United Methodst Protocol

United Methodist Western Jurisdiction Officials Announce Support for Protocol and Post-Separation Progressive Vision

Dan Moran on October 16, 2020

On October 7, leaders of the Western Jurisdiction (WJ) of the United Methodist Church (UMC) announced a year-long campaign called “Where Love Lives, Creating a Fully Inclusive United Methodist Church,” which includes “promoting the Protocol” and promoting a progressive vision for the post-separation UMC (psUMC).

The campaign came from the jurisdiction’s top leadership, namely its College of Bishops and Mission Cabinet. The president of the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops is Karen Oliveto of the Mountain Sky Area, who was recently elected to the title for 2020 to 2023.

According to an added Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page, these leaders “want to remind the jurisdiction of the values that have informed the ministries of the region and have provided a home for diverse people, ideas and theological perspectives.” The campaign announcement highlighted the WJ’s history of going against the denomination’s teachings on sexuality, including ordaining LGBTQ persons to be pastors in 1982 and electing Oliveto as the first openly lesbian bishop in 2016, in a defiance of church law that many still do not accept as legitimate.

Not minimizing the change the planned separation will bring, the FAQ page also describes the psUMC as a “new church.” Though this new church will keep the United Methodist name, the webpage admits that much of the structure and financial management of the church will need to be streamlined, or pared down, due to challenging financial realities.

Clear and explicit support from the UMC’s most liberal jurisdiction should help solidify liberal support for passing the Protocol. Some had wondered if the proposed legislation, released by a theologically diverse team at the start of the year, had lost momentum because of General Conference’s postponement due to the coronavirus. After months of hearing little from liberal camps, this announcement increases the chances of some form of this negotiated separation agreement passing General Conference.

The “Where Love Lives” press release importantly affirms key provisions of the Protocol. The document states that those in the new traditionalist denomination “would retain their former United Methodist pension benefits and congregations would be able to keep their buildings.” Keeping these details in whatever eventually passes through General Conference is essential for the UMC to avoid the missionally damaging and extremely costly court cases that have plagued other mainline Protestant denominations that have gone through similar schisms.

Despite the jurisdiction’s long-standing history of disregarding the church’s doctrine on human sexuality, the WJ leaders now profess to pick up the mantle of follows Wesley’s teachings and the Bible. The campaign’s theme for this November is “We will always keep scripture primary.” The WJ leadership also says it hopes to provide a “solid foundation” that all of the psUMC can lean on, one that “focuses on its commitment to Wesley’s teachings on piety and social holiness.”

Oliveto, well-highlighted in campaign materials, has come under fire not only for her election to the episcopacy, which flagrantly violated church law, but also for heterodox teachings. For example, in September 2017, she preached that Christians should not “create an idol” out of Jesus and that He needed to “give up his bigotries and prejudices” as part of his personal growth. In the past she has also cautioned against taking too high a view of Scripture, saying “The text, the Bible, is not God,” and theology requires addressing both “the benefits and flaws” of Scripture. Yet her well-known record of such views evidently served as no barrier for her fellow WJ leaders elevating her as the region’s top bishop for four years. 

This Western Jurisdiction campaign is also claims that traditionalists would be welcome and free to follow their convictions in the psUMC, despite the region’s own notorious track record for bullying, marginalizing, and driving out traditionalist believers. In any case, this is an explicitly qualified welcome. In its campaign FAQs page, the WJ leaders say that any traditionalists who wanted to choose the liberal psUMC “must be willing to accept that others … will have a right to conduct same-sex marriages and ordain qualified lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons.” However the WJ leaders claim that “Individual clergy and congregations will not be forced to conduct or host same sex weddings.”

This imagined local option for pastors and congregations to choose their own way would have to be legislated by General Conference in the post-separation UMC. The Protocol does not specifically provide for any clear conscience protections. Creating a church environment with a local option was a pillar of the “One Church Plan” that failed to pass at the special General Conference last year in St. Louis.

As IRD reported in the build-up to the St. Louis gathering, traditionalists are likely to be ostracized in a denomination that by default allows same-sex relationships for their pastors and same-sex marriages in their sanctuaries. As John Lomperis wrote regarding a UMC future under the “One Church Plan,” traditionalist clergy “could not in good conscience support the approval and appointing of LGBTQ-affirming candidates. So traditionalists would become just as excluded from cabinets, boards of ordained ministry, and district committees on ministry as opponents of women’s ordination” currently are. Similarly, many traditionalist clergy candidates could not honestly vow that they approve of the UMC’s government and polity, and so would be effectively barred from ordination. Further, traditionalist congregations would likely not have the freedom to refuse any homosexually active clergyperson appointed over them.

One prominent liberal caucus, UMC Next, appears to have abandoned the idea of conscience protections for traditionalists who wish to remain in the psUMC. The group’s extensive legislative proposals to the next General Conference, totaling 23 petitions (developed before the Protocol was agreed upon), includes zero provisions protecting clergy or congregations from opposing same-sex marriages or same-sex partnered pastors. UMC Next is headed by many of the same leaders who argued most fervently for the passage of the “One Church Plan,” such as Rev. Tom Berlin and Rev. Adam Hamilton. That these leaders, who will be in a dominant majority in the psUMC, gave up on proposing even the incomplete and inadequate conscience protections they advocated for just last year suggests that they do not support even such small measures anymore.

With General Conference rescheduled for August 29 – September 7, 2021, there is still a lot of time before any vote on the Protocol can take place. While much will change before then, the lasting consensus around passing the Protocol from across the spectrum until now suggests that separate paths forward will be finally be paved for United Methodists next year.

  1. Comment by Gary Bebop on October 16, 2020 at 4:52 pm

    Be assured that a campaign to promote itself prior to any possible General Conference is a campaign against the leftovers of an evangelical-orthodox resistance in the WJ. The mercenary instincts of militant progressives in the WJ will dominate any discussions about local church futures. It’s likely that conservatives in undecided local churches will experience the suppression of their voices.

  2. Comment by Mary Lou Longworth on October 16, 2020 at 9:31 pm

    Time for the bible-believing Methodists to run for the hills. It’s a fool’s errand to think the agreement over time will be congenial, no matter how much effort is applied. Neil Sadaka said it best, ‘Breaking Up is Hard to Do’. Heresy and truth are incompatable. One can look at the fruit from the Episcopal Church USA and see the future. I really hate to see another mainline church go the way of the world.

  3. Comment by William on October 17, 2020 at 8:19 am

    To Which Methodist Denomination Do You Wish To Belong?
    Please Check ✔️ One

    ——— A Progressive Denomination (Post Separation UMC)

    1. Believes in a liberal, contextual understanding of Biblical Authority and Primacy of Scripture in order to offer an alternative vision for people to embrace where Scriptures can be placed in categories, at the discretion of the reader, essentially consisting of (1) Scriptures that express God’s heart, character, and timeless will, (2) Scriptures that expressed God’s heart, character, and will for a particular time but no longer relevant, and (3) Scriptures that never expressed God’s heart, character, or will.

    2. Believes in a new understanding of Christian marriage to include same-sex marriage as a right derived from a liberal, contextual Biblical interpretation perspective —- accompanied by the right to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies inside the church sanctuaries by the church clergy.

    3. LGBTQ identified persons welcomed into full-inclusion with their committed sexual relationships affirmed, thus freeing them from the call of repentance for the forgiveness of historic Biblical sexual immorality sins —- a revised understanding of God’s love and grace derived from a liberal, contextual Biblical interpretation perspective — while having an undefined position regarding the sexual practices and lifestyles of the heterosexual community outside those of a man and a woman in marriage.

    4. Full inclusion of LGBTQ candidates seeking licensing and ordination into the ministry who are in committed LGBTQ sexual relationships as well as being a safe harbor for LGBTQ+ clergy from across the denomination while having an undefined position for heterosexual candidates engaged in committed sexual relationships outside those of a man and a woman marriage.

    ———- A Traditional Denomination (New Traditional Methodist Church)

    1. Believes in the traditional Wesleyan understanding of Biblical Authority and Primacy of Scripture in that “all Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). The core of the Christian faith is revealed in Scripture as “the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints (Jude 1:3). Illuminated by tradition,reason, and experience, the revelation of Scripture is the church’s primary and final authority on all matters of faith and practice.

    2. Believes in God’s created order for Christian marriage as only that between a man and a woman as Jesus described and emphasized when he said — “haven’t you read that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female, for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh? So, they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Matthew 19:4-6).

    3. Believes in the historic, universal and Wesleyan understanding of the Good News Gospel. Therefore, LGBTQ identified persons, heterosexual identified persons, ALL persons welcomed equally into full-inclusion (Wesleyan Prevenient Grace) in order to partake of repentance, conversion, and reconciliation to God preached in Jesus’ name for the forgiveness of sins, including the sins of sexual immorality, thus receiving salvation and being born again, being transformed, and being turned from a sinful orientation to a new orientation in (Wesleyan Justifying Grace) Jesus in order to pursue, with the help of the Holy Spirit, holiness and good works for the glorification of God (Wesleyan Sanctifying Grace).

    4. Believes in the traditional, historic, universal, and Wesleyan Biblical standards of sexual behavior for candidates seeking licensing and ordination into the ministry as those practicing fidelity in a marriage of a woman and a man or celibacy in singleness.

  4. Comment by Virginia on October 17, 2020 at 7:33 pm

    I have a friend who is in the Western Jurisdiction – she does not feel welcome or included by the church hierarchy in the region. Of course she believes in the Bible…

  5. Comment by William on October 18, 2020 at 11:08 am

    “This Western Jurisdiction campaign is also claims that traditionalists would be welcome and free to follow their convictions in the psUMC.”

    ————————————————————————————————————-

    How many different ways can it be said that the above declaration of this WJ campaign is a LIE, a DECEPTION, a FALSEHOOD? This narrative is already underway by the progressive bishop of the North Georgia Conference. This bishop is already framing traditionalists in the North Georgia Conference as some sort fringe, strange, out-of-step, and renegade group. WOW!

    This demonstrates the blatant disregard and the egregious disrespect progressives have for traditionalists. But, finding ways to trick traditionalists into staying put in this “NEW” psUMC in order to keep collecting their donations justifies the means.

  6. Comment by Brandon M on October 18, 2020 at 12:08 pm

    They’re already starting to close traditional churches in the calpac Conference. Montebello and El Monte Umc are closing. Because of the delay, the conference is going to fast forward all closures so there will be no bible believing churches left. So much pain for property and money and yet these liberal supervisors and bishops consistently preach on love, what hypocrisy! Jesus is not in their hearts.

  7. Comment by td on October 18, 2020 at 1:13 pm

    Yes, any theology or belief will be welcome in the New Improved UMC! Except, of course, the theology and beliefs of Christianity. Cause, you know, God doesn’t care about any of that stuff anymore- he has just been playing a trick on us for the last 4000 years. Ha ha, good one, Lord. You got us!

  8. Comment by barbara seddon on October 20, 2020 at 9:27 am

    truly sad to realise that believers in the full Gospel of Jesus Christ are basically being
    rejected by the liberals. It is no wonder churches are closing…why need them if the
    world has taken over. Wesley preached with truth, and brought souls into the kingdom of
    God, todays preachers have nothing to offer,,,,,only the devil and godlessness.

  9. Comment by Frank Lee on October 27, 2020 at 6:37 am

    The direction of this apostacy will be driven by the need for money:
    …The document states that those in the new traditionalist denomination “would retain their former United Methodist pension benefits and congregations would be able to keep their buildings.”…
    They are already closing traditionalist churches – so where is the money going that is raised from the sale of those buildings? Or am I missing something here?
    Then there is the pure unadulterated heresy emitted by the Woman known as Karen Oliveto – people have seen it and align themselves with her and therefore with those statements – hence one can only conclude – the purging of the tares and goats has begun. In the end, the goats will be on the left and His sheep on His right hand side.
    PS: KO is known as a Knock Out in boxing. Maybe that’s a very apt set of initials for someone who will soon reveal herself as a full-blown atheist.

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