This is an update of the missional work of the church and discussion about upcoming denominational legislation.
Here's a really helpful video we came across to help frame the discussion
Primer for Proposed Legislation
*Please Start Here for Contextual Background
The Methodist Movement was begun by John Wesley and his brother Charles around 1729 and experienced tremendous growth all throughout the American colonies in its earliest years.
By 1773, networks of Methodist Churches were beginning to form called Annual Conferences.
Every 4 years, denominational leaders gather together to review and evaluate church policy. This gathering is called a General Conference and the policy book is called The Book of Discipline.
In 1968, 2 denominations merged (the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church) to establish the United Methodist Church or UMC.
In regards to congregants, the UMC has in its Articles of Constitution, that “All persons are of sacred worth. All persons without regard to race, color, national origin, status, or economic condition, shall be eligible to attend its worship services, participate in its programs, receive the sacraments, upon baptism be admitted as baptized members, and upon taking vows declaring the Christian faith, become professing members in any local church in the connection.”
At every General Conference since 1968, there has been much debate about the inclusion of social policies and standards for Pastors. Finally, at the end of the 2016 General Conference, there was an obvious rift over the covenant requirements for pastors, particularly with those who identify with the LGBTQ+ community or wanted to be able to officiate same-sex weddings. At that point, the Book of Discipline specifically describes those 2 things as outside of the current understanding in regards to pastors.
So those at the General Conference voted to commission a task group to research options for “A Way Forward” and reconvene at a Special General Conference in 2019.
In 2019, various legislation was brought forward from multiple “caucus groups”. The proposed plan from the Way Forward Team was to remove the restrictive language from the Book of Disciple and allow each church and pastor to serve their local context how they see fit. It did NOT have the votes from the global delegates to pass. Part of the legislation from the “traditional” perspective actually did pass by a narrow margin which now defined marriage as between 1 man and 1 woman. This caused a blaring rift and even caused a few Annual Conferences and denominational leaders to declare that they WOULD NOT uphold the new covenants within the Book of Discipline.
During all of this time, the Federal government has passed laws to allow same-sex marriages. Most public polls indicate strong support for same-sex marriages. Still most denominations and non-denominational churches alike share a “traditional understanding of marriage”.
In the UMC, the largest make-up of voting delegates within the Florida Annual Conference and the United States would be considered “progressive” leaning. Those delegates with a “traditional” perspective would be considered a minority vote and are primarily from Africa and Asia.
A group of “leading caucus leaders” saddened by the post-2019 General Conference situation, met together with a mediator and developed what is called The Protocol of Grace & Reconciliation Through Separation or “the Protocol” for short. Every leader across the theological spectrum has signed their support and vowed to work for the passage of this legislation at the next scheduled General Conference of May 2020.
Covid-19 hit and it was postponed to September 2020. Covid continued and it was once again postponed for another year, September 2021. It was yet again postponed until 2022 so that delegates might have a chance to receive vaccinations.
This is the anticipated legislation that the leadership of SpringLife Church wishes to share with the congregation as best we can during our Church Chat meetings and throughout the year. We are also making plans to have special guests come to share insights and understanding with us as well. Our hope is to provide and share as much detail as possible so that all those who are Full Members within the church would be well informed should a congregational vote be desired or necessary.
Thanks for your prayerful witness as part of the SpringLIfe family!