Over the past several months, representatives from different parts of our global denomination met with a mediator to try and figure out a way for each group to achieve their very different and often contradictory goals while also giving up something big that they could live with. The result is the agreement, the protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation. Overall this is a compromise to end codified discrimination against LGBTQ+ people in the United Methodist Church while also keeping the United Methodist Church together. You can read the official Press Release by the Council of Bishops where you can also read the agreement in its entirety and access a Frequently Asked Questions page.
This agreement does the following:
Stops trials, tables complaints against any pastor that conducts a same-sex wedding, and protects gay and lesbian clergy in the interim (until we can officially strike the language from our rules)
Keeps the Global United Methodist Church
Creates a pathway for Traditionalists and the WCA to leave the UMC with both their assets (property included), liabilities, and create their own denomination with $25 mil to be paid over the next 4 years
Creates a sort of reparations fund of $39 mil, $26 mil from the UMC and $13 mil from the Traditionalist denomination
Creates a $2 mil fund for any future denominations that might want to also leave the UMC within a set time frame
Creates Regional Conferences in the United Methodist Church where each region has equal footing
Allows all parties to continue the church’s promise to provide clergy with a pension
Prevents all parties from using the court system to secure additional assets beyond this agreement if this legislation is passed
Signers of the agreement commit to only promote this legislation once it has been written
This agreement is not:
Legislation. The Protocol has to be written into legislation.
A done deal. Like all legislation, it has to be voted on by our elected delegates to the 2020 General Conference.
Some of you will be happy and hopeful about this agreement. After decades of codified discrimination, this seems like a logical way to move forward, this is a way to get our church back, we can finally be free of LGBTQ+ discrimination in our church, we can finally be a church we can be proud of again. Some of you will be discouraged and disappointed by this protocol. It doesn’t go far enough to affirm LGBTQ+ people, there weren’t enough queer people in the room, the racial-ethnic caucus groups were not represented, this is yet another closed room meeting.
MFSA has not officially endorsed this protocol. There were people in the room that are members of MFSA, have been shaped by MFSA, and have brought to the table our values. We are grateful to them and acknowledge the challenging work they have been doing over the past few months. Once the legislation is written and we have had an opportunity to review it, along with the ADCA, we will share more. As always we will continue to work against legislation that perpetuates harm and work toward passing legislation that seeks justice and reduces harm.
Regardless of the outcome of the 2020 General Conference, the root causes of these symptoms of discrimination continue to be capitalism, white supremacy, colonialism, and nationalism. These oppressive systems will continue to plague our church and world and will still need to be addressed even if we achieved our most ideal outcome legislatively. We will still have work to do to transform our church into the new justice-seeking church we are envisioning.