What is the Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation?
It is the outline of negotiated terms for a planned separation of The United Methodist Church that representatives of key interest groups have agreed they would support if brought as legislation to General Conference 2020. The hope is that the Protocol will guide the creation of legislation and a timeline that participants of various organizations like the Wesleyan Covenant Association and Reconciling Ministries Network, as well as members of United Methodist churches around the world, will support as a way forward for The United Methodist denomination.
Additionally, the Protocol calls for a moratorium on “all administrative or judicial processes addressing restrictions in the Book of Discipline related to self-avowed practicing homosexuals or same-sex weddings.” The Protocol also asks that there be a moratorium on the closing of United Methodist churches until after General Conference 2020.
Who is creating the proposed legislation?
A group of those who signed the Protocol are working on legislation. Additionally, we are aware that there are interested parties in other Annual Conferences who are considering working on legislation that will impact the Protocol.
Has the United Methodist Church made a decision regarding the Protocol?
No. The only group of people who can make such a decision are the delegates to General Conference. General Conference will be held May 5th – May 15th, 2020.
How will that legislation come before General Conference now that the deadline to submit legislation has already passed?
There are several ways that legislation could come before General Conference even though the deadline has passed. One way is for an Annual Conference to draft and adopt legislation by March 20, 2020. That legislation would be presented as a petition to General Conference. (see paragraph 507.6 of The Book of Discipline). Another way to accomplish this goal is for the General Conference Committee on Reference to add the new legislation. General Conference could also vote to suspend the rules to receive the legislation. This would require a 2/3 majority vote. Finally, the legislation could be presented as a substitution for a petition already before General Conference during session. For more information about petitioning the General Conference click here.
Why is this proposal getting so much attention?
The media attention and interest group coverage of the Protocol has been surprising, given that no actual plan has yet been presented. The Protocol does represent the first public statement of negotiated and agreed upon terms that the various interest groups would be willing to work on in order to reach a plan of separation for the UMC. It signals that there are points of agreement between completely divergent groups who have competing visions for the future of The United Methodist Church. It offers a sign of hope that General Conference 2020 might yield a new, grace filled way, forward for the denomination as a whole.
How is this helpful or harmful or to our LBGTQIA siblings?
Much is still unknown, including the outcome of General Conference 2020. The agreed upon moratorium on administrative and judicial proceedings for those who are part of the LBGTQ community, as well as those clergy who have performed same-sex weddings, until after General Conference 2020 means that pastors, churches, bishops, and members of The United Methodist Church may continue to focus on mission and ministry rather than diverting significant time, energy, and resources to enforcing the new disciplinary requirements approved by GC 2019.
The Protocol also calls for legislation to be offered to General Conference that would remove the restrictive language from the Discipline regarding members of the LBGTQ community and the performance of same-sex weddings.
What can I and/or my local church do right now and how can I learn more?
First, and most importantly, remember that God is at work, has been at work, and will be at work through the ongoing mission and ministry that you are a part of, and that local churches are doing as we continue to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Second, continue to pray. Our most important spiritual resource is prayer. It is needed more than ever at this time. Third, continue to participate in ways of forming and growing the identity of your local church which informs your church’s ongoing mission and ministry in your community. Finally, stay informed and share accurate information. Here are some links to helpful resources for staying current and following discussion on General Conference 2020.