Reflections on the Proposed Protocol for Separation

Sunday, January 5th, 2020

Quite a stir has rippled out across the country because of reporting by Christianity Today, CNN, New York Times, among others, with headlines like this: “Methodists Agree to Split Denomination” (Christianity Today headline), “United Methodist Church Proposes Historic Split over Gay Marriage and LGBT Clergy” (CNN headline), and “United Methodist Church Announces Plan to Split over Same-Sex Marriage” (New York Times). In case you were wondering, the United Methodist Church has actually not agreed to split, and none of those who met and signed this agreement were authorized to make such a decision. Any possible separation of the UMC cannot be made until May 2020 when the next General Conference of the UMC convenes to consider various petitions, since that body alone has the power to officially represent the denomination.

What the articles were talking about was actually an unofficial agreement on the terms of a proposed denominational separation signed by 16 leaders in the UMC who are regarded as representative of the various “conservative,” “centrist,” and “progressive” wings of the church. The agreement is known as the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation (read it here). It includes eight shared principles, followed by six articles outlining the terms of the agreement, definition of terms, proposed timeline, financial considerations, and so forth. In the UMC, it is newsworthy whenever clergy and laity across such a wide theological divide find agreement, especially with a statement as detailed as this one. I want to commend them for the time and effort it took to create this document (and the stellar work performed by Kenneth Feinberg, esquire who led the mediation). I am confident it was done out of a genuine love for the church and heart for reconciliation. They did what was supposed to be done years earlier by the “Commission on a Way Forward,” which was officially authorized by the 2016 General Conference in Portland to come up with a solution but ran aground by supporting a plan which had already been rejected three times by previous General Conferences. We are now in 2020, and this new “Protocol” has been placed on the table and will probably end up before the General Conference in May of 2020. The “Protocol” carries particular weight because, even though it has not been authorized, the leaders involved have agreed to not support any other legislation which contradicts any portion of this agreement. However, before any actual delegates to the 2020 Conference endorse this plan, we should have a robust conversation about some of the possible implications of this Protocol.

The “Post-Separation United Methodists” Remain the Default United Methodist Church

The Protocol envisions the church separating into two main groups. The first group is referred to as the “Traditional Methodist Church” and represents those who are committed to retaining the current Discipline regarding homosexual practice; namely, that all persons are of infinite worth, but that the practice of homosexual behavior is incompatible with historic Christian faith. The second group is named the “post-separation United Methodist Church.” This group is set forth in the document as the continuance of what remains once the Traditionalists leave the denomination to form the “Traditional Methodist Church.” This default is obvious for several reasons:

First, this is explicitly stated multiple times in the official “Q and A” release about the Protocol when it states, for example, “if a local church or Annual Conference wishes to remain within The United Methodist Church, there are no actions required” or in reference to the church after the split when it says, “the United Methodist Church will be smaller.” We should, therefore, presume that the “post-separation” United Methodist Church will continue to be legally and officially called the United Methodist Church.

Second, if any central conference, annual conference or local church fails to vote to “leave” then they automatically—by default—remain in the “post-separation United Methodist Church.” This is a remarkable concession. In fact, even if 65% of a Central Conference voted to leave the denomination, they would not be permitted to leave, but would remain in the “post-separation UMC” (since the protocol requires a 2/3 vote for Central Conferences). If even 56% of an annual conference voted to leave, they would not be permitted to leave (the protocol requires a 57% vote by annual conferences). Furthermore, there are, of course, thousands of small Methodist churches scattered all across the country who have not been actively engaged in all of these struggles and who will likely not organize any kind of official vote. All of these churches would, by default, find themselves in the “post-separation UMC.” Contrast this, for example, with the Indianapolis Plan which states that if a Central Conference UMC does not vote then they, by default, will belong to the Traditional Methodist Church.

Third, the financial understandings in the Protocol underscore that the “post-separation UMC” is the default main denomination. The separation makes several financial agreements, including 25 million for the Traditionalists to start a new denomination, again underscoring which group is “leaving.” The separation also creates a 39 million dollar fund for supporting groups historically marginalized by racism. However, 13 million of this will be funded by the Traditional UMC Denomination and paid to the post-separation UMC, which the progressives will control and administer. This creates an enormous economic advantage to the progressive UMC, euphemistically named the “post-separation UMC” in the document. Many marginalized groups, including the Africa University in Zimbabwe, are theologically conservative and will feel pressured to not leave the denomination and join the “traditionalists” for fear of losing funding that will be dispersed by the progressive church. For fifty years, orthodoxy has been upheld in United Methodism because of a close coalition between those committed to historic faith in Africa with those with similar convictions in North America. The Protocol, because of the high bar placed on Central Conferences for departure, as well as the financial arrangements, could threaten that alliance. We are very close to the African United Methodists becoming larger in number than all of North American Methodists. This is the time to strengthen the ties between historic orthodox Christians all over the globe.

The Real Root behind Our Separation

This Protocol, if adopted by the 2020 General Conference, seems to be weighted in favor of the “post-separation United Methodist Church” (Perhaps this is understandable since the “progressives” and the “centrists” vote together). I am concerned that the language of the document refers to the traditionalists as the ones who are leaving the denomination, and those who remain as the default United Methodist Church. The progressive Methodists have never been interested in starting and building a new denomination. Instead, they want to follow the pattern of the PC (USA), the ELCA, and the Episcopalians – adopting increasingly progressive theological agendas, further and further away from the parameters of historic faith until a breaking point is finally reached and the conservatives are forced to “leave” the denomination. (This is where newer denominations like the Presbyterian Church of America, the North American Lutheran Church, or the Anglican Church of North America came from.) But, in the case of the United Methodist Church, the traditionalists have not left. Great credit is to be extended to the Good News Movement, the Confessing Movement, and more recently the Wesleyan Covenant Association, for so nobly leading this struggle all these years. They have remained strong under relentless attacks, and orthodoxy has prevailed in vote after vote after vote. The progressives in the United Methodist Church have been exceedingly frustrated that the UMC has not followed the normal pattern of every major mainline denomination in the United States. The 2019 General Conference was the progressives’ “last stand,” and it did not go as they had planned. The church stood firm. Let me repeat, the traditionalist view is not a minority view held by a smaller and smaller margin of United Methodists, but a majority view which has been re-affirmed thirteen times by General Conference votes. Yes, the vote is 13-0. Yet, the entire structure of the Protocol envisions the traditionalists as the ones who are “leaving” the denomination.

Let us be clear about what makes the United Methodist Church different from every other mainline denomination in the US who has struggled over these same issues. The traditionalists in the UMC, unlike other mainline churches which have divided, are not leaving the denomination because the church no longer affirms historic orthodoxy and they find themselves in a church on the wrong side of orthodoxy. Quite the contrary, the votes to support historic orthodoxy have gotten stronger over the last several General Conferences. The traditionalists in the UMC who are part of the Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA) are, indeed, prepared to start a new Methodist “traditionalist” denomination, but it is only because of the sustained rebellion against the clear and decisive decisions made by the General Conference. This rebellion has been made more difficult because it was led by many of our own episcopal leaders who hold the decisions of both the General Conference and the Judicial Council in contempt. The WCA is considering forming a new denomination because of the unwillingness of the episcopacy to maintain church discipline in the church.

The Protocol, if adopted, would open the door for the current United Methodist Church, which all these years has remained faithful to historic faith, to become the default progressive church, and the traditionalists would be left to start something from scratch. The Protocol calls for the traditionalists to leave and form a new denomination (which is like the one they currently already have, save for the rebellion), while the progressives, after that departure, will finally get the United Methodist Church given back to them on a silver platter to reshape according to all the proposals they have been making without success since the 1972 General Conference.

Moving Forward

I would prefer that we keep holding our ground as we have done for fifty years. However, I understand the good reasons given by the courageous traditional leaders for why a church separation in 2020 may be necessary. There are just too many people’s lives at stake for us to be stuck in an ecclesiastical quicksand for another generation, while United Methodism keeps losing members at such a precipitous rate. So, although it is has not been my first hope, I am prepared to join with those who are leaving and start from scratch and build a whole new denomination. Count me in. I’m ready to get to work.

But I do think that it is important that those interested in the history of the United Methodist Church have a clear narrative about what has actually happened. We may have lost our beloved denomination, but we went out having successfully defended historic orthodoxy each time we were called upon to vote. Our General Conference never let us down. Our story is different from other mainline denominations. In our case, we were defeated by our own leaders. That began long ago and entered yet a new phase on September 3, 2013 when Bishop Melvin Talbert officiated at a gay wedding in Birmingham, Alabama, with no repercussions. That began a rebellion which, while never able to change the UMC doctrinally, still ended up destroying the denomination. So, let us turn the page in 2020 and start afresh, remembering our beloved brothers and sisters throughout the history of the church who have fought their own battles, and found, as we will, that Christ always renews his church and makes good on his sacred promise to build his church.

Read Part II here.
Read Part III here.
Read Part IV here.

Comments

  • Steve says:

    Pretty crafty of the progressive wing.

    Thanks for breaking this down and keeping us informed 🙂

    • Rich Gordon says:

      Why does the majority which is following the path established by the UMC have to be the ones leaving?We are not the ones leaving it’s is the liberal, progressive group trying to force the acceptance of their philosophy. If anyone is leaving it is the progressives. They are splitting off and as such they should have to do what they are trying to force us to do. We ate the UMC not the liberals, they can become the Progressive UMC, not the traditionalist.

  • As a member of an ECO church (which left the PCUSA over this same issue) I found it confusing to read elsewhere that the conservatives were leaving the denomination while they were in the majority. Thanks for the clarification of issues.

  • Lynn Moore says:

    So, if our Conference doesn’t get enough votes to leave and, therefore, we have to stay in the Post-Separation UMC, does that mean our small church will be required to do same-sex weddings and to accept gay pastors?

    • Janet says:

      no pastor is ever required to do any wedding.

      • Excellent analysis and addresses many of the same questions I have been pondering.

        A colleague I know personally and greatly respect wrote of a difficulty arising from the spinning off of the traditionalists from the UMC into their own denomination:
        >>>>
        I think you’re going to have a hard time defining “traditional” and arriving at a definition people are comfortable with. For some, “traditional” means Southern Baptist; for others, “traditional” means “traditional United Methodist,” and still others, it means more conservative Methodist (like Nazarenes or Wesleyan Church). Some rural churches are going to have a hard time going with the WCA because of the Nicene Creed (which is “too Catholic” for many rural UM churches).

        I know some conservative (particularly rural) churches are going to have trouble with the Nicene Creed being a foundational part of their doctrine (in particular: “one holy and apostolic church” and “one baptism for the remission of sins”). The thought that there is monolithic understanding within the “factions” is at best a myth. I can see some annual conferences considering to become autonomous, and continue what they’ve been doing for the most part. Unlike being a citizen of a country, Methodists have a convicted-but-voluntary relationship with their church.
        <<<<
        That is exactly why a so-called Traditional" spin-off denomination will be mired in bickering about a whole host of matters other than homosexuality. I have already seen a thread on a conservative UM page trying to demand that the pastors in the coming traditionalist denomination be permitted to use only two approved translations of the Bible. And whaddya know, they justified it by declaring that progressives just hate those versions! Well, QED, right?

        The UM Right has been defining itself mainly by its opposition to the UM Left. I am reminded of Ray Bradbury’s 1952 short story from The Martian Chronicles, “Way in the middle of the air.” In the story, all the black people in America get on spaceships and move to Mars. As one migrant crowd makes its way to a rocket, they are mocked and harassed by white racists, especially a KKK night-rider named Mr. Teece. But they all proceed to boarding. Near the end, young black man yells to Teece, “Mr. Teece, Mr. Teece, what you goin’ to do nights from now on? What you goin’ to do nights, Mr. Teece?”

        Teece watched the dust settle, and it suddenly came to him. It was a good question. He sickened and was empty. Yes. What will we do nights? he thought. Now they’re gone, what? He was absolutely empty and numb.

        And so the spin-off Traditionalists will find themselves asking, What do we do now? They do not yet know and it will be conflicting to find out. It will splinter the traditionalist merely-apparent monolith a lot. The purity codes inherent in religious conservatism will be fought over and be their own source of energetic dissension. Unity it will not be.

        This is not to say that the Progressive UMC remnant will be all unicorns and rainbows. They are typically consumed by righteous anger because progressivism, whether religious or political, simply must have an enemy. There is always an oppressor who must be subdued, always some kind of class warfare that must be fought.

        So after the fully-progressive UMC is formed there will be a period of sweetness and light, and then the in-fighting will begin, then the purges will begin. The only way forward will be ever-more Leftward (see: Democrat party). No one will count the casualties because Leftism has never cared about casualties, either literal or figurative.

        As has always happened when the Left attains power, the self-appointed revolutionary vanguard will cement its position and focus primarily on retaining control. The Progressive UMC will become effectively a social-justice-driven political party that uses religious language. In fact, it will become heavily active in actual politics and pastors’ involvement in approved political causes will greatly determine their appointments. Bishops who do not go along will be sidelined and new bishops will be chosen for political reliability. It will truly become a church of Leftism rather than of Christ.

        If you think I am overstating all of this, for either side, I only reply, wait and see. Because you ain’t seen nothing yet.

        • MICHAEL says:

          The word Catholic (usually written with uppercase C in English; derived via Late Latin catholicus, from the Greek adjective καθολικός (katholikos), meaning “universal”) comes from the Greek phrase καθόλου (katholou), meaning “on the whole”, “according to the whole” or “in general”, and is a combination of the Greek

          Not meaning ROMAN Catholic
          I agree the Progressives should form a new denomination. My Family has been Methodist since Francis Asbury.

    • billcod says:

      One group that I cannot find represented in the discussion and comments the past few months is where I am – a traditionalist who believes in the inerrancy of scripture, but finds themselves in the largest Methodist congregation headed by the leading progressive pastor. As an average member, it was not until last year’s vote that I realized our pastor was playing so loose with scripture. There is no chance/mention of a congregational vote and there is no “Traditional” Methodist church nearby. So, we will find a non-Methodist Bible-believing church to attend soon.

    • Mark Flynn says:

      I am deeply grateful for this analysis. It does indeed seem unfair for those who are faithful to the scriptures and to our tradition (and who have won every vote at general conference) to be the ones to “leave.” However, it seems to me that if we do not adopt some sort of a plan of separation at general conference the likeliest other outcome is that the general conference will stand firm and then every jurisdictional conference in the U.S. will make a point of electing new bishops who will make a point of refusing to uphold the Book of Discipline. This will not just mean more conflict. It will mean anarchy. I hope for terms at least a little fairer than the ones in this proposal, but it is time for a plan of separation.

  • Gary Bebop says:

    This a remarkably clear and cogent summary of the facts in play. But will this narrative stand up to the drumming of the progressive counter-story? What will local congregations accept as reality?

  • Matthew says:

    So, $25 million given to the new traditional denomination, but they have to give $13 million back to the progressives to fight racism? ???

    • Dave says:

      Thanks for your analysis of the proposed protocol. I had to re-read the proposal and Q&A numerous times to realize the same that you have said here. Sadly, a vast majority of members will not have done the serious homework on this issue necessary to fully understand what it would mean for their congregation. I fear that the Bishops, DS, and clergy will not show an interest in educating the membership about the various proposals and will leave the ignorant members to read about the proposals in the liberal press! Step forward lay leaders as Dr. Timmothy has done here!

      • UMC PK says:

        2 thoughts:
        1. In the UMC conference where I attend the Bishop and an overwhelming percent of clergy support the post-separation UMC. To date they’ve been very crafty to suppress or dilute all information provided to check members. Information that is disseminated is blatantly one sided. Yesterday at worship, when the new separation protocol was discussed it already had an unmistakable “us vs them” tone to it rather than a proposal of mutual grace-filled blessing of mission and purpose. Pastor even went so far as to state that “nothing as harmful and hurtful as a vote would ever be needed at OUR church”. This strategy will certainly be widely utilized, since clergy and bishops tend to hold the power of knowledge over uninformed parishioners.
        2. I feel there is great inertia and potential confusion in either side retaining the logo, branding, and name of the original organization.
        It is a sad time, but pray without ceasing and be joyful and hopeful while waiting. God will work His plan through the faithful. God’s plan is unstoppable.

      • Bonnie Ricks says:

        My study of the Bible leads me to believe, that everything in life changes, except the word of God! This UMC business was settled for me in 2019. There should be no further discussion. Those who might disagree with our church as requirements are set down, by the Bible, and backed up by John Wesley’s “Book of Disipline”, should conform without complaint. This is how it is.

        However, no one needs to leave, all are welcome, but the words of God must be upheld. If people cannot accept that, and abide by God’s law`s, then maybe they should seek a church more in line with their own belief’s. The way the church is set up now, is in line with my beliefs and the belief’s of the majority who voted in 2019. This talk of the way the church should change is not God’s talk.

        All through the Bible are words that make it clear what God requires of us. This is repeated over and over in the Old and New Testamentes, and is finally spelled out again in the very last chapter of the Bible, Revelation Chapter 22. Verses 12-21 are extremely explicit. I pray for everyone involved in this matter, and hope we can all worship God together in one agreement. For me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

        • A split or separation is necessary in order to get on with God’s work. The split/separation needs to be fair, balance, equitable, amicable, etc. This only makes sense and is supported by Christian principles. There should be no winners or losers it should be win/win as best possible. The part I don’t understand is why the majority (i.e. Traditionalists) don’t have control over this separation? It seems like the progressives and centralists have the control? Why are the leaders of the church ( e.g. Bishops) seem to be mostly progressives and centrists? When the leaders don’t represent the majority of the members than dysfunction and difficulties can arise. It seems like the Methodist church is very screwed up in its Governance structure/process. New denominations need to develop a new Governance structure/process that ensures the leaders represent the members. That is the leaders job!

        • I am tired of being referred to as a “Traditionalist”. You are either a true Christian or not. Yes there are traditions in every church; however, the BIBLE is what we believe in and we do not believe in traditions so therefore we are Christians and not “Traditionalists”. By using this word, Christians are now being relabeled and we should not be called anything but Christians.

  • BroKen says:

    If we lose the denomination it will be because of a vote by the General Conference. The quickest way to end a struggle is to give up. The fight is not against us but against what we represent. That means leaving the fight is leaving what we represent. I pray we do not split in Minneapolis. If we can hold on til Manilla, we probably won’t have to split. WAIT FOR MANILLA!

  • Just for the record, the UMC has abandoned the plan to hold the next General Conference in Manila.

  • BroKen says:

    When did that happen? What is the plan?

  • I am a traditionalist, also an Asbury graduate. I know what God’s word says and that is what I’m sticking to. I am sad it has come to this but I will not be in a denomination that goes against God’s word. They will never be blessed by God. I just feel we all need to be on our knees and seek God’s guidance. In the end, He will win!

  • Why should the traditionalist accept this proposal ? The traditionalist are the majority. It would appear to me that any group (progressives) that can not abide by the present rules would be the ones to leave.

  • Janeen says:

    It does not seem right to me that the traditionalists leave the organization that is already formed when it’s the progressives that want things changed. The progressives should leave and form their own group, as they would have alot to change within the present UMC organization to agree with their viewpoints.

    • Thank you for breaking this down and speaking the TRUTH! We have shared this with our church, which has already joined the Wesleyan Covenant Association. We are grateful for those who have stood on the frontlines in this debate and upheld BIBLICAL standard and integrity throughout the process!

    • Lynn Moore says:

      I spoke to our young pastor yesterday about bringing this all up to our congregation. His response was that he didn’t feel our congregation would be interested and that our small church would not be affected anyway if this goes the Progressives way. After reading this, I think I’m going to have to have a “Come To Jesus” talk with him.

  • Mike says:

    As Dr. Tennent wrote above, the reason traditionalists may end up leaving a denomination that is still orthodox in its discipline (its “Confession” you could say) is because of the disobedience of our leaders, in particular, many Bishops (along with conference staff, national and global board and agency staff, seminary professors, etc).

    They have been able to get away with this only because the local church hasn’t realized how much power it really has, and therefore hasn’t leveraged that power to keep Bishops and others in line. Local churches have the power to withhold apportionments (but most often have not) and have the power to resist an appointment (or an appointment change) when they feel that the Bishop and cabinet clearly do not have their best interests in mind (and this is often very obvious!).

    Remember the scene at the end of the movie, “A Bug’s Life”? The scene when the ants finally realize how much they outnumber the grasshoppers (and then the grasshoppers realize it as well!). That is the laity and local churches of the UMC – but we haven’t awakened yet; we somehow missed the message at the end of that movie!

    While I doubt there is time to change the direction we are going as traditionalists as we move toward 2020, it would greatly help us to remember the power we have, and to use that power in negotiating from a position of strength rather than weakness. I realize the US delegates do not accurately reflect the local churches/Annual Conferences, but there should still be ways we can leverage our influence and power in numbers (not to mention the power of being those who embrace orthodoxy).

    • Frank Brown says:

      Withholding “Shared Ministry Costs” (“Apportionments” as they were known previously; “taxes” as they actually are) is usually a futile attempt to influence a bishop to do right, UNLESS 50% or more of congregations within a conference ALL do so. There are too many who are afraid to do so or who, as our leadership did, view it as an act of disobedience itself and then ask, “Do two wrongs make a right?”

      Refusing an appointment is what our congregation chose to do, and now is independent (as of April 15, 2019), a charter member of WCA (from its inception in 2016), and is renting the church/parsonage from the conference–for now.

      Many congregations simply are not equipped with the people or financial resources to go the way of “independence,” and so this “Proposal” is likely the best way to go for the majority of congregations who are “orthodox, historic, traditional, and biblical Christians.”

      I pray God’s blessing of “love, power, and a sound mind” for them once the proposal passes in May, Deo volente!

      Pastor Frank, Port Community Church

  • Byron Ahrens says:

    As a part-time licensed local pastor who has completed the course of study, I find it frustrating to see the church leadership fail to lead. The General Conference voted and it was clearly decided to keep the Discipline as is and to try and provide a better framework for holding us all accountable to adhearance. Why is it that the majority must leave? It truly seems to be more about control, power and money. Maybe the ability for a traditionalist denomination to ” walk away” is because they feel more confident that they can stand alone fiscally, using the opportunity to remove wasteful bureaucracy that has occurred over decades. Could this also be a challenge for all of the clergy. We talk about being called but how many see the role as a career instead, complete with a “corporate career ladder” as more pay coincides with larger parishes, etc. What a different church it would be if there were pay grades based on experience and talent and the salaries were paid from the conference out of the apportionments. Salaries would not be part of the equation and if a small church in an area could benefit from a well seasoned clergy person with a gift of evangelism and church growth was placed with a small congregation, their budget would not be impacted. Our focus could once again be on sharing the good news of salvation to those around us and not on which lobby has our attention or makes the most noise about being on the margin. We are all nothing and our most prized posessions rags compared to the gift of Salvation as Paul has taught us. Let us all focus on the message of the Gospel and not focus on a storehouse for either path. There is no guarantee of appointment for those who are bivocationed as part-time local pastors. My prayer and hope is that we may continue to have a place to serve as called.

  • Thank you for the brilliant characteristic of reality. I am a delegate to GC 2020. I will vote against this agreement. None of the signers was representative of the European Orthodox Methodists.

  • Judy Cohoon says:

    1 Kings 18:21 Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him, but if Baal is God, follow him” Now is the only time we have for certain to decide how we will live the rest of our lives. Not to decide actually IS to decide. Traditionalist were always the winners in the votes at conferences, now it seems we are being impeached.

  • What has not been addressed is the continuing disobedience of Bishops like Bickerton and a number of ACs who flagrantly ignore the JC and our Discipline. They will continue to do so even if the traditionalists win again in MN. A church as divided as ours cannot stand. It’s collapsing around us. As Tennant so cleverly points out; the Protocol leaves Traditionalists with a crust and we are labeled as the ones “leaving the church.” Frankly I am torn. The hypocrisy of “allowing” the traditionalists to use money to fight racism hides the real racism of holding our brother and sisters in Africa hostage and to punish them for holding fast to the faith once delivered. I know and love Pat, Keith and Tom but Did they sell our birthright for a bowl of porridge?
    Roy E. Jacobsen retired elder NYAC

  • Rev Don says:

    Truth? Follow the money. The progressives control the UMC in the US, and that’s where the money is.

  • In stead of trying to dominate the ‘other side’ we should make two entirely separate denominations. Neither can have the UMC moniker, but either can have Methodist in their new denominational name. This would fight the inertia of the ‘status quo’ vote, the lack of reflection and decision making, and provide equitable division of all denominational assets. A vote in that direction would provide grace and truth to all parties.

  • Dr Tennent,
    Just wondering why there is such support to “start from scratch” instead of funneling efforts towards joining other likeminded Wesleyan denominations such as Free Methodist and Wesleyan.

    • Darla says:

      Lance Whorton says:
      January 6, 2020 at 7:31 pm

      Dr Tennent,
      Just wondering why there is such support to “start from scratch” instead of funneling efforts towards joining other likeminded Wesleyan denominations such as Free Methodist and Wesleyan.
      Reply
      Yes! Do you realize how many former Methodist – “come-outers” from decades dispersed into W-H denoms – long to bear the name Methodist again? The pain from leaving passes from one generation to the next. As my father would say, “We are Methodist refugees in the camp of the Nazarenes.” What has transpired, is that these Methodists and traditionalists from other W-H denoms desire to join together.

  • My opinion is to let the Progressive Bishops and District Superintendents exit and start a new denomination and call it what they may. They have let their flock down to the degree where all of this deviseness has put a cloud over worship.

    • Cynthia says:

      Progressives should form their own denominations (like the African Americans formed the African Methodist Episcopal Church.) I don’t understand how they (Progressives) should keep the name “United” when they are the ones who instigated a schism in the first place by going against doctrine…

  • L White says:

    Relatively speaking, the denominational split is easy. The real ugliness happens within local congregations, where opinions will vary across the spectrum. “Who gets the church building?” (just for starters) The devil is in the details, and not just figuratively.

    • Meg Bass says:

      I’m in an interesting position in that I work for and am a member of a church whose church council voted to be a reconciling church about 5 years ago. It’s been difficult being a tradionalist (I don’t like that word either) in a church trending more and more progressive each day. Our pastor at the time promised us that this did not mean that a rainbow flag would fly over our church. Fast forward to today (with a new pastor), and we emblazon the reconciling congregation rainbow-colored flame insignia on our publications and our church signage. We have no time for anything else but to engage in the complexities of this social justice issue. This church was a traditional church established in 1952. I daresay the founders would understand the tremendous shift in the theological (?) thinking of today. I agree with the other commenters that the split will be felt mostly deeply at the local church level. My conference is very progressive but I live in a mostly rural state. If my conference votes to remain in the present UMC (which is highly likely) there will be many small rural churches left to fend for themselves if they decide to walk away. I live in an urban area with around eight to ten Methodist churches within driving distance. I cannot think of one that will leave the present UMC. I guess I will be left with no alternative but to practice my faith with another denomination. Sad times indeed.

  • Tammt says:

    I’m just thankful my little church has already left the organization. This is horrible!!

  • JAMES says:

    This agreement stinks. I hope and pray that it is voted down! I don’t understand why these traditionalist leaders WHO HAVE THE MAJORITY would vote to leave, and in so doing, leave behind so many of their brothers and sisters in the ethnic churches, and in US churches where Pastors won’t hold votes or can’t muster the 67%. If the liberals are so upset that they lost let them leave! Or at least have every church hold a simple majority vote and divy up the denom equally with new names. This agreement is giving away everything that was fought so hard for.

  • Great analysis until your final section, when you recommend giving up and leaving, and trying to start something new. Why not stay and stand up for what is right?

    The Republican Party goes through similar struggles every four years. The conservatives who leave the Party are never relevant again. The conservative who stay and win are the ones who make a positive difference.

    Andy Schlafly

    • As a lay member of a local UMC, I feel that the senior clergy leadership has dragged us all into a polity and political quagmire that is going to hurt every local church. We’ve already lost several members in the wake of the turmoil. Just read the comments so far — there is great divisiveness — us and them. This is not what God wants from us. If the senior leadership cannot find a way forward together, maybe they need to let us lay folks give it shot. In the meantime, please pray for unity. Divided we all fall.

  • The make-up of the committee that crafted the “Protocol” included a representative from just about every splinter group, effectively stacking the deck against any traditionalist representation of the majority. The shepherding of God’s flock is at stake here; will the flock be led to the safety and nourishment of traditional pastures or led progressively to the precipice of destruction? Additionally, one has to wonder how long a “post separation UMC” comprised of splinter groups would last before the splinters begin to fall apart.
    For the sake of current and future members, as well as continuity, it seems prudent to seek legal counsel with an eye toward the majority traditionalists maintaining the UMC banner.

  • Edson kaumba says:

    The founder mentioned unit and what does the Bible says about marriage and remember that worth comes from God. And we stand firm with the help of God your homesexual Issue will Never go anywhere. God help our church.

  • Traditionalists who wish to remain and “stand their ground” need to realize that a great many of your brothers and sisters are ready to move on and to devote their energy to mission and ministry. I am one of those traditionalists. I was raised a half mile from my home church, was ordained a UM pastor, and have served since graduating from college. I’ll be 57 in March.
    And I don’t want to spend the last 15 years of my active ministry (assuming mandatory retirement at 72 remains in effect) fighting over this issue!
    Those who think the $25 million is a paltry sum compared to apportionments are overlooking the fact that traditional churches will no longer pay apportionments to the post-separation UMC. Thus, their portion of that revenue is removed from the UMC and is available either to the local church (hooray and hallelujah!) or to the new traditional denomination. Plus, local churches will keep their property.
    Please understand that if this thing gets jettisoned, and if some form of separation is not approved in its place, then traditionalists who wish to remain will themselves in a shrinking pool.
    Stay and fight if you wish. I’m convinced God is up to something new.

    • Why aren’t the liberals who lost the vote last February the ones who are leaving?

      Similar issues repeatedly confront the Republican Party, and attempts to break off and form a third party fail every time. The influence and potential for good work remains with the mother organization, obviously. It is worth standing for, particularly when in the majority!

      The economics of the proposed settlement (Protocol) is to give just enough money (in church funds) to just enough traditionalists to induce them to leave, so that the liberals can attain a majority among who remain and then change doctrine however they like.

  • Mark Roberts says:

    It is literally a good thing to ‘lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us….’. Leaving this ‘stuff’ behind actually frees us. We are not carrying the burden of old buildings and dead institutions. I believe we owe a word of thanks to the progressives for ‘taking one for the team’ by assuming on all of this responsibility! It is a dead weight that our new denomination will not need to carry. We will be free and can travel light! This may actually be the greatest blessing of the whole division! Praise God!

  • Jef Stemple says:

    Keith Boyette says the reason Traditionalists [I detest the word.] are having to leave the United Methodist Church is that Progressives and Centrists will not. Of course they won’t leave the mother ship. Where would they go? Progressives and Centrists must have the nurture the mother ship provides or they will die. If the ‘Protocol’ is passed and implemented by the 2020 General Conference, here’s a prediction: Within seven years the Progressives/Centrists will lead what’s left of the UMC onto the ash heap of extinct churches. Traditionalists have preserved the UMC against the Progressive/Centrist assault for 52 years. Without the Traditionalists to keep the denomination on the apostolic track, the blind Progressives/Centrists will guide its remaining vessel into the parabolic ditch.

  • Jeff Bixby says:

    Why is this news? From its inception, the WCA always had the intention of leaving the UMC, the WCA was just not open about it until 2019. This is what Methodists do historically, split. It never was “Wesley’s Discipline”, the Christmas Conference made that clear folks. The majority of the WCA members do not want to administer the UMC General Agencies and Boards, this is why the proposal was written the way it is. The proposal is written in grace and allows two expressions to continue in ministry that our world needs.

    • Paul says:

      The Protocol is proposed, reluctantly, because for implementation purposes at the conference level, and regarding the dividing issue of human sexuality (or how to interpret scripture), conservatives (aka traditionalists) do not have a majority of votes in the USA conferences. Associations and caucuses such as Good News or WCA, cannot actually govern domestic denominational annual conferences and districts with leveraged votes from Africa. The same dynamic with voting–no coalition has the votes to govern the other–might actually prevent the Protocol from making it through legislation. So rather than litigate the trust clause for control of property and drain millions of dollars in legal fees from an aging and fragile denomination, the generous exit is what the WCA wants and what the Protocol concedes.

  • Cheri Cowell says:

    Dr. Tennet, would you consider posting this on Facebook so we can share? Many of us are trying to help our laity and this would be good words to share.

    Thank you, and God bless!
    Alum 2011

  • LTC Steve says:

    We have all heard it: “Why do the traditionals have to be the ones leaving?” ANSWER: 1. We don’t want all the liberal seminaries that are spewing garbage. 2. We don’t want the wishy-washy, do nothing, bishops. 3. We do not want the commissions, boards, and worthless committees.

  • David says:

    Dr Tennant,
    Excellent summary and commentary. Thank you!
    I think the Progressives should indeed have a name change. Progressive implies progress; where is the progress?

  • Thank you for the reflection. As an ethnic minority, It seems that the whole announcement thing is to confuse people that that is the plan we should follow. And the councils of Bishops have rubber-stamped it. The global community is also really disappointed by the council of Bishops. Without the African American churches, it seems that The Traditionalist is minority. And the Traditionalist is already have planned to exit with WCA. This is out of logic; why the traditionalist plan won at the last General Conference has to exit? We do not need to follow other denominations. IF the liberals want to change the Book of Discipline, they should form their own denomination that would allow them to twit anyway. This anger many of our Chinese communities; losing trust on Methodist integrity and also Bishop’s integrity. Hope the Judicial council really see the impact on this. I usually do not comment on such issues because I may still have trust on our system; hope we do not need to lose focus on making disciples for Christ but reduce to playing silent politics. The Church needs to call for prayer on this.

  • dcw says:

    Thank you Dr. T. And thanks for your affirmation that you are on board.

  • bhaynes says:

    I am not a member of the UMC, but my family has roots there. I skimmed the articles but didn’t see the answer to this: What effect will this have on Asbury? I do have students attending there.

  • Count me a non-supporter of the Protocol, which I see as a surrender by traditionalists. That is unsurprising, as it is hard to win against the tidal waves of radical modernity. My limited imagination cannot foresee how the new traditional church will be able to pull a significant number of churches away from the UMC.

  • What comes to mind is “if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. ”

    My heart has been passionately in this battle for 3 years now. I have felt the same outrage and indignation that others are expressing here that we are handing our church over to the “infidels”. That being said, I have come to believe that the most Christian and caring thing that we can do is gather what we can and leave peacefully. Yes, we have won the General Conference battle…. numerous times…. but clearly we are losing the war when ordained bishops have no accountability and allow that which should never have been to occur.

    When I read the Protocol, I felt relief. We have not name called, we had not said hurtful even vicious things, we have not embarrassed ourselves by public displays of inappropriate behavior. We have been Christians with dignity. We are not leaving with our tail between our legs as many seem to imply. We are taking the honorable path to end our involvement with those who feel the Bible is a “living document” that can be amended by culture at will.

    This is not new history; it is ancient history repeating itself. When a church goes astray, a new group forms a new church from old members to right itself again. This departure takes courage, conviction, patient endurance as well as a reframing of our perception on what this action is. Whining about “fairness” only hampers our energies as does predictive naysaying as to the future of the conservative church will be.

    All statistics of the splitting of liberal vs traditional churches point to a progressive decline of the liberal churches. We are in this race for the long haul. Yes, there is inherent unfairness and multiple challenges ahead. But we will endure, through faith, with joy and peace as our companions.

    Thank you,

    Kristen Kimball
    NC

    • Kristen,
      Thank you for your comment. I am struggling to find a reason why I should support a Protocol that (as you suggest) could be viewed as a sellout to the forces of darkness. I am also praying and asking GOD for the wisdom to discern His will, and searching for perspectives backed in the Word (e.g. “If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt…”)

      Your thoughtful and humble and persuasive reply I find to be very helpful.

      Thanks, and Blessings,
      Jeff

    • Randy Kiel says:

      Kristen,
      You over very valuable words here.
      Acting in the spirit of Christ is always the way we should go, no matter how difficult it may feel.
      Another reason to support the protocol (in whatever form General Conference may create with edits) is that, for half a century, the “progressives” have been defeated, and still have not left, but stayed and made themselves even more obnoxious. When the traditional side wins (if an amicable separation is not reached), what would make anyone believe that the progs would finally go? If no amicable separation is agreed to, they will remain and destroy still more our mission of making disciples.