Last week a diverse, 16-member group of United Methodist bishops and other leaders arrived at a mediated agreement on the future of the United Methodist Church, a proposal called “Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation.”
What does this agreement mean to United Methodists — and to our First Church family?
First, this agreement, which still requires approval by the 2020 General Conference in May, would preserve The United Methodist Church while allowing traditionalist-minded congregations to form a new denomination. Drafting of legislation is now underway for the legislative assembly, which is the only body that speaks for our denomination. Dr. Tim Bruster, Senior Pastor, who has served as a delegate to the General Conference of The United Methodist Church since 2008. He will again serve as first clergy delegate to this upcoming 2020 General Conference.
Because the traditionalist Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA) has already taken steps toward forming this new denomination, including drafting a book of policies and doctrines, the decision to offer the separating group $25 million in United Methodist funds in addition to keeping its local church properties, this new denomination would likely emerge out of the traditionalist Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA).
After the highly contentious 2019 Called General Conference, not to mention the impasse we have faced as a denomination regarding matters of sexual and gender identity for decades, it comes as a surprise that a solution came at all to thisistandoff that has harmed so many people.
However, because this proposal was ironed out by a group that represented all the major constituencies in this ongoing conflict with the help of famed mediator Kenneth Feinberg, we now have a way forward that is both gracious and amenable to all.
This proposal would also enable the United Methodist Church to move forward with the United States as a regional conference, with the flexibility to adapt church policies including full LGBTQ inclusion.
So how does this news — and the denominational impasse — affect our First Church missions and ministries?
Following the denominational strife of 2019, here are a few FUMCFW trends that offer hope, confidence, and optimism:
- Churchwide worship attendance has increased more than10% from the fall of 2018 to the fall of 2019;
- Financial giving from our congregation is up; in 2019 our giving exceeded that of 2018 and enabled us to finish our year in the black
- Our 2020 worship attendance is already up 14% over the first Sunday in January 2019.
In an email sent to our congregation this week outlining the agreement and protocols, Senior Pastor Dr. Tim Bruster reminded us that much of what we know for sure about ourselves as a faith community remains the same:
- We have always been a “big tent” congregation that welcomes everyone and we will continue to be that kind of church;
- We will continue to be in ministry to and with all people;
- We will continue to do so as a congregation of the United Methodist Church, which will likewise be inclusive of all people;
- We have always been mission-minded and we will continue to be;
- We will continue to pursue our vision and goals, as determined by our 2017 Focus First churchwide strategic planning process; and
- We will continue to move forward with our Next 90 building expansion program to build the facilities we need to facilitate the ministries of the church into the future.
Dr. Bruster went on to say that once the legislation is set for General Conference 2020, a churchwide information meeting in late March/early April will update you on any new developments going into GC2020.
Meanwhile, he adds, we can learn more about this new “Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation” in several informative ways:
- Read the nine-page protocol document
- Read the article from United Methodist News Service
- Read the “Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation” FAQ
- Watch a live-stream panel discussion with members of the Mediation Team on Monday, January 13 at 8:30 am Central Standard Time. The panel discussion will last approximately one hour and will be recorded and archived on the site.
- Attend our churchwide information session once the legislation has been created for implementing the protocol.
If you have any specific questions about the “Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation” or want to discuss this agreement in greater detail, please contact Dr. Bruster or Rev. Lance Marshall, Co-Pastor, by calling the Main Church Office at 817-336-7277 for an appointment.