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Cal-Pac Briefing on the New Proposed “Protocol” for The United Methodist Church

Our California-Pacific Conference has been diligently working on an overall strategy for our Conference in light of the shifting denominational issues that we face. We have a small planning Core Team that meets regularly and, then, a much larger group that is taking in the latest information and working on strategies for the whole annual conference. At the end of this briefing, you will find the individual members of these teams. Our Core Team is the principle author of this briefing.

By now, you have probably seen the media descriptions of a new proposed “Protocol” to be considered at the 2020 General Conference. This non-binding agreement was forged by an ad-hoc group of United Methodists representing various theological groups of our church: Traditionalists, Centrists and Progressives, although the true diversity of our UMC family was not represented. It remains as one of many proposals that delegates may consider. Some of the secular media portrayed the work of the ad-hoc group and the final “Protocol” document as being dominated by the Bishops. That is not the case. While aware of the groups work, the Council of Bishops did not sponsor the work nor did they take any action to vote in support of it.

The “Protocol” was also presented by some news sources as a binding agreement; however, there is no enabling legislation yet provided on the specific details of the “Protocol.” There is an ad-hoc group still working on such legislation, and its fate has yet to be determined. The General Conference will have to vote on any specific legislation before the details of the “Protocol” could be enacted. In fact, even if passed by the General Conference, the Judicial Council is likely to be asked to rule on the constitutionality of the enabling legislation. All of this means that there are still a lot of hoops that the church needs to go through before the provisions of the “Protocol” could become official and legal.

The “Protocol” will not be the answer that everyone in The United Methodist Church has been looking for.  But, some believe it is one way to end the impasse that we have been experiencing for the last 40 years. It will enable The United Methodist Church to remain as a viable denomination, while breaking through one major ideological divide that has persisted for decades.

Here are the major features of the “Protocol” itself:

  • Maintain the United Methodist Church intact
  • Allow for the creation of a new “Traditional” entity that will create its own structure and allow current UMC annual conferences and local churches to join it. It proposes that the new denomination would receive $25 million dollars distributed over 4 succeeding years and it then would release claim on any remaining UMC assets.
  • Commit $39 million to racial and ethnic inclusion and anti-racism work within the post-separation UMC.
  • Provide a $2 million fund that other groups might access if they leave and create additional forms of Methodist expressions.
  • Convene the first session of the post-separation United Methodist Church to create four regional conferences: One U.S. region and three Central Conference regions (Africa, Europe and the Philippines).
  • Allow for the first session of the newly established North American Regional Conference to act on proposals to remove prohibitive language regarding LGBTQ+ clergy and weddings. In the meantime, signers to the “Protocol” have agreed to hold in abeyance all complaints against clergy for violating current offenses in regards to homosexuality.

One of the most helpful features of the proposed “Protocol” is that no annual conference or local church has to vote at all to remain in The United Methodist Church. By default, if any part of the Church wishes to remain, they will do so and be a member of good standing in The United Methodist Church.

We encourage all of you to read the actual “Protocol” and the FAQs provided by the writers. Develop your key questions and share them with your pastor, District Superintendent, and Bishop Hagiya. Our Cal-Pac leadership will be looking at it intentionally in the coming weeks and months, and will keep our annual conference updated as to implications as the enabling legislation becomes available.

We also want you to know that our Cal-Pac leadership is working on a multi-level response to what may happen at General Conference. We believe that no matter what happens at the denominational level our annual conference must be prepared to move ahead toward a future of hope and vitality. In the coming months, we will begin to share these plans with you.  But, rest assured that we are working on future scenarios for our annual conference that will ensure a viable future together.

Feel free to ask any questions about the “Protocol” to our special Task Force members that have been working on our Cal-Pac strategy in moving forward. We have listed the names of those who are a part of this Task Force below:

AC CORE STRATEGY PLANNING TEAM: Denyse Barnes, Cedrick Bridgeforth, John Farley, Sandy Olewine, Monalisa Tu’itahi and Grant Hagiya

AC STRATEGY TEAM: Darin Arntson, David Berkey, Anthony Boger, Cathie Capp, Archana Carey, Tom Choi, Jonathan Chute, Vilma Cruz-Baez, Paige Eaves, Ken Ellis, David Farley, Patricia Farris, Connee Freeman, Phil Freeman, JoAnn Fukumoto, Sandee Furuta, Green Guevarra, Se Hee Han, Jan Hanson, Joel Hortiales, James Kang, Dan Lewis, Melissa MacKinnon, Mele Maka, Allison Mark, Mandy McDow, Lori Meaders, Jeanie Ree Moore, Mary Elizabeth Moore, Mark Nakagawa, Jim Powell, David Richardson, Bob Rhodes, Rosie Rios, Brent Ross, Mark Stephenson, John Woodall

Most of all, pray for our United Methodist Church and our California-Pacific Conference in the coming days that we will move toward the will of God and be the faithful people of God.

–The California-Pacific Conference Strategy Team