCA. And finally, we have continued to apply salve to a symptom and have not even begun to treat the underlying disease. That disease is the battle between modernity and fundamentalism that has raged in our society and in our church for the past 150 years. Human sexuality has become the latest hammer with which the right has driven its nails into our mainline denomination.
Every centrist, institutionalist plan like this has been defeated at general conferences in the past. Do you see reasons why we can hope for a different outcome this time?
Because we’re all tired of fighting? I don’t know. Hoping for this, though. PS I like your blog.
One reason I see is that Renfroe, Tooley, Maxie and Boyette were all there. It sound to me like they are all ready to leave. I assume they’ve figured out the finances and logistics of starting their own and worked out a “buy-out”. These four are all charlatans in my view. But there is a sliver of a reason to have hope in this plan.
As a Presbyterian who has been down this road, it seems like a reasonable compromise, although as a polity wonk, I don’t see how to get past the ratification requirement cleanly. My main criticism is how the IRD got to have a seat at the table. They are a political lobby that has had the aim for decades of crippling mainline denominations. If the UMC experience is anything like the PCUSA, I’m sure there will be a lot of pressure through ideological networks for individual congregations to bolt from their conferences, rife with fear-mongering and disinformation. You are in my prayers.
The IRD’s plan is to pick the Methodist carcass clean–like a vulture.
Remember, it’s a turducken!
No idea whether this bird will fly, but the real goose that laid the golden eggs is cooked!
And the golden eggs are, specifically, those large, conservative, southern, semi-Methodist mega-churches with multiple locations that are perceived to be growing in size.
The WCA doesn’t want any small, struggling, aging, problem-soaked conservative congregations that would just love to join up and be a financial drag on the new semi-Methodist system with their outdated buildings and clergy whose energy and ‘effectiveness’ are past their expiration date.
Seriously, knowing what I know about the IRD, and how they hired an ex-CIA agent to destabilize us like it was the Cold War and we were just some Third World country with a lot of resources some American corporation wanted for free makes me angry. That we have people within our ranks who behaved like wolves in sheep’s clothing is even more infuriating. That they did it to more than one denomination, successfully, makes me overturning moneylenders’ tables in the temple levels of furious.
Thanks Jeremy for the summary. I find it interesting that Mark Tooley from the Institute of Religion and Democracy was on this committee. Since when was the IRD a recognized UMC affiliated group? Something smells fishy.
Perhaps $25 million is necessary to stop the harm.
IRD (and Mark Tooley in particular) has been present in press observer status at all major board and agency meetings of the UMC under “open meeting” rules for years. I was present at many GBGM meetings representing missionaries under these same rules. This has allowed “insider” information and first-name access to all major players on all sides for the so-called IRD.
To be a negotiator I assume Mark may have a had a dual role representing a WCA-affiliate — or was he only a reporter/opinion-shaper?
Mark Tooley was in the original meeting, but is not a signatory, nor was he a negotiator of the Protocol. So he’s not bound by it.
The devil is in the details, but in this case this devil wasn’t technically at the table.
Probably just under it. Pulling strings.
That’s the price we pay for making sausage. Hoping it’s edible, but not wanting to know exactly what the ingredients were or from where.
Nina Cortada Winkler
As with the creation of the U.S. Constitution, this plan is an imperfect compromise which will irritate zealots on all sides. Then, some issues, like the rights of citizens (the first ten amendments), slavery, and states’ rights were unresolved and addressing them is still ongoing two hundred years later. Yes, I’m looking at you, Equal Rights Amendment. But the framework of the Constitution was a brilliant step for the nation and it was, like this new plan, the work of a convention that met outside the existing decision-making structure which could not change itself. I hope that we pass this plan and then start work on streamlining our structure and eviscerating the Discipline, whose staggering micromanagement has brought us to the current deadlock.
Excellent overview, Jeremy. Excellent, thanks. The proposal has many flaws and potential cautions; however, it does seem to offer a direction if not a precise map to a way ahead. All of our categories and desires for perfection will be tested. That can be a good thing; if we are able to act and think in imaginative ways where the perfect is no longer the enemy of the good. Over the years I have been in three previous attempts at finding a space of compromise — of offering options beyond our ideological/theological entanglements. None made it this far… although a few came close.
Sadly a deep distrust will continue among many who carry decades-long wounds. Distrust will continue to percolate. Others more deeply tied deeply to institutionalist roles will say silly things like bishops “have never stopped the pursuit for a more excellent way for the diversity of United Methodism to be freed from internal theological conflict so that love and respect can triumph over legislative votes that leave a divided church more wounded and less focused.” Poppycock. We need a more humble and repentant stance just now in my view.
What has happened is a tragedy… lost opportunity, broken promises, lost legacies, a tearing out at the root of centuries of witness, analysis that is shallow in anthropology and devoid of theological rigor.
Going forward we all could benefit from a larger dose of generosity, humility and repentance.
Can someone please explain to me what revelation from God changes the teachings of Jesus, the Apostles, the ant-nicean Church Fathers as well as our other Christina fathers over the last 2000 years?
Also…why do the liberal’s keep the UMC denomination? Why join the UMC if you don’t believe in the UMC stance? I mean…as of right now…UMC is against gay marriage and gay clergy. If you don’t agree then that’s fine. Form your own church and have at it. I mean, logically….I wouldn’t go join a Mormon Church and then push to not follow the Book of Mormon. I wouldn’t join a Catholic Church and speak out against catechism.
My questions and illustrations exactly! Thank you!
How many American Catholics don’t follow the Papal word on things like birth control?
It’s one thing to say not to join a church and expect it to change – it’s another to be brought up in that church and not see the errors it has accumulated.
Incredible! This is surely the Tower of Babel revisited. With this kind of nonsensical gobbledegook, is it any wonder that the Church is losing any semblance of relevance in the world today?
So, in May, after #GC2020, let’s say the Protocol passes … can ACs meeting in June then have a motion to leave the existing UMC?
The Protocol says: Annual Conferences, whether in the Central or Jurisdictional Conferences, may choose to vote on whether to affiliate with a new Methodist denomination pursuant to the Protocol. A vote must be held if 20% of those voting at an Annual Conference session support a motion to conduct such a vote. Such an affiliation vote must be taken before July 1, 2021….
This sounds like the Annual Conference would be required to vote on which way to go if 20% of the delegates call for such a vote. When we elect delegates for Annual Conference this year, it seems VERY important to consider that this could happen.
Those saying “no one will have to vote” to stay in the UMC seem a little disingenuous.
Alan J. Pedersen
When a church choses to break away from UMC and join some new denomination, are the ownership of church properties (both church and parsonages) retained by the Conference Center. What happens when that church falls in arrears on its payment for taxes and utilities, and liens begin to mount? Can the Conference Center force them to vacate the property, then offer the property up for sale?
Jared Gadomski Littleton
Under the new plan, the church would leave with the title to the church and parsonage.
We all expect to go to Heaven Will there be separate spaces marked off to
Accommodate all of the divergent ideologies?
There is a fatal flaw in the details! Central conferences do not have the authority to
“adapt” the requirements for clergy credentials. The Judicial council has been consistent on that for decades. If the US regional conference is going to be the same as a central conference, then It is safe to assume those Judicial Council decisions on central conferences would apply to the regional conference. That would mean General Conference would have to amend chargeable offenses, not the regional conference.
See Paragraph 31. Article IV. 5 And footnoted decisions
Here’s something I’d like to see developed a little more, because I think it’s important (and because the endgame to me has always been about the WCA stripping off UMC property)…
“Very importantly, the WCA gives up any claim to any other property or resources of The UMC beyond the local churches or conferences that affiliate with them.” Beyond the local churches…that’s a curious turn of phrase, because it implies that they have some kind of claim to the local church (or the physical space) they presently have.
This makes me wonder: how, then, will this work? Assume the WCA gets churches to affiliate with them – which they will (and have done so already) – but, because the actual land and buildings of *ALL* UMC churches belong to the UMC as an entity and not the local congregation, you’d think just the membership (and their tithing) goes to the WCA and the and/buildings stay with the UMC. But that statement above doesn’t seem to indicate that…especailly that “beyond the local church” phrase again.
Which means – does the WCA get to take its membership, its tithing AND its local physical spaces with them when they leave? Bottom line: are the buildings and land off-limits on their departure, or do they get to lay claim/negotiate taking those spaces with them?
And if you play this out a little further, say it’s the latter of those two things – the WCA gets to have the option to take their space with them when they go. You’d assume the WCA ould have to pay for the buildings and property they want to take with them, right? Well, the UMC has just agreed to *give* them $25 million over four years when they leave…which can likely be used to pay for the acquisition of the land/buildings they want to take — which essentially means the UMC is going to give away $25 million worth of their property to the people who are leaving.
Long screed, I know…but am I misinterpreting or over/underanalyzing something here?
Article IV.1.a.i addresses your concern: “A local church that affiliates with a Methodist denomination pursuant to this Protocol other than the post-separation United Methodist Church retains its assets and liabilities. The Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church to which the local church belongs at the time of separation will not exercise its trust clause and shall release such local church from the provisions of any and all trust clauses.”
Most of the other major plans submitted for General Conference consideration that concern separation or a realignment of U.S. conferences provide for a limited-time suspension of the trust clause so that we might avoid the fights-to-the-death over property that recently have plagued the PC(USA) and Episcopal churches.
Michael N Shannon
The protocol does not seem to address the following situation: (1) an Annual Conference votes to affiliate with the “traditional” denomination, (2) a local church within that Annual Conference then votes to stay with the UMC. Is the Annual Conference prohibited from using the “trust” clause against that local church?
What happens if only a handful of churches in that Annual Conference vote to go back to the UMC? Will they be absorbed into a different Annual Conference within the UMC?
Sure it does.
3.1.c and 3.1.d cover that situation.
Annual Conferences, whether in the Central or Jurisdictional Conferences, may choose to vote on whether to affiliate with one of the Methodist denominations pursuant to this Protocol.
Any local church desiring a different affiliation than the Methodist denomination pursuant to this Protocol selected by its Annual Conference may conduct an affiliation vote.
That works both ways, as both the post-separation UMC and the “WCA UMC” (for lack of a better designation are considered ‘Methodist denominations’ for the purpose of the logic.
Annual conferences will likely have to change as a result of this. For example, if an AC in southern FL goes primarily WCA, the couple of post-sep UMC churches will remain in their own AC. Then they would likely fold into a neighboring AC as a new AC unit.
Rev. Dr. R. Gwiinn Lacy
I was baptized an United Brethren in Christ at age 1. I joined The Methodist Church at age 12. I graduated from a Methodist Protestant Seminary (Wesley) at age 35. I received a Doctor of Ministry degree from an EUB (United) Seminary at age 52. I retired from the West Ohio Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church at age 65. I have served former EUB (UB), ME North, ME South, Methodist Protestant, former Central Jurisdictional and Korean congregations and for 10 years was a chaplain for the Mercy Health Partners (Roman Catholic). My undergraduate degree is from a Quaker (Earlham) college. In all those years I never questioned what any of those persons attending worship or receiving other aid from me did or did not do in the privacy of their bedrooms.
Thanks for this and all the things you say and do to bring clarity for Methodists.
I appreciate your analysis and share some of your concerns. I look forward to your further thoughts.
One point being raised by the UM-Forward organization has to do with representation on the team formulating this proposal….diversity of the 16. I am inclined to push back on this as a driver of the objective voice. While youth and strong LGBTQ representation might have been ideal, it raises the question of perhaps letting the perfect be the enemy of good. Are we so concerned with representation at the expense of solution to an admittedly difficult situation? I wonder if we can say that each participant in this draft has ignored any perspective outside of their “zone”? I suspect sometimes we desire inclusiveness at a cost of “rules” that keep us from moving forward?
My hope is that we look at this proposal as perhaps the best fresh expression of what we can do. There is much work to be done, and I for one am looking forward to the challenge in our congregations.
Liberals have always been accepted and tolerated in the UMC, regardless of their constant campaigning for the Democrat party via extreme left-wing initiatives through UMW, politicking around climate change, liberal clergy getting in the pulpit every Sunday to berate conservatives as racist for not supporting reparations or whatever pet cause liberals take up on any given week. Liberals dominate the clergy, the bishops, UM News, the universities, etc. The only representation conservative people (who take the Bible at its word on sexuality), are typically in small, ignored rural congregations. At my urban church, I’m surprised a single conservative person even still shows up, as they are lectured every Sunday directly. Every time Trump tweets something, liberal pastors find a way to sneak in some political slogan into their sermon…to slam you over the head with their Extremist left-wing propaganda. They believe Obamacare is a Gospel issue. They believe EVERY big government social program is a Gospel issue as long as it’s a program that promotes their agenda.
The new UMC will be absent conservative congregants, they will not be welcome, they aren’t welcome now. The way white liberals treated non-white UMC overseas is the biggest tell. They aren’t racist until the non-white person doesn’t agree with their extreme agenda, then all of a sudden everyone else is ignorant bigots…
My hope and prayer is that the split will be as amicable as possible, but it probably won’t be. I fully expect liberals to join or infiltrate the new traditional expression church to tear that down too. They aren’t happy until they convert you to their left-wing religion. They won’t be able to do that anymore in their slowly shrinking faux social justice churches, they’d be preaching to the choir.
Climate change is not politics, it is a scientific fact. Further, it is a moral obligation for God’s people to steward His creation.
Regarding this nonsense about liberal politics from the pulpit: my senior pastor regularly quotes Republican politicians and pundits in his sermons. Often these quotes are in blatant endorsement of views that are not in keeping with church doctrine. One of the Good News bigots preached in 2016 encouraging people to stay home in November. My former pastor preached an entire sermon series that misappropriated various civil rights slogans that were common at the time.
If I hear a sermon that is in keeping with the Bible, even though it has points I disagree with, I don’t think, “That’s all just propaganda!” I think, “How can I learn from this message and grow my relationship with Christ and with my community.”
Because the sermons aren’t often “keeping with the Bible,” rather they reflect some left-wing government policy proposal or left wing idea of the week. Yes, climate change is a scientific fact, but the remedy is absolutely political. The world is not going to become suddenly uninhabitable overnight. These left-wing extremist climate policies are just an excuse to grant the government more power to run our lives and dictate the economy. If the Earth were to become uninhabitable in 12 years, as these liberal politicians continue to falsely claim, then there isn’t a thing we can do to stop that. Only God will be able to stop that. Moving forward with cleaner energy, reducing carbon footprints, are only going to work gradually without causing major disruption to the world, and for what? to shave off a few years of the inevitable? If we were to cease ALL carbon emissions today it would not cease the climate from warming, that’s ridiculous. The climate has changed in extreme ways throughout the history of our planet. Did the dinosaurs cause their own demise by simply living? Starving people all over the world, out of work angry Americans, and for what? I swear liberals need to stop and think rationally for a change. We cannot “solve” the climate crisis, and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to you for nefarious reasons. We can gradually remedy the situation with compromise and consensus policies.
It’s rare that I even encounter conservative clergy, and I’m pretty involved in my local UMC happenings. I can’t count the conservative-leaning clergy on one hand, and they aren’t all that conservative. As for your pastor telling the congregation to stay home in November, what did you expect them to say, go vote for the Democrat? or Trump? Most conservatives will NEVER vote for a pro-abortion Democrat, and many conservatives would rather stay home than voting for Trump. So, let’s be clear, you’d prefer your Pastor to promote your liberal agenda from the pulpit because you truly believe it’s biblical to have the government run our lives. I can assure it’s not.
I was really tempted to dig into your post, but in the spirit of reconciliation, I simply pray that you will be happier going forward.
I know of a few far-right and far-left local pastors in my area, through word of mouth. I’ve never attended services with either, nor would I want to. It doesn’t sound like you have that option – and I’m sorry that’s the case.
I hope God shines on your path forward.
Thanks. I pray all people who call themselves Methodists will find a way to be happy in this mess. I don’t want to attend a church focused on political issues, whether they be right or left. The Bible is neither, so clergy need to chill out.
Back to the situation on the ground: the local church.
“No action required by your local church except if you feel strongly to go another way than your annual conference.”
The church I pastor would *probably* be inclined to leave the UMC for the new WCA-C. Say my AC votes to stay in the UMC. Then my church WILL have to vote, right? Hideously divisive. The people who are on fence or just haven’t thought much about the LGBTQ issue (yes! There are such persons out there!) will have to take a side. The anti-gay people who’ve been making their feelings known all along would presumably be lobbying and politicking to win these fence-sitters to their side in a congregational vote.
But even if a church is of the same persuasion as its UMC – remaining AC, a situation which would not requite a vote, how would that church *know* it really is in agreement with its AC? There are bound to be a few conservatives even in the most liberal church, and if they feel strongly enough about the rightness of their position, they cold call for a congregational vote, I would think.
This voting at the local-church level is going to be bad.
I agree. Even though my church is in a decidedly liberal area, and the conference never fails to give us a liberal pastor, our congregation is mostly older and conservative. Once they leave, the church will be in tatters; however, if we vote to go with WCA, we may survive a few more years.
We already lose young conservative families to the baptist church down the street with the young dynamic pastor. But what about young liberal families, you may ask? Most of them don’t even believe in God or even step foot in any church.
The liberal Christian Left is a very small group indeed, but they’re numbers are padded by atheist social activist who want to use the Methodist Church to push liberal legislative policy agendas. They’ll slap on a rainbow flag and pretend to praise Jesus to get what they want, no shame.
I can’t even respond to this without crossing lines that I don’t want to cross.
I’m just going to leave it at that, and walk away. Turn the other cheek, that’s the commandment here.
Go ahead, Daniel. Tell us how you really feel. I won’t clap back.
You just did. Passive aggressive. Both sides need to be careful…..None of us is immune.
I’m trying to figure out if I’m one of the tiny population of “liberal Christian left’ or a Manchurian candidate atheist.
And then I’m wondering if the people I know who are also in favor of inclusion are of the latter group as well.
Because what makes real sense is that people have actual opinions and are not trying to manipulate the system en masse. 🙂
As a poster above said – Is there a *This* button. *This* is spot on. The ‘Nones” is growing fast. I would love to hear solutions on this and not a division. I think it is misplaced what are the greatest threat is!
After the split, I don’t believe any of the churches are worthy to be named United Methodist Churches. It is hypocrisy.