What does the Protocol mean for DPUMC?

UPDATE: UMCNews has added this chart that outlines the major plans coming to General Conference and links to primary sources.

You may have seen the UMC denomination in the headlines over the weekend. A plan called The Protocol for Reconciliation and Grace through Separation was released Friday and captured the attention of many people both inside and outside the UMC. Since then I have and several questions and conversations about what this will mean for Deer Park UMC.

The shortest answer is, it means nothing until General Conference meets in May. The UMC has been having a long conversation about polity and human sexuality. That conversation has been particularly intense over the last 18 months. At a Special Session of the General Conference in February 2019 the denomination adopted part of what was called the Traditionalist Plan. It maintained prohibitions on performing same-sex weddings and ordinations, and restructured the process for dealing with complaints and punishments for violation of those prohibitions. That legislation went into effect on January 1, 2020.

Caucus groups across the denomination met over the year and several have submitted plans or legislation for General Conference 2020. Notable among them are The Bard-Jones Plan, The UMC-Forward Plan, The UMNext Plan, and the Indianapolis Plan. All provide for some form of separation from the UMC denomination or breaking the UMC into multiple denominations. The Protocol is like these in that responds to GC2019 and proposes a path forward via multiple expressions of Methodism; all will require debate and adoption by GC2020 to become a reality.

What is different?

  • The Protocol was worked out by leaders from a wide spectrum of caucus groups with the help of a professional mediator and is being supported by 8 Bishops.
  • The Protocol does not yet have legislation for its implementation. When that legislation is ready, it will need to come to the GC2020 either through a Special Session of an Annual Conference (our AC is Texas Annual Conference) or by permission of the General Conference organizing committee because the deadline for legislation is long passed.
  • The signers of the Protocol have expressed a desire for the plan’s legislation to come to the floor for debate and vote as a whole (inseparable) package. The Indianapolis plan also has an inseparability provision, and the validity of that has been challenged.
  • The way the Protocol was crafted and released gained far more media attention than any similar legislation.

UMNews has done an excellent job of summarizing the specific provision of the Protocol and had provided an extensive FAQ.

The Protocol is ultimately one plan among many coming to GC2020. I will not speculate here on its likelihood of adoption and we will not have a firm answer on this plan or any other until May. It is worth noting that the Protocol, like several other plans provides for votes by Annual Conferences and/or local churches. Our bishop, Bishop Jones, has already announced that all actions stemming from GC2020 will be taken up at a Special Session of the Annual Conference in August. This is because our normal session occurs only 9 days after the close of GC2020, and that is not enough time for meaningful conversation or considered decisions.

The leadership of DPUMC was already considering when to hold information sessions and town-halls ahead of GC2020. Those will likely be scheduled in the March-April time frame. While possibilities and contingencies will be discussed all year, no decisions can be finalized or actions taken until we know what the General Conference does in May and the Annual Conference does in August.

In the meantime, I ask you to do 3 things:

  • Be in prayer for our church, our leadership, our denomination and its world wide leadership.
  • Check any information you see in or on a major media outlet. The UMC is a large denomination, movements are going to make headlines from time to time, but they often fail to do the background research necessary to understand our polity or the wider implications of a single action. umnews.org is a great source for accurate information.
  • Be in conversation with one another. In times of anxiety or conflict it can be tempting to seek peace through silence. We have reached a point where that is not viable. We need to listen to each other, seek to understand each other, and hold each other accountable for understanding the options on the table.

Resources from South Central Jurisdictional Clergywomen’s Workshop

Shout out to the wonderful clergywomen who participated in my Discerning and Leading from Congregational Values workshop at SCJ Clergywomen’s conference.

Below are some of the resources we talked about. These will be available until February 1, 2020. Blessings on your discernment.

Imperfect Reflections on General Conference 2019

In the days leading up to General Conference 2019, many of my friends and acquaintances used the phrase “just because you disagree with someone doesn’t mean you hate them.” I hereby invoke that umbrella, because the last few days would have been much easier if I did not profoundly love people who disagree, and I am not sure I have the perfect words to say at this moment.

I’m not sure there are perfect words.

But this is what I have. Our first rule as a Methodist people is Do No Harm. Yet deep and egregious harm has been inflicted on the body of Christ and especially on our LGBTQAI+ siblings. Their lives, loves, and calls were debated as legislation. Many mourn today because, while they are welcome in our pews, they will still endure sideways glances from brothers and sisters. They mourn because one of the holiest moments in their lives cannot take place in their place of worship and cannot include the pastor who loves and shepherds them. They mourn because they feel a calling to serve and are denied a path to follow. To all who grieve, I see you, I love you, you will always be part of my family.

Many believe the prohibitions left in place by the Conference represent a loving response. For if you love God, you live a holy life, and if you love your brother or sister, you encourage them to do likewise. To these, I honor your faithfulness even though we disagree. And I would remind you, you cannot lecture grieving people on theology, or doctrine, or polity. They cannot hear you. Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar knew when they came to Job in his grief, that the first thing they had to do was sit with him and listen and mourn what was lost.

So here we are. Four days later very little has changed. The Traditionalist Plan passed and has been referred to the Judicial Council for review. Based on my reading of previous reviews, what they found to be constitutional was an expansion of the definition of “self-avowed and practicing,” a stricter complaint process, and a requirement that Bishops not put forward candidates they know to be “self-avowed and practicing.” An exit plan was passed. It permits (again my reading) the lifting of the trust clause between now and December 31, 2023, provided a church pays unfunded pension liabilities, apportionments for the current and next year, and other liabilities owed. However, its constitutionality is in question. We will not have final answers on either until April.

That doesn’t mean nothing has changed. The full effect of the outcomes of the General Conference will take months to play out. However, the process has damaged our witness. I’ve had too many messages from friends outside the church and seen too many articles focused on our infighting to pretend otherwise. We are called to be a city on a hill. I believe we can be a light of hope and graciousness in an era of dark distrust, but we have some work to do.

Part of that is to focus on the work of making disciples. Not as a blithe thing, not a return to business as usual as if nothing has happened. Rather we ought to focus on making disciples through a serious consideration what we mean by discipleship, of who needs to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ in our local area, and of how the church helps and hinders that work. We need to learn from this moment without overrunning it or getting stuck.

As my congregation has tried to balance concern about the General Conference with the need to keep working for the future, I have often cited the story of Jeremiah buying a field as Jerusalem was falling. I returned to that text last night with fresh eyes. What I had not fully appreciated before were Jeremiah’s grief and confusion. In chapter 33 he says:

After I had given the deed of purchase to Baruch son of Neriah, I prayed to the Lord, saying:… Yet you, O Lord God, have said to me, “Buy the field for money and get witnesses”—though the city has been given into the hands of the Chaldeans.

-Jeremiah 33: 16&25

Even Jeremiah did not fully comprehend what he was doing. He could not see what God was about, but he was faithful to continue following. Jeremiah invested in the future of his people despite the uncertainty that surrounded him. He buried the deeds in an earthen pot so that even if the exile was long, they would survive; his hope would survive.

It was not easy for Jeremiah to proclaim hope, but neither was it hollow. The days to come may not be easy for us either. Even amid uncertainty, we will remain faithful to the hope we’ve known. I believe that hope is open to all. The gospel I proclaim will not change.

Our witness is imperfect, but our congregation will continue to Do All the Good We Can. We will feed the hungry, we will continue to care for and educate children, we will continue to serve our community, we will continue to offer life in Jesus Christ, we will continue to worship, and we will continue to welcome all who enter.

Church, we are imperfect people, and we are beloved children of God. My prayer is that we find ways to live as a body without doing harm to one another. I pray that we do all the good we can for the glory of God. I pray that make use of the means of grace we’ve been given to grow in our love of God and one another. I pray all this because I believe the world needs the witness of the Methodist people. I know the world needs Jesus.

The last few days were hard. This morning I’ve been reminded we are never promised the work will be easy, but that we labor unto glory.

Liturgy of Women’s Experiences

Written by a team in response to the initial failure of UMC Constitutional Amendment 1 (2018)

Leader Copy

Reader 1: Jesus said “Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”  The stories of women are the stories of our faith. And so we remember the mighty women of God and the lessons they have taught us. Along with each, you are invited to name others aloud or in your heart.

Reader 2: In remembering Eve, we rejoice that we are each created in the image of God. We name those who show us God. [silence to name those who show you God]

Reader 3: We remember and rejoice.   In remembering Sarah, we give thanks for the spiritual mothers of churches and nations. We name those who nurture and mentor us. [silence to name those who mentor and nurture]

Reader 4:We remember and give thanks.  In remembering Hagar, we lift up those who have been passed over, forgotten, or cast out.  We name those who are frustrated or have left ministry. [silence to name those who have languished or left ministry]

Reader 5: We remember and lift up.  In remembering Lydia, we celebrate those who heard God’s call and would not take no for an answer.  We name those who opened the way for women in ministry. [silence to name those who opened the way into ministry]

Reader 6:We remember and celebrate.  In remembering Rachel and Leah, we repent for all the times women have competed instead of cooperating and for the times we have been played against one another. We name those women we should have treated better. [silence to name those should have loved better]

Reader 7:We remember and repent.  In remembering Esther, we honor those who take risks and use their power on behalf of others.  We name those who stand up for others. [silence to name those who take risks for others]

Reader 2:We remember and we honor.  In remembering Huldah, we acknowledge all who labored away from the limelight to learn the word of God and restore their communities.  We name those whose diligent work sometimes goes unnoticed. [silence to name those who have been diligent workers]

Reader 3:We remember and acknowledge.  In remembering Priscilla, we give thanks for all the places women’s leadership has been embraced and supported.  We name those places women are welcomed in ministry. [silence to name those who welcome women in ministry]

Reader 4:We remember and are glad.  In remembering Tamar, we grieve with all those who have told their story of neglect, injustice, or abuse and been discounted.  We name those whose stories were dismissed or disbelieved. [silence to name those who have been dismissed or disbelieved]

Reader 5:We remember and we weep.  In remembering the Levite’s Concubine, we lament for for those who are forgotten or who suffer violence yet remain nameless and voiceless. We name those who we often overlook but who are affected by the actions we take, or do not take. [silence to name those we have failed to protect]

Reader 6:We remember and cry out.  In remembering the women at the tomb, Mary, Mary, Joanna and Salome, we recall the first apostles, without whom the world might not have the resurrection story.  We name those who proclaim good news to the world. [silence to name those who proclaim good news]

Reader 7: We remember and proclaim the good news: Christ is risen and is still renewing the world.  In remembering the whole Church, we declare again our love for Christ’s bride.

Reader 8: Though the Church is not perfect it is being made so.  Though the world is broken it is being made whole. Though we have not achieved the promise of equality, we celebrate what God has done and continues to do in and through us.

All: We remember the stories of our foremothers and take up their mantle. We will run but not grow weary, we will rise on wings like eagles, for the spirit of the Lord renews our strength.  So we will continue to preach the good new until its promised glory is a reality for all. Amen


Participant Copy

“Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”  

[during the prayer you are invited to lift names up silently or aloud]

In remembering Eve…[silence to name those who show you God]…We remember and rejoice

In remembering Sarah… [silence to name those who mentor and nurture]… We remember and give thanks.

In remembering Hagar… [silence to name those who are frustrated or left ministry]…We remember and lift them up

In remembering Lydia, …[silence to name those who opened the way into ministry]…We remember and celebrate

In remembering Rachel and Leah…[silence to name those we should have loved better]…We remember and repent.

In remembering Ester…  [silence to name those who took risks for others]…We remember and we honor

In remembering Huldah…[silence to name those who are diligent workers]…We remember and acknowledge

In remembering Priscilla…[silence to name those who support women in ministry]…We remember and are glad

In remembering Tamar… [silence to name those whose stories were dismissed or disbelieved]…We remember and we weep.

In remembering the Levite’s Concubine… [silence to name those we have failed to protect]… We remember and we cry out

In remembering the women at the tomb, Mary, Mary, Joanna and Salome…[silence to name those who proclaim good news] We remember and proclaim the good news: Christ is risen and is still renewing the world.

…we celebrate what God has done and continues to do in and through us.

All: We remember the stories of our foremothers and take up their mantle. We will run but not grow weary, we will rise on wings like eagles, for the Spirit of the Lord renews our strength.  So we will continue to preach the good new until its promised glory is a reality for all. Amen

It’s only the end of the beginning

Huge thank you to all the Deer Park United Methodist folks who have gone above and beyond this week donating to and packing flood buckets, serving in shelters and helping to clean out houses. You have found so many ways to show your faith to others in the midst of this storm.

Thank you to all our brothers and sisters in faith who have partnered together formally and in formally. It is both humbling and inspiring to see so many people go out of their way to help one another.

At the end of this week, I’m tired and I know many of you are as well. I pray you rest tonight for there is so much work ahead. I pray also that the spirit of unity and service that has carried us throughout this week might never be exhausted.

Months from now, when we all look back, I hope we remember the pride and solidarity of this week as much as the tragedy. And I hope it fuels in us the will to keep going long after the cameras are gone and some places are back to “normal”. Because normal is a long way off for some. But if we hold together the way we have this week, perhaps we can do more than return to the way things were.

May we find in these first days the seed of a better future; and however long it takes, may we carefully tend it to fruition.

See, a king will reign in righteousness,

and princes will rule with justice.

Each will be like a hiding place from the wind,

a covert from the tempest,

like streams of water in a dry place,

like the shade of a great rock in a weary land.

-Isaiah 32:2