Dear friends, last week many of us were caught off guard by the release of the Protocol that made the news and seemed to indicate an imminent split of the church. That was not accurate.
At the conclusion of the special called session of the General Conference last year, there was rejoicing and there were tears in the outcome in which the General Conference approved maintaining a Traditionalist stance regarding homosexuality and the Church. Since then, various groups have attempted to devise some means that the Church might live into the future in ways that protect the dignity and integrity of all. Some of those means do involve separation of global church into smaller bodies. There are, to my knowledge, at least 5 such plans or proposals to date.
The proposal shared last week was written by church leaders from around the world. It, like the other plans, will be submitted to General Conference, but we do not know which, if any, of these will be presented, nor do we know in what manner. The plans and proposals may be amended or edited along the way. As a large body of United Methodists from all over the world, General Conference is the legislating body of our global church. Delegates work in various committees to bring items before the body in clear, realistic ways. The next session of General Conference will meet in Minneapolis May 5-15.
For now, remember Paul’s words, written in Philippians, “6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” As a local church, there is no real action to take at this time but to pray and to keep on with the work God has called us to do. There are many resources that can help us understand this protocol and others better. Our conference website www.umcsc.org, our conference newspaper www.advocatesc.org as well as the General Conference site www.gc2020welcome.org are good sources.
Our Conference is sponsoring listening sessions to help us understand and to share our hopes and concerns. These sessions will be facilitated by members of the South Carolina Annual Conference delegates to General Conference. Our district listening session will be at Central UMC in Florence, SC on February 9 at 3 PM. Registration is not required, but helpful so that sufficient seating is prepared. If you would like to attend, please register at www.umcsc.org
These days, there is much to trouble our souls both within and without our church. It is my thought that the most faithful way we can live in these days is to be about the work of the Lord in ways that are pleasing to God. So let us continue to feed the hungry, visit the lonely, to love our God and our neighbors.