A Word from your pastor on Post-Gazette Article about potential Church Split
On Saturday, January 4, 2020, the Post-Gazette had an article on the front page of its online edition indicating the United Methodist Church was on the verge of a split. The article seemed to indicate that a plan was in place for our United Methodist Church to split into separate denominations; however, in United Methodist Polity, only the General Conference which meets in May, 2020 can actually establish such a plan. Therefore, the reporting from the article seems to jump to the conclusion that this new plan developed by leaders from the major factions is what would be put in place at the May 2020 General Conference. This is not accurate. Much can happen between when this report came out (January 3) and the General Conference.
Now having said that, it seems to me that there is a good chance that the denomination will be changed after the May 2020 General Conference. But what form that may take is still very much up in the air.
Additionally, I should note that the article indicated that the plan (Which is called Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation) does indeed call for something that is surprising to many people. As the paper states it: “The plan calls for traditionalist congregations, which support the church’s current bans on gay marriage and ordaining gay persons, to form a new denomination, keeping its local church properties and receiving $25 million in denominational funds.” Peter Smith Post-Gazette, January 4, 2020
This statement surprises people because just this past February, the majority vote at General Conference affirmed the current policies on gay marriage and ordaining gay persons which has been termed Traditionalist. Why, people wonder, should the majority be the ones to leave to form a new or ‘sister’ denomination? To answer that, realize that the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference held specifically to resolve differences and establish the policy for the future on gay marriage and ordaining gay persons, instead of clarifying and helping churches move forward, actually harmed all churches on all sides of the issue (Traditionalist, Centrist, Progressive). With noted heightened tensions in almost all United Methodist churches, Traditionalist leadership seems to feel the bickering seems to be hurting all sides in their quest to be a church that makes disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Remember those words are in the Mission Statement of our church and is something that does unify all United Methodists.
That statement is very much affirmed by persons on all sides of the LGBTQ issue. So since the bickering continues and is almost even more heightened, the leadership proposing this new plan recommends “separation as the best means to resolve our differences, allowing each part of the Church to remain true to its theological understanding, while recognizing the dignity, equality, integrity, and respect of every person.” In other words, there is strong speculation that we will be separating. But reality is, this article wrote about one plan of a few that will be going to General Conference. And is it not possible that this plan could be flipped with the plan calling for progressive churches to form their new denomination? Yes, that is possible!
So why would this plan developed by leadership from all sides indicate that the Traditionalists would be the one to form a new denomination? In my opinion, there are a few factors. First, I feel more Traditionalist leaders are feeling worn down by the matter, realizing that even with the decision of 2019 on their side, the tension became even more heightened, and progressives are almost pushing even harder not respecting the decision that was made. Second, the Traditionalist leadership seems to be the most ready and prepared to do the work of separation.
I hope this gives some clarity to the situation the article was writing about.
Now I know that as a follow-up to the notation above, some people may be wondering: What will happen with Trinity Tower United Methodist Church? Are we: Traditionalist, Centrist, Progressive? To answer, let me say our Church Council and church leadership have not had a formal discussion on where our church stands. We have not discussed this due to the fact that, with so much up in the air until policy is actually decided, to discuss this and make a decision would be acting on pure speculation. Any action and discussion would be premature.
Additionally I should note, as pastor of this church for 12 years, I would term us a Centrist congregation leaning toward Traditionalist. We have members who are Traditionalist; and we have members who are Progressive; and we have many of us who are Centrist. We can get along fine and work to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world in a very good fashion.
My hope and prayer is that this matter which needs our prayers, can have a resolution that is guided by God in the May 2020 General Conference.
Pastor Dale Reese