On August 14th of 2022, the Rev Joe DiPaolo of First United Methodist in Lancaster gave an informational presentation at Ephrata First United Methodist for a congregational discernment meeting regarding the differing trajectories of the rifts within the denomination, focused primarily around theological viewpoints. Many people assert that these differences are tied to one specific social issue, but it goes far deeper than that back to the beginnings of the United Methodist denomination.
“Let me just launch into things. The United Methodist Church is coming apart. Hundreds of churches in the United States have already left the denomination, as have several entire annual conferences overseas and many hundreds more I believe. thousands more in the United States are now entering the disaffiliation process. or some other process to leave the United Methodist Church and to go to another denomination in many cases to. the newly formed Global Methodist Church in saying that the United Methodist Church is coming apart I take no. pleasure I have been serving in a leadership role for 37 years in the UMC and 34 as an. ordained pastor I have taught its history and Doctrine at Seminary I have Pastor churches. and it Grieves me that we have come to the place we find ourselves today but Decades of numerical decline. compounded by increasingly bitter Strife over Doctrine and practice has led us to. this moment and really two different visions of the Christian faith have been pulling the denomination apart for. decades and now we’re seeing the start of a process of separating into two. different denominations the United Methodist Church and the global Methodist Church and so my goal tonight is threefold first I want to. give you a little bit of background how did we get to this place what happened to bring us here secondly. tell me a little bit about the differences between the UMC and the GMC and then finally what does this mean for. your local church what are the options what does this mean for your future and that’s what I want to try to cover tonight, and as a as a note, I am not unbiased or entirely objective. uh news flash no one is it is not possible to be entirely unbiased or. objective but it is possible I think and I will attempt to be fair and factual. obviously when I start projecting moving forward there’s a bit more extrapolating from current trends but I have. documentation to back up everything that I say which I can share with you if you like it later let’s begin with background how do we get here. for years arguably since the denomination was founded and does anybody can anybody tell me when the. United Methodist Church began this is a this is a smart crowd 1968. I. thought someone would say sometime in the 1700s with John Wesley right now John Wesley began the Methodist. movement a Revival that that has issued forth in actually 75 or 80 denominations around the world that are now Methodist. or Westland of one kind or another but the United Methodist Church as an institution with its current constitution and structure and doctrinal standards was founded in 1968 and there has been, I think, from that time a struggle for the soul of the institution, and a widening gulf has yawned between people who embrace a classic or Orthodox understanding of the faith, often called traditionalists. And those who are also styled progressives. Now I know that those two terms can be problematic and neither group would be would be monolithic. However, I think those terms can be seen as poles around which most folks cluster to one degree or another, so I’m going to stick with those terms. Going forward, well for the first few decades, progressives were clearly, clearly. steering the ship of the denomination but since the mid-1980s the denomination has been moving slowly and steadily in a more traditional direction, at least as measured by the actions of the General Conference, which is the governing body of the denomination. And this was driven to a large degree by demographic changes namely steep membership decline in the U.S accompanied by extraordinary growth outside the U.S. And so if you look at some of these figures that I put up on the screen you’ll see that these most recent numbers which go back to 2020 for the US and 2019 I think for outside the U.S. We are now a minority. U.S church now has less members of the UMC in the U.S than there are outside the. U.S um and this shift in demographics and in membership has led to a growing. traditionalist majority at the general conference every four years because the non-usa delegates are overwhelmingly. traditionalist so this traditionalist or conservative majority has been especially evident in. maintaining historic biblical standards on marriage and sexuality of course these have been the kind of Flashpoint. issues of recent decades by 2012. it’s some of that there there we go by 2012 it became clear to the. progressive activists that they would not be able to change Church teachings on marriage through debate and votes at. General Conference and so it was at that point that some decided to Embark upon a. campaign that they called civil disobedience however we’re not a civil Authority we’re not the government that’s really. not the right term the right term would be ecclesial Defiance because they were acting in defiance of the of the General. Conference their goal was to force the church to change by violating Church law. breaking the ordination vows and using abusive rhetoric accusing. traditionalists of being hateful or even violent and in our own eastern Pennsylvania conference you may remember. that back in November of 2013 36 United Methodist ministers. participated in a very Public Act of defiance at Art Street Church in. Philadelphia co-officiating at a same-sex ceremony so by the time whoops. next one there we go by the time the general conference can be in Portland Oregon in 2016 the denomination was in crisis and there. was open Talk of schism happening right then and there I had The Misfortune or Fortune depending on your perspective of. being a delegate there so I was right in the middle of it during the the general conference the. Council of Bishops seeing what was happening uh basically tried to call a timeout they asked for Authority from. the delegates to seek a way to keep the United Methodist Church together despite the Deep divide that was threatening to. to tear it apart and this led to the formation of something you may recall called the commission on a way forward it was a. team of 32 clergy and laity representing views all across the Spectrum traditionalist moderate Progressive Etc. and the job the task of this Commission on the way forward was to help the Bishops devise a plan. as I said to keep the church together despite this deep divide but that’s not what happened um. they didn’t come up with a plan they came up with three plans and they couldn’t choose between them and the Bishops did not officially. endorse any of them although they unofficially made it clear that many of them at least wanted the one church plan to pass which would have essentially. eliminated traditional language about marriage and basically created a local option for annual conferences and. congregations a special General Conference was called in 2019 in St Louis again I had the. fortune or Misfortune to be a delegate there and at that General Conference the goal of that conference was to pick a. plan that would decisively set the course of the future of the global United Methodist Church. and that didn’t happen because the plan that a lot of the leaders wanted didn’t pass the plan that did pass was the. traditional plan the traditional plan say we’re going to stick with historic teachings on marriage and sexuality it also added. accountability features to the discipline for those who were acting in defiance of the discipline and it also. added an additional paragraph to the discipline to allow churches to disaffiliate or to leave the. denomination if they were in disagreement with it and actually many of us thought that was being added at. that point to allow Progressive congregations to leave because we thought they would be the ones who were upset by what happened. and the intent of the distillation Clause was to be as gracious as possible and let people go with their property. many progressives however were unwilling to accept the outcome of this General. Conference and they stepped up their campaign of resistance on social and other media a narrative. took hold that the 2019 St Louis conference had been marked by hateful and bigoted rhetoric against lgbtq plus. persons I will tell you I was there that narrative is false that’s this wasn’t. true however the narrative was effective it took hold and it resulted in a backlash that spring and summer as. delegate elections across the U.S for the upcoming 2020 General Conference were held and a lot of traditional. delegates were displaced by progressives still because of the demographic shift the progressives did not have a majority. when he took the entire Global Church into account so meanwhile acts of defiance continued. this included public declarations by Bishops by conferences even whole jurisdictions that they would no longer comply with. the rules and teachings of our book of discipline some Progressive conferences and congregations actually began. withdrawing financial support from African missions because of the way the African delegates had voted. and this really was something new something unprecedented back from the time the Methodist. Episcopal Church began and developed in the 1780s and 90s it had always been understood but methodists could argue. disagree about everything under the Sun but at the end of the day when General Conference took a vote we were all Duty bound to abide by that. vote and what it embodied in the book of discipline now however there was a significant minority saying. no more we’re just not going to do that anymore they were openly and publicly defying the church doing what is right in their own eyes to. quote judges and doing so without consequence so the result has been that the Divide. is deepened trust in the institution and its leadership has reached new lows genuine accountability to the discipline. has become virtually impossible the denomination many concluded was becoming ungovernable and broken Beyond. repair congregations across the country apparently reaching that same conclusion began to use the disaffiliation Clause. added in 2019 to leave the UMC despite the high cost that was involved. while all this was kind of fermenting we were supposed to have a general conference in 2020. and it looked like it was going to be another big Collision so a group of folks came together led by Bishop John kiambasu the late Bishop John yambasu of. Sierra Leone to try to come up with a solution this led to something called a protocol the protocol of reconciliation and grace. through separation an internationally known mediator named Kenneth Feinberg offered his Services free of charge he. actually was in charge of the 911 victims fund and many other very prominent this is a prominent fellow and. he helped to mediate an agreement between all the different groups within the UMC from left to right everywhere. and it resulted in the protocol the protocol acknowledged that they were irreconcilable differences within the. denomination and it proposed a restructuring of the denomination into two or more denominations to succeed the. UMC under its terms annual conferences local churches and clergy could choose to align with one of those successor. denominations without cost and local churches would be able to retain their property and clergy retain. their pensions the protocol was then submitted to be debated and acted on at the upcoming May. 2020 General Conference and it seemed to have great momentum at that point but. then of course something happened in March of 2020 which upended all of our lives and of course that was the kova 19 pandemic and. it just shut the world down and as a result General Conference was postponed first to the late summer of. 2021 and then as the pandemic dragged on again to the late summer of 2022.. and um meanwhile. various groups began to prepare for the post-protocol reality people still thought the protocol was likely to pass. members of the Wesleyan Covenant by the way here’s the um I’m not kidding. not working there you go there’s some summary statements about the protocol I keep forgetting to use this thing sorry about. that so groups began to make plans for what. would follow the protocol’s passage as expected members of the Wesleyan Covenant Association or WCA of which I. am a member of the governing Council began to develop plans for a post-separation traditional denomination. the WCA had actually formed in 2016 and its intent was to keep the United Methodist Church true to its Doctrine. and discipline but as things began to fall apart more and more WCA leadership. began to conclude that especially after St Louis that some kind of Separation was now becoming inevitable and so the. group began working on draft sections of a proposed book of discipline for the new denomination and in early 2020 a. broader group of leaders including some Bishops got together and they created something called the traditional. leadership Council or transitional Leadership Council or TLC and that took over leadership of. developing this new denominational structure and discipline um. in March of 2021 the TLC unveiled a framework for the new denomination as well as a name it would. be called the global Methodist Church it released a website with a logo and a. draft transitional book of Doctrine and discipline that would govern the life of this denomination from the time it. launched officially until it had a convening general conference but it had not yet launched it was still simply a. plan well in. meanwhile other groups are also making plans by the way this is interesting so um in late 2020 a group called The. Liberation Methodist connection announced that they were also going to form a new denomination a progressive denomination they also wanted to leave. the protocol had Provisions to allow for any number of denominations of I think you had to have 50 churches or more and. then you could form something and so these folks said they were going to create a progressive denomination in. this denomination there would be no fixed Doctrine but they would they said oppose colonialism white supremacy. economic injustices patriarchy sexism clericalism ableism ageism transphobia. and heteronormativity which is really hard to say 10 times fast. in December of 2021 which is interesting just a few months back about eight months ago the LMX. said it was putting its plans to create this new denomination on hold because they were having a hard time finding. common ground at what they agreed they were for they had a lot easier time figuring out. what they were against they also cited having difficulty trusting one another which is interesting. well amid this ferment more local churches around the U.S began to use the disaffiliation Clause to leave the UMC. and um so by by the summer of 2021 a year or so. ago um about 200 churches or so across the country had left not very many. um but it included one from our own conference you may remember that last year Grandview United Methodist Church. just outside of the city of Lancaster a progressive denomination used the disaffiliation Clause to leave and five. years before that before there even was a disaffiliation clause Wesley Church inquiry villain like down in southern. Lancaster County it also negotiated its exit from the denomination and that’s on the traditional or conservative side. well what began to happen is some Progressive Bishops in an effort to try to save Church properties and conference. assets from leaving once the protocol passed they began to engage in appointments that appeared to be. punitive local pastors who are not ordained do not have the same clergy rights as Elders local pastors can. simply be told they’re not being reappointed as an elder I kind of have a union card I mean he’s got to put me. someplace unless I get caught in embezzling funds or something but but local pastors were particularly. vulnerable vulnerable because they could just simply be discontinued um in the case of Elders however there. were several high-profile cases that made the news made national news in the spring of 2021 in North Georgia. California and New Jersey where it seemed that Bishops were punishing people for just having conversations with their churches about possibly. leaving but most pastors and churches were keeping their heads down at scene saying little because the they anticipated that. this month later this month General Conference would meet and it would make a decision it would act on the protocol. or several other plan there would be a Clarity right there’d be a plan of some kind that then people would have. information to move forward I was actually a member of the commission and General Conference that plans General Conference and I when the. general commission decided to postpone General General Conference for a third time last March I resigned in protest. over what I thought was a politicized decision and not justified by the pandemic I mean right now things are. happening it was absolutely unnecessary and I I wrote a national I wrote a piece about that that went viral nationally. um whether you agree with me or not that the third postponement was it was was justified it was a game changer. the protocol will certainly be submitted to the 2024 General Conference because it was postponed two more years by the. way not just one um but it’s much less likely to pass now especially since just a few months ago. the progressive and Centrist signers of the protocol those who are part of the agreements negotiation withdrew their. support so I think the protocol is much more in question now than it ever was before. so efforts to make this separation that’s happening as amicable as possible is now starting to give way to more. bitter and costly divisions much like those experienced by other denominations in recent decades. on the same day that the postponement of the General Conference to 2024 was announced the transitional leadership of the. general of the global Methodist Church announced that it would formally launch the GMC as a functioning denomination on. May 1st of this year and that is what happened a lot of the constituency uh that wanted. to go to the GMC simply was not waiting willing to wait and many hundreds of additional churches. seem to Poise to pursue disaffiliation before the General Conference of 24. convened and even though this year only less than 300 churches have. the distillation process is complicated it takes a while and it has to have annual conference approval and because. General Conference was postponed in mid-march it was too late for most churches to start that process in time. for this June May June season of annual conference sessions for approval and. just as an example to suggest that a lot more churches are now looking at it in the peninsula Delaware conference five. churches were approved for disaffiliation at their June session this year but by July 1 about a hundred. more had told the conference that they also want to disaffiliate those are just the ones that officially told the conference that and I think we’re seeing. that all across the country and you may have heard or read recently that now a number of places in a number of places. congregations are banding together as groups and employing attorneys and seeking to leave through legal. action and that includes our own conference where nearly 30 churches have just recently last week announced that that was what they’re seeking to do and. that’s going to that is happening or soon to happen in a number of different places around the country so to sum up. the United Methodist Church which has been divided and in Conflict for years is now coming apart. and I believe it is in the process of collapsing as a coherent Institution I think the United Methodist Church. isn’t some real trouble and I am still a United Methodist Minister and plan to continue so at least for now I. no plans to go anywhere else and it really troubles me um here’s some here’s just some things. that that the UMC is facing in the years ahead about 10 or 11 years ago there was a study came out that announced the. coming death tsunami I don’t know if you remember that term but they were saying that basically our people our membership in the UMC in the United States was. aging and dying off and would this would soon start to really reach very large levels of numbers. um and I did some checking in 2019 and 2020. we averaged over 200 000 members per year each of those two years gone. and that was attrition that’s just people leaving or dying and not being replaced because we’ve forgotten how to do evangelism. um that is only attrition it does not count losses from the split because almost no churches had disaffiliated by. the end of 2020 and that’s when those figures came from at that rate the United Methodist Church which was at 6.2. million at the end of 2020 will be down to 5.2 million in just two years. and that’s just from attrition um now what might additional losses look. like from those that actively seek to leave well there was a study done in 2019 published by the United Methodist. news service that said that 44 of American United methodists describe. themselves as theologically conservative 28 is theologically Progressive if only. half or so of that 44 percent left the church with or without their property that’s upwards of another. million and a half gone so I really think the United Methodist Church is facing severe will be. shrinking severely in the next few years we know as I said that hundreds perhaps thousands of congregations across the. U.S are now looking to disaffiliate or to leave in some other manner um. and that does not include losses overseas which could be an even higher percentage. and I think the biggest problem that the United Methodist Church faces going forward is this. how does the denomination re-establish institutional unity and accountability. even after the conservative majority is left because there’ll be plenty of things for those people left Left Behind. to argue about but a precedent has been established that if a bishop a conference a. jurisdiction does not like something in the discipline they can simply refuse to abide by it and there’s no. accountability there’s no redress um a determined minority can just dig in. his heels the toothpaste is out of the tube as they say and I don’t know how it gets. put back in well let’s move on to. um comparisons between the UMC and the GMC looking forward and I’ve called this different trajectories now I mentioned. that there might have been more than two denominations coming out of the current UMC under the proposed protocol. at present though there are only two that seem certain and clearly defined regarding Mission Doctrine and structure. one of course is the United Methodist Church which is now being called the continuing United Methodist Church as. this split unfolds and of course the global Methodist Church or the GMC and as I said that. launched formally this past May 1st as a functioning denomination. you can by the way there’s a there’s a resource sheet that um I gave Scott that to pass out and has places you can go. including the website UMC GMC WCA websites on the website you’ll find the. transitional book of doctrines and discipline for the GMC so some points of comparison between the. two so there will be points of agreement both the GMC and the continuing UMC will. continue to have a Methodist connectional structure I think connectionalism is one of the defining things that makes Wesleyan Methodist Who. We Are um both will also retain Bishops and conferences and General Conference as a. governing body however in the GMC Bishops will be term Limited and be. subject to far greater accountability than in the UMC Bishops will also in the GMC have much more the role of. articulators and Defenders of the faith than they think they do now. um thank you women will be included all levels of. leadership in both the UMC and the GMC clergy Bishops and everything else um and both denominations will continue. to use various groups associated with the United Methodist Church like West path which is the pension board. umcor which is our relief organization Cokesbury the publishing house so a lot. of those things will still be in common what are some things that are different well I think what’s going to happen is. that the umca the UMC is likely to embrace more fully something that really. has been in the culture for a long time and that is theological pluralism the idea that there can be many different. theologies that pastors Embrace and preach. and the articles of religion and the confession of Faith which are our doctrinal standards they will. undoubtedly remain in the discipline but really more as historical markers. rather than really controls on what preachers are are held accountable to. um the GMC will hold clergy accountable to those classic definitions of the faith and will also include as doctrinal. standards the Nicene Creed and the Apostles Creed the United Methodist Church does not have those as doctrinal standards we use them in worship but. they’re not doctrines that we officially call standards the United Methodist Church will almost. certainly change the definition of marriage sometime in the near future if not in 24 then I would think certainly. by 2028 while the GMC will retain the historic understanding of marriage as between one. man and one woman in addition the denominational structures will be different. in the GMC we’ll have a there will be a much smaller denominational superstructure. requiring much less financial support by the local church and last month the TLC. released a statement that they would hold local church apportionment givings. they’re not calling it that they’re calling it connectional funds to two percent one percent for the global. church and one percent for the local conference that’s what they’re going to hold it to right now in our conference it’s 9.5 percent. and in some conferences it’s over 10 percent in the UMC here are the mission statements of the. GMC and the UMC the United Methodist mission statement you may know is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world the GMC. mission statement is to make disciples of Jesus Christ who worship passionately love extravagantly and witness boldly. but just as important as these points of comparison are I think is a larger issue of what I’ve called the differing. trajectories of the two denominations while sexuality and marriage have been. as I said the flashpoint issues for conflict I really think those have just been the presenting symptoms I have a daughter. who’s a doctor I like to brag on you know when you go to the doctor and you have a pain in your side that’s the presenting symptom the. doctor’s job is to figure out what’s the cause what’s really going on deep down and I think that the conflict we’ve had. over sexuality marriage as a presenting system of something deeper the deeper division I think is rooted in very different. theological Frameworks and World Views and I think it results in two different trajectories for these bodies. for traditionalists for conservatives it is scripture which determines the content of the faith especially as its. core teachings have been understood by the great tradition of the church going back two thousand years as embodied in. things like the Creed but for progressives Human Experience and reason Guided by modern scholarship. receive much more weight in determining what the church should Proclaim. in an unusually uh Frank. uh discussion of what some progressives believe and do not believe a United Methodist elder so ordained United. Methodist Pastor named Roger Woolsey wrote this a couple of years ago he said friends Jesus isn’t God. Jesus didn’t die for our sin Jesus wasn’t killed instead of us God isn’t wrathful or vindictive there isn’t a. hell other than the ones we create here on this Earth Jesus resurrection didn’t have to be understood as a physical one. to be a real and meaningful one and Christianity isn’t the only way for humans to experience salvation. now to be fair not all progressives would agree with him on every point or even most of those points but here’s the point his views do. illustrate acceptable preaching and teaching within the United Methodist Church even now. he is now an ordained United Methodist elder and I think that that of course. sort of stuff will become more and more commonplace and acceptable in the UMC going forward and we can even look to. statements and actions by um annual conferences jurisdictions and general agencies to get a sense of the. culture that I think will completely take hold once many traditionalists leave for example another example. um about a year or so ago in June of 2021 The General Counsel on finance and administration which is basically the. denomination’s finance committee they announced that there would be a change in the way that local churches reported. membership statistics instead of Simply reporting male and female members. now there’ll be a third option non-binary members now. we can certainly have an interesting discussion whether that’s a good idea maybe it is in our contemporary culture give people the option to report. themselves as non-binary and to have a discussion about the theological implications of that as a denomination. after all we are rooted in the scripture that says God created US male and female and so forth so we could have a debate. and discussion about that but here’s the point none of that happened the gcfa did not consult with. theologians or Bishops or conferences or members they just simply changed it. which I think is an indication of the mindset of much of the leadership of the UMC whose Instinct it seems is simply to. conform to contemporary culture and I think you’ll see there’s other examples that could be cited so make no. mistake this division is not primarily about sexuality and marriage that’s just the presenting symptom of a deeper. division between two increasingly different visions of the Christian faith and our. own Bishop Shoal here of the eastern Pennsylvania conference who is a progressive has said as much. in a letter that he sent out publicly on March 16th and here’s what he wrote he said quote let me be clear. lgbtq persons are not the reason for our differences our differences are because. of our own beliefs Traditions understandings and attitudes this split I think goes to the Core. kinds of issues like the authority of scripture and of tradition the meaning of sin and salvation. and institutionally the Integrity of discipline and Doctrine in any organized. Church the UMC increasingly tolerates or endorses this kind of a kind of awoke. Progressive gospel while the GMC will defend and uphold historic Wesleyan Orthodoxy as part of a. global body which we’ll have from the start just about more more folks overseas than. in the U.S I think an image that might be helpful with with this is the Continental Divide I don’t know if you’ve ever any of you. have been there you may know that along the Rocky Mountains on the North American content there’s a line you. might say to the east of which all Waters ultimately flow to the Atlantic and to the west of which all Waters. ultimately flow to the Pacific and if you’re out there right at the Divide. and you’re near a couple of bodies of water on either side they might not seem all that far apart but there’s a different Dynamic at work. within them they’re flowing in very different directions and I think that is an apt image for uh the UMC and the GMC. with the majority of its membership and Leadership likely to be inside the U.S the UMC. will still acknowledge scripture to be sure but its reading of it will increasingly be influenced by the. political academic and cultural norms of North American society but with the majority of its membership. and Leadership increasingly outside the U.S the GMC will likely align its. policies and practices within the framework of global orthodox methodism. last section what does all this mean for my church your church the local church well it means major changes are coming. which will impact all of us sooner or later make no mistake again the United Methodist Church is dividing and your. congregation has to make a choice at some point what you’re going to do but with General Conference now. postponed two more years things will now be more difficult for I think for biblically faithful churches as this. breakup unfolds because there’s no now denomination-wide policy set by General Conference and as. a result uh Bishops and conferences are making up their own policies as to how to proceed and so there’s a tremendous. variance from place to place it depends very much what conference what part of the country you’re in what the process. is for churches that are seeking to discern whether to stay or to leave Bishops are assuming powers of. governance beyond their legitimate Authority they’re supposed to Simply implement the will and decisions of. General Conference and that’s not necessarily happening and in a number of areas it is becoming. clear that Bishops and Conference Boards of Trustees intend to impose crippling Financial settlements for churches that. seek to disaffiliate using that new paragraph paragraph 2553 that was that. was added in 2019. so um what are your options. if in fact your congregation wishes to leave the UMC to align with the GMC or some other body in some churches are. doing that some are going with the Wesleyan Church or even becoming independent I don’t think you can be independent be Wesleyan connectionalism. is part of who we are but that’s that’s another discussion we can have but um you can one option is to seek to use the. disaffiliation Clause paragraph 2553 and as you may know our conference has. recently been outlining what that process looks like and you’re supposed to make a decision by the beginning of next month if you. want to be a part of that um but at a minimum your church will have to be paid up on all of its apportionments pay a year of. apportionment in advance and pay the present value of its share of the future. unfunded liability for the pension fund which is a significant number although recent. reports is that that’s coming down which is good news um but now we’re finding that a number. of conferences are adding additional costs and that includes our own and some places we haven’t even gotten a word on. this either way in EPA but some conferences are now adding a 50 value of your property market value and when 50. of the market value before they let you go and there’s and if you look at the statement that was recently released by. our own conference there’s a number of items including a share in the 30 million dollar Boy Scout settlement and. other categories that are not even defined they’re not telling you what the numbers are so it is likely to be prohibitively. expensive but that is an option and some Churches may have the funds and resources to do it. and by the way the clock is ticking paragraph 2553 expires next year that is. why there is this pressure to get in the system now because everything has to be negotiated and ready to be voted on by. next spring a second option wait for this the 2024 General Conference. undoubtedly there will be a number of plans proposed including the protocol to the 2024 General Conference to deal with. what’s happening but it’s very uncertain what will be the outcome of that as I mentioned recently the various signers. to the protocol have withdrawn their support so I think that it’s very it’s much more in doubt as to whether that will pass and any plan that is presented. at the general conference once it’s in the hands of the delegates can be amended and changed in ways that we cannot anticipate so we don’t know what. it’s going to look like so that’s another option though and I think there are a number of churches who. think that that’s a they’re going to have to do that and that’s their plan they’re going to wait and see another option is take legal action now. and that is what I mentioned before is starting to happen across the country it began in Florida uh more than 100. churches in the Florida conference about 20 percent of that conference in May notified their Bishop that they were. leaving and we’re not going to use 2553 instead they wanted to Simply transfer under a different provision of the. discipline Dirty Little Secret is before there ever was a 2553. churches have been able to leave the nomination the trust Clause that legal instrument that basically gives ownership of the. property to the conference has been relaxed many times whenever a church leaves closes. or what have you Wesley Church in Quarryville negotiated its exit before there ever was a disaffiliation clause. so um these churches in Florida say we’re not going to use 2553 we want to come out under a different they wanted a. more reasonable package to leave by the bishop said no and now that is entering. litigation and now that pattern is starting to get repeated in other places and we’re going. to see where all of that goes I think the key Point here is that churches which do this are wise to do so. in concert with other churches One Church negotiating with the conference is outgunned and at a disadvantage but. 50 or 100 working together is a different story option number four is do nothing. the default option is to Simply do nothing make no decision and remain in the United Methodist Church. and this may be what some people feel and some Churches feel they are called to do even if they are traditionalists. there are those pastors who feel it’s their calling from God to be a a kind of. Orthodox witness within the United Methodist Church uh many of people however believe that it’s going to be. harder and harder for those folks to survive and for local churches to be allowed to continue to remain. you know historically Orthodox Wesleyan because the bishop can at some point appoint whomever he or she wishes so but. I think that’s a that could be an honorable decision that some Churches seek to make and that is certainly a possibility there’s even a fifth option. leave the building behind especially if your building has a lot of debt or is in disrepair or is in a place. that’s difficult to sell that might make sense for your church to do because then all that becomes the conferences. we did learn something that we should have known during the pandemic when we couldn’t meet my church didn’t meet. together for six months before we started coming back and that is that of course the church isn’t the building church is the people of God assembled. under the lordship of Christ right it’s the people and so some Churches May well decide that the best option is to just simply. turn over the keys and head down and start meeting at the local high school but to consider any of these options. it’s imperative to begin educating our congregations now on what’s coming beginning with your core leadership. teams making no decision is a decision right so I think I think whatever course the. church chooses to make it should be intentional it should be thought through it should be prayerful. um we are still waiting some key developments um at the national level uh that includes some judicial Council decisions. I won’t go into the details we can maybe do that in the Q a um and and we’re still seeing some of. these policies at the annual conference level unfold which is kind of unconscionable three and a half years after paragraph 2553 passed and in some. places including our own there’s still not a lot of specificity onto what’s involved. some closing thoughts uh first do not be afraid fear not second Timothy chapter 1. says this God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind. fear is a tool of the adversary of souls it is designed to Peril us paralyze us and keep us from doing God’s Will and. experiencing God’s blessing fear tends to magnify in our minds the. potential pain that we’re facing you remember the story when Caleb and the other spies went into Canaan to scope. out the promised land under Joshua and they came back and they said the land is inhabited by Giants and we were. grasshoppers well the people of God were not grasshoppers but fear magnified the problem in their. minds so do not be afraid be calm and confident if God is in this. and as scripture said as God is for us who can be against if God is in this process it can’t be stopped one of my. favorite texts is um Acts chapter 5 in Gamaliel gamalia was a member of the. Sanhedrin in Jerusalem which was the Roman Council of the Jews at that time and if you remember the early church was. preaching and and Pentecost had come and the Sanhedrin called the apostles in and. said you got to stop preaching in the name of Jesus and they threatened them a jail they eventually beat them for it but one of the Pharisees got up a man. named Gamaliel a wise man he said stop let them go if this thing is of god you. can’t stop it you’ll find yourself fighting God but if it’s not of God it will fall under its own weight in time. and I to me that I think is is wisdom to use um so God is in this. it can’t be stopped secondly know your rights and your power under the deep under the discipline and. as the people of God if the progressives have shown us anything in recent years it’s that Bishops and Conference. structures don’t have the power over us that we like to think that they do you know the United Methodist Church is not. of a police force or an army yes it has the trust clause which can be enforced by the government that’s a problem which. I find really odd using the power of the state the power of the sword to compel people to stay in your church. but it is possible to resist abuses of power do not be intimidated by claims that you. are acting in violation of the discipline or of your clergy Covenant by simply educating your congregation as. we’re doing tonight or by making preparations for what is coming um. and by the way for those clergy here you cannot be forced to declare what your intentions in the future might be okay. some in some parts of the country Bishops and DS is saying I want you to tell me what you’re going to do you’re going to stay you’re going to go. and we had a case here a few years ago the Frank Shaffer case remember that case part of the decision that allowed him to be reinstated said that the. conference could not hold people accountable for possible future decisions so you can cite that case as to saying. no I I’m in discernment I don’t know what I’m going to decide a third piece is this stay focused on. your ministry it is important to be informed it’s important to prepare but don’t let denominational Madness become. the central Focus for you or your church the best gift you can give any denomination is a vibrant christ-centered and. missionly focused congregation finally get connected The Genius of methodism from the. beginning has been its connectional system the connection makes us more effective in Mission it creates. relationships with colleagues and friends who keep us accountable and who encourage us. many people many churches feel that they are isolated and alone they suffer from what I call the Elijah syndrome you may. recall that when the Prophet Elijah was fleeing from the wrath of Queen Jezebel he went up to the mountain and he said. to God I’m the only one left and what did God say no you’re not. I have thousands in the land who have not yet worshiped the local God God told. them there were many people still with whom he could make common cause and find encouragement same is true today. so one such place as the WCA the Western Covenant Association has chosen to remain within the United Methodist Church at this time in order to help churches discern what their future will be and if you check our website or the national website there are lots of resources lots of. information that you can find there and we also have a local chapter which has begun meeting every other Thursday morning at 10 via zoom and we have some in-person Gatherings we already had one a month or two ago that are going to be happening in our conference so you can go onto our webpage you can you can register to get the emails. That’ll be coming out each week and also find out other ways to get connected. I’m just closed by saying just be in prayer um for all of us I think the next few. the next few years are going to be very difficult as we navigate all these very. choppy Waters but remember God is sovereign nothing takes God by surprise God has. already prepared a path forward for you for your congregation trust him. but don’t neglect to do your part in seeking his will and in making informed and faithful choices.”