Recent reports about the future of The United Methodist Church can be confusing. So, let's clarify a few things.
We will update this page with developments as they occur. Latest update: March 25, 2020.
I read that The United Methodist Church has split. Is that true?
No. Some of the headlines, especially those from general media outlets, made it sound like a decision about separation had been reached, but it hasn’t. We are, however, going through a very, very difficult time in the life of our church.
For the most accurate United Methodist news visit UMNews.org, the official news gathering agency of the 13-million member United Methodist Church.
Almost since the formation of The United Methodist Church in 1968, we have been wrestling with differences regarding issues of sexuality—specifically, same-gender weddings and LGBTQ clergy. In recent months, these differences have become more pronounced.
Through the years, several interest groups have been formed. Some advocate for a continuation of our current statements and practices. Some are working for full inclusion in the life of the church for LGBTQ persons. Others encourage us to allow for differences of belief within the UMC.
So what were those media outlets reporting?
In January 2020, a group of interested parties announced an agreement called, “Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation.”
The group was assembled at the request of Bishop John Yambasu of Sierra Leone to work with a renowned mediator toward a solution. Members of this gathering represented a variety of interest groups and positions on the church’s sexuality statements and practices.
The Protocol is a statement agreed upon by all members of that group, which many find a hopeful development. But it is just a proposal. No decisions have been made. Specific changes to our statements and practices have not even been suggested yet.
Who decides what happens next?
The only body that can speak for the entire United Methodist Church is the General Conference, our legislative body.
General Conference is a group of approximately 862 delegates who have been elected from each annual conference of The United Methodist Church around the world. Half of the delegates are clergy and half laity. Our bishops preside over the General Conference meetings, but they have neither voice nor vote on any General Conference legislation.
You can find out who your conferences delegates are here. See Volume 1, Voting and Reserve Delegates by Conference (beginning on page 84).
When might something happen?
Our next General Conference which was scheduled to meet May 5-15, 2020, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, has been postponed until 2021 due to concerns over coronavirus and COVID-19. New dates have not yet been announced. Nothing official can happen before General Conference convenes.
How will my local church be affected?
That’s a very good question. Until the General Conference votes on legislation, we simply don’t know. One thing is certain, however. Your community needs your congregation to continue your ministry through worship, service, evangelism, advocacy, caring for children, and all the other ways you are a blessing to the people in your area. As members, we must continue to be the church, the body of Christ in our communities.
Where do we go from here?
We wait and pray. While it is always uncomfortable when we do not know where things are going, we rest in Scripture’s promise that nothing—neither death, nor life, nor things present, nor things to come—can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).
*Joe Iovino works for UMC.org at United Methodist Communications. Contact him by email or at 615-312-3733.