By Rev. Chris Black
A great deal of news has come out in the last few weeks regarding the United Methodist Church, General Conference, and denominations emerging after a proposed split. Mark, Jenny, and I want to give you updated information about what is occurring in the UMC.
The 2020 General Conference has been postponed a second time because of COVID–19 restrictions. It has been rescheduled for August 29–September 6, 2022. Delegates are expected to take up a proposal to split the denomination called the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation. This document can be accessed by clicking here.
However, the Council of Bishops has called a special 1 day General Conference that will take place virtually on May 8, 2021, to deal with 12 legislative items. These items will help carry the denomination forward administratively until the General Conference in 2022. The Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation currently is not on the agenda for the special called General Conference in May.
If you have not read the proposed protocol yet, we would encourage you to do so. That way, you will be more informed about what is going on with our general church and where the church likely will be headed when it comes together in 2022 for General Conference.
On March 1 of this year, a group of Conservative/Traditionalist United Methodists, called the Wesleyan Covenant Association, decided on a name for the denomination they plan to form when a split occurs: The Global Methodist Church. They unveiled this name, as well as a logo and website, just days after General Conference 2020 was postponed again. The Religion News Service reports: “On its website, the Global Methodist Church says it similarly would move forward with a split if delegates to the General Conference meeting in 2022 do not approve the proposed protocol—or if support for the protocol wanes in the intervening year and a half.” This comes on the heels of other smaller progressive and conservative groups announcing plans to organize their own transitions away from the UMC.
What does this mean for us here at FUMC of Oak Ridge? The first answer that comes to my mind is: Nothing.
As one of your pastors, I think the best thing we can do as a people between now and 2022 is to continue our work of ministry together as Christ desires. We need to grow in our love for God and neighbor, serve others, pray for one another, study scripture, worship as often as possible, and reach out to those who have neglected church or who are recovering from it. John Wesley wanted Methodists to be “a people who have the Love of God shed abroad in their hearts...” inspired by the Holy Spirit so that “God’s very self is the Joy of our Hearts and Desire of our Souls.” Let us continue growing in God’s grace, working out our salvation in community, and letting the means of grace (i.e., prayer, searching the scriptures, serving others, supporting education for all, partaking in the sacraments, standing against oppression, visiting the sick/imprisoned, and building bridges of understanding, etc.) continue to guide our faith practices as a people.
Finally, I would encourage you to stay informed by reading up about your denomination. John Wesley used reason throughout his time as a disciple of Christ and as a preacher; you should too! If you have questions, ideas, or thoughts about what you are reading concerning the church, we, as your pastors, would love to talk with you.