Today, Pastor Dave gives us an update on the denomination’s current circumstances and heads up as to where we are headed. Back in February 2019 the General Church gathered. It was voted that we would maintain a traditional footing when it came to issues on human sexuality, the role it plays in the rituals of our church, and the process of ordination of our clergy. There are two aspects of marriage. The spiritual religious practice in which a man and woman make a covenant with each other before and with God, and the civil marriage which is a contract that is regulated by the state. UMC has no position in civil marriage, but we do feel we have a right to define what a Christian Marriage is. Ordination on the other hand is a professional decision within the church that has the right under law to regulate as to who has the authority to represent the organization. The issue at hand is can human sexuality can be considered acceptable behavior or just a matter of civil rights. These discussions have been held for well over 20 years within the church. The question of morality and biblical authority all but disappeared from society, however, is still discussed within certain segments of the church. Transgenderism has also been added to the issue and how we will approach that and the definition of gender all together.
Covid came along in 2020 and derailed the process of deciding on this issue. During this time two groups emerged representing two extremes of this issue and the sense of anticipation that churches could become more in tune with biblical and cultural world view. This perspective has become very desirable to large numbers within the church. They have come together with a proposal called the Protocol of Separation which is a road map to break the church up into two factions. The first proposal was to have the two factions be the United Methodist Church as it stands today, and the second faction was one that would be basically created by the Wesleyan Covenant Association which is a uniting of all the conservative factions within the church. This would not be an easy thing to do. There are lots of legal, financial, and human resource details that need to be worked out.
Recently there has been two denominations formed. One is called the Liberation Methodist Connexion which is a group of churches who identify with each other as ones from the far-left side of the spectrum want all references to sexuality and human behavior to be removed. They have significant numbers involved. The second faction has greater numbers and is called the Global Methodist Church which has announced itself as a new denomination until the church votes itself for separation. Since the conference has been postponed until August 2022, they have asked for a one-day video session to discuss and vote on the Protocol of Separation. Pastor Dave feels it is unlikely that this issue will be voted on until Fall of 2022. The Global Methodist Church is against waiting until that time and may launch their denomination in any case.
Pastor Dave states that the Bishops are by in large against the Protocol of Separation. What they propose is dividing the church into regions and allowing the region to determine their rules regarding ordination and other matters in relation to sexuality. This would allow the existing churches to keep their assets and not have to address the financial or legal issues involved with splitting.
What this means to us here at Sturgeon Bay United Methodist Church is that we will not be making any decisions anytime soon and perhaps at least 2 years. It does mean at some point we will have to have conversations about this, and decisions will have to be made. So, buckle up for a bumpy ride. Know that we do not travel without God and his light with us and let’s trust he will help us find our way as he does in all things.
Summary written by Lorna Magliaro secretary SBUMC