Reflection on Proposed Separation

October 8, 2020

Since the mailings about King Avenue’s exciting Comprehensive Campaign were received last week, many of you have asked me about the relationship of our church with the United Methodist denomination because of the incompatible stance against LGBTQI persons and inclusive churches.

In short, the significant difference is the January 2020 announcement of the Protocol for Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation.

I recognize that this announcement may have gone under the radar for many due to all of the distractions this year has posed, but because of this Protocol, it gives me the confidence to recommend the re-starting our Comprehensive Campaign which is so needed for our future ministry. While it’s been on our website, I should have been more aggressive in drawing attention to this.

As a quick review, the actions of the special General Conference in February 2019, were not hospitable to LGBTQI persons and inclusive churches. The inclusive One Church plan was rejected in favor of the “traditional” plan which prohibited ordination of LGBTQI members, banned churches and clergy from celebrating same-sex weddings, and the “incompatible” language of the Discipline was retained. Penalties for performing weddings were severe with forfeiture of credentials for the second offense. The Trust Clause would be invoked for churches which desired to disassociate from the denomination. This could entail the forfeiture of all local church assets including property and monies.

Here’s the big difference.

What has changed with our denomination for King Avenue to revive its Comprehensive Campaign? Again, in early January of this year, a diverse group of traditionalists, centrists, progressives, and bishops announced the Protocol for Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation. I encourage you to visit our website and click “United Methodist Proposed Separation” on the home page. All the details of the protocol are there in several articles. I’ll summarize the highlights.

  • The United Methodist Church remains intact and allows those to leave who desire to do so.

  • The traditionalist churches would be allowed to leave and form a new Methodist denomination.

  • This new denomination would be given a $25 million gift to help it form.

  • $2 million would be escrowed to help other potential new denominations form.

  • A local church affiliating with another Methodist denomination “pursuant to the protocol” would keep its assets and liabilities.

  • There is an immediate abeyance (moratorium) on all complaints, charges and trials against LGBTQ clergy and clergy who perform same-gender weddings.

  • To support communities historically marginalized by racism, $39 million would be allocated over eight years to strengthen Asian, Black, Hispanic-Latino, Native American and Pacific Islander ministries, as well as Africa University. Of that total, $13 million would come from funds the separating traditionalist denomination chose to forgo.

  • The pension plans of The United Methodist Church would remain in place for all current clergy and lay employees, even if they affiliate with another Methodist denomination under the protocol.

  • After the 2020 General Conference, set for May 5-15 in Minneapolis, there would be a special General Conference for the remaining denomination. “The protocol also references a plan which calls for a special general conference of the post-separation United Methodist Church. The purpose of the Special Session would be to create regional conferences, remove the current prohibitions against LGBTQ persons, and to repeal the Traditional Plan.”

  • The protocol has now been endorsed by seven major advocacy groups that have often been at odds with one another: The Confessing Movement, Good News, Mainstream UMC, Reconciling Ministries Network, UMCNext, Uniting Methodists, and the Wesleyan Covenant Association.

  • The signers of the Protocol agreed to honor the moratorium on trials until it was passed. Bishop Palmer is a signer and has honored the moratorium.

All of the above gives me great hope for King Avenue’s place in the future of the United Methodist Church. We would stay within the denomination and keep our assets. The “incompatible” language would be stricken. LGBTQI persons would be fully included and eligible for ordination. Weddings would happen. Charges and trials would be over.

The Protocol was to have been voted on at the General Conference this past May. Because of Covid-19, it was postponed until September 2021. So, we are in a holding pattern. Yet, I take great hope of its passage because of the diversity of persons who produced it and the groups that have endorsed it. They seldom reach agreement. Unlike in the past, the opponents come committed to the same proposal. I strongly believe it will pass.