The South Georgia Annual Conference General and Jurisdictional Delegation has released a statement unanimously affirming the work done on the “Protocol of Grace & Reconciliation Through Separation.” It also recommended the Protocol be the first legislative item considered by General Conference 2020.
“The South Georgia Annual Conference General and Jurisdictional Delegation supports the Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation as a way to move forward into new expressions of Methodist ministry and mission. We earnestly believe that the Protocol provides the best option to end the impasse in our denomination, is in the best interests of our Annual Conference and strengthens our witness in our communities and the world.
We humbly urge the Commission on the General Conference to take such action as necessary to make possible the consideration of all legislation implementing the Protocol by a Committee of the Whole. We urge that the Protocol be the first matter of consideration by the 2020 General Conference following adoption of organizing motions.”
The Protocol, a mediated proposal for the future of The United Methodist Church that allows each part of the Church to remain true to its theological understanding while recognizing the dignity, equality, integrity, and respect of every person, has now been written as legislation to General Conference 2020 and will be presented to the voting body of General Conference, to be held May 5-15, 2020, in Minneapolis, Minn.
Though the deadline to submit legislation to General Conference passed months ago, church law allows an exception for legislation coming from an annual conference session held between 230 and 45 days before General Conference. (The General Conference Committee on Reference also has discretion to accept petitions past deadline.) At least two United Methodist annual conferences — Michigan and Sierra Leone — plan to vote next month on whether to forward to the 2020 General Conference legislation for the Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation.
“We think that it’s the best proposal and gives us some hope for finding a new way for Methodism in the world and in South Georgia,” said Bill Hatcher, who leads South Georgia’s lay delegation, in a video*.
A 16-member group came together as an outgrowth of a consultation initiated by bishops from Central Conferences located outside the United States to write the Protocol. The parties sought assistance from prominent attorney Kenneth Feinberg, who specializes in mediation and alternative dispute resolution.
Meeting over several months, the unofficial group reached an agreement by signatories associated with all of the constituencies within the UMC for a mutually supported pathway for separation, bridging differences among other plans to be considered by the General Conference.
Dr. Scott Hagan, who serves as pastor of Bonaire United Methodist Church and as a Jurisdictional Conference delegate and General Conference reserve delegate, also agrees with the Protocol.
“As a pastor in a local church, I believe that the Protocol is the best option for South Georgia churches to move past the obstacles this conversation has created so we can continue bearing witness to the work of Christ that is happening through and around us.”
The Protocol anticipates the formation of a new traditionalist Methodist denomination. Once formed, the new church would receive $25 million over the next four years and give up further claim to the UMC’s assets. An additional $2 million would be allocated for potential additional new Methodist denominations which may emerge from the UMC. Acknowledging the historical role of the Methodist movement in systematic racial violence, exploitation and discrimination, the Protocol would allocate $39 million to ensure there is no disruption in supporting ministries for communities historically marginalized by racism.
Under the Protocol, conferences and local congregations could vote to separate from The United Methodist Church to affiliate with new Methodist denominations created under the agreement within a certain time frame. Churches wishing to stay within the UMC would not be required to conduct a vote. Provisions exist for entities that choose to separate to retain their assets and liabilities. All current clergy and lay employees would keep their pensions regardless of the Methodist denomination with which they affiliate.
“We are grateful for people’s prayers,” said Rev. Jim Cowart, who leads South Georgia’s clergy delegation, in a video*. “These are changing times. Stuff is changing fast … and I think change is gonna happen; it’s just unavoidable. What we want to do is stay as close to the Lord as we can and help South Georgia navigate and understand the options before us.”
READ MORE ABOUT THE PROTOCOL