Bishop Juan Rejects UMC Protocol He Negotiated

John Lomperis on September 2, 2022

With a world-class professional mediator and a 16-member Mediation Team, including Bishop Rodolfo “Rudy” Juan, representing every major region and faction of the United Methodist Church, the painstakingly negotiated “Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation” promised to bring an acceptable-to-all-sides peace to our denomination’s decades of internal conflict.

Released in early 2020, the Protocol demanded extraordinary, one-sided concessions from theologically traditionalist United Methodists. Remember, traditionalists, by definition, are those who support our own denomination’s doctrinal and moral standards. And yes, it was a big problem how, despite everyone knowing that non-American delegates overwhelmingly supported the Traditional Plan at the last General Conference, not one of the four non-Americans on the Mediation Team clearly identified with this position. For example, Bishop Juan is notably more liberal than the center of gravity in Filipino United Methodism, having supported liberalizing denominational standards on marriage and sex at the 2019 General Conference.

And yet the essential promise was that if traditionalists made these major sacrifices for the sake of the liberal side, and took upon themselves the hard work of organizing a new denomination (just to continue with historic and still-official United Methodist standards!), then liberal officials would allow traditionalists to separate in peace, with grace and fairness. 

After all, by signing the Protocol Agreement, the 14 notable liberal and institutionalist leaders, together with two traditionalist leaders, jointly “agree[d] to use their best efforts to persuade any groups or organizations with which they are affiliated to support the legislation necessary to implement the Protocol” and to “not participate in or support legislation or other efforts that are inconsistent with the principles and terms of the Protocol and the implementing legislation” (Article I.4). And their Agreement also declares that the whole plan is an inseparably packaged deal, so that liberal-favored pieces cannot be separated from others: “each of the provisions of this Protocol is integrated with and integral to the whole and shall not be severable from the remainder of the Protocol” (Article I.5).

But developments over the last couple of years have raised questions of if non-traditionalist members of the Mediation Team were ever negotiating in good faith. 

The surviving non-traditionalist Mediation Team members, other than bishops, now all openly oppose the Protocol.

What about the bishops?  I respectfully asked each of them for on-the-record responses to similar questions, and will share their individual and joint responses in the coming days.

What follows here are my questions asked of Bishop Juan about the Protocol, his verbatim responses, and some brief context for each. Juan is a Mediation Team member who leads the five small-membership annual conferences of the Davao Episcopal Area in the southern Philippines, He is also currently president of the College of Bishops for all non-U.S. central conferences (even though over 95 percent of non-U.S. church membership is in Africa).

Question 1.  What specifically, if anything, have you done in 2021 and 2022 to, in the words of the Protocol agreement, “use [your] best efforts to persuade any groups or organizations with which they are affiliated to support the legislation necessary to implement the Protocol”? 


Some context: Despite the misleading rhetoric of many of its supporters, the Christmas Covenant is not a plan to help or empower non-American United Methodists, but rather to protect and preserve white American power in the UMC. Now that Americans have become a minority in the denomination, rather than expect Americans to respect global majority rule, the Christmas Covenant would segregate much of our denominational structure. Specifically, it would create new structures to let the U.S. region of the denomination (whose members are overwhelmingly white) and each other region unilaterally set their own policies on sexual morality as well as other issues.

One liberal American caucus has admitted that the Christmas Covenant is merely a “different likeness” of similar liberal plans repeatedly proposed and rejected by previous General Conferences.

Many United Methodist leaders in the Philippines have firmly opposed this proposal, with a statement declaring:

We also strongly take exception to the proposals for the creation of a regional conference structure as outlined in the Christmas Covenant or similar plans, which will enable policies regarding human sexuality and standards of ordination to be decided by region. This regional conference structure will result in doctrinal incoherence as each regional conference will be free to interpret what the Bible says about human sexuality differently. However, we firmly believe that God’s truth, as revealed in the Bible, is not relative. It is always true, no matter the region or location. We cannot simply take part in a denomination that has no uniform stand on questions that are clearly theological in nature. We will refuse any attempts to twist long-held Biblical truths about human sexuality, or that will put cultural shifts or societal pressures first over the truth of God’s Word (Rom. 12:1-2). We will also resist moves to keep the unity of the church without holiness in truth. For when Jesus prayed to the Father that his disciples “may be one” (Jn. 17:11), he also prayed, “sanctify them by the truth” (Jn. 17:17).

In any case, neither the Christmas Covenant nor other liberalization plans address the problem of how to separate amicably.

In early 2020, the Christmas Covenant was promoted not as an alternative to the Protocol, but rather as addressing how the post-separation United Methodist Church could structure itself after adoption and implementation of the Protocol. In March 2020, Bishop Juan himself expressed support for both proposals, saying, “I believe that the Christmas Covenant and the protocol complement each other…..”

Question 2.            The Protocol Agreement states that it was all negotiated as a packaged deal. The “Moratorium” section was two paired agreements, including a moratorium on closing churches until after the next General Conference. Have you remained committed through 2021 and this year to not closing any local church against its will or in circumstances where this was not absolutely and immediately necessary? Do you remain committed to this principle until whenever the next General Conference finally meets, even if this is not until 2024 or later? If so, may I ask how you have fulfilled and are continuing to fulfill this commitment?


Note: This does not directly answer my questions about unnecessary church closures.

But Bishop Juan’s on-the-record statement here is a major, direct repudiation of the Protocol, beyond those seen from others. Because of this alone, no one should claim that the Protocol Mediation Team’s bishops have all kept their word. 

On the one hand, it is disappointing to see Bishop Juan now-public admission of his unilaterally abandoning his end of the Protocol bargain. 

But on the other hand, this approach is in some ways more honest than the alternative of occasionally issuing bare-minimum statements of “still supporting the Protocol” while at the same time working indirectly and through proxies to undermine and derail the Protocol.

Still, Bishop Juan’s reasoning is rather odd, considering all the time he devoted to negotiating a plan explicitly devoted to facilitating amicable separation.

Question 3.            While details are being sorted, are you willing to agree, at least as a general principle, that as our denomination divides, congregations, campus ministries, and clergy should feel free to discuss relevant issues, share accurate information, and make their own fair, free, and informed decisions without any bullying, mistreatment, or punitive changes in appointment?


Some context: Bishop Juan’s words are welcome, and sadly not too common among liberal bishops. But again, the proof of their sincerity will be seen in his actions, particularly given reports of bullying and intimidation of traditionalist United Methodists in the Philippines over separation-related discussions.

Question 4.            You publicly agreed to the terms of the Protocol, which would allow conferences and congregations to make their own choices – in a relatively amicable, non-punitive way – between the different denominations into which our United Methodist Church is now dividing.  Now that people have already had to wait for over two years, are you willing, in principle, to do what you can as a bishop to allow congregations in your episcopal area to make their own choices before 2024, under as close as terms as possible to those of the Protocol?


Some context: Bishop Juan’s declining to express even in-principle support for allowing congregations in his area to disaffiliate is particularly significant because the congregational exit ramp aforementioned, adopted at the 2019 General Conference, ¶2553, arguably does not apply outside of the United States.

Among other things, the 2019 General Conference amended the United Methodist Discipline to stipulate that “Legislation passed at the 2019 called session of General Conference shall not take effect in central conferences until twelve months after the close of the 2020 General Conference.” See ¶ 543.17in the DisciplineAddendum and Errata.” Since the “2020” General Conference has now been delayed until 2024, and ¶2553 expressly says it expires in 2023, many have understood this to mean that this provision by itself will never be church law in the central conferences into which United Methodism is organized outside of the United States.  

The rather vague joint statement from Bishop Rudy Juan and the other Protocol Mediation Team bishops can be found here. Notably, these bishops declared, “we are united in respect for our colleagues who are led to step away from the Protocol,” while expressing no such respect for traditionalist Mediation Team members who kept their promises.

And while these bishops earlier promised to treat all parts of the Protocol Agreement as an inseparably packaged deal, now their statement shifts to exclusively singling out for affirmation just one liberal-favored provision, the “abeyance” on complaints, without even mentioning any of the provisions that were essential to winning traditionalist support for the deal.

  1. Comment by Reynolds on September 2, 2022 at 8:42 pm

    The protocol was never going to be voted on.
    Either fight and take over the denomination with the help of Africa and Asia or sue and very few churches will get out. I recommend you fight and if you do this the liberals will leave by 2028. I don’t understand why the WCA is both stupid and cowardly,

  2. Comment by td on September 2, 2022 at 10:07 pm

    I am so sorry that you all are stuck with leadership that will not keep its word. The UMC is truly an institution with no integrity. I am very glad that i have left.

    Perhaps it would be insightful for traditionalists in the UMC to explore why they wish to keep this institution afloat. I don’t mean this in an offensive way. But obviously in order to stay you will have to fight and redeem both the culture and purpose of the UMC. And i am not exactly sure what you are saving.

    The argument that is made against church liberals that there are other churches they could go to that fulfill their liberal goals also applies to traditionals. Traditionals could go to missouru synod lutheran, catholic, orthodox, anglican, certain presbyterian, certain wesleyan, or certain baptist- all institutional churches that continue to uphold orthodox christianity.

    I understand the family ties, etc. But there was a time in your family past when someone was not methodist and made the choice to join and i doubt they would object to you leaving over serious issues like these.

  3. Comment by Mark on September 3, 2022 at 9:51 am

    This is a shocking development.

    In other news, Lucy just pulled the football away again right before Charlie Brown could kick it.

  4. Comment by Gary Bebop on September 3, 2022 at 4:43 pm

    Bishops will never allow their statements to be truth-tested. Their words are slippery and specious; they mean only what the hegemon intends to say at that moment for
    consumption. When a bishop says “faithful,” the word should be understood to airbrush any evidence of unfaithfulness or disobedience. When a bishop is speaking, they are doing therapy on their hearers.

  5. Comment by Star Tripper on September 4, 2022 at 12:53 pm

    When we left the UMC we thought we would miss the ceremony and music. We did….for about a month. Now we see the UMC as the beautiful sepulcher filled with corruption.

  6. Comment by David Charlton on September 4, 2022 at 7:57 pm

    Is there a liberal/revisionist denomination that has ever acted in good faith in regard to its orthodox members, ministers and congregations? I can’t think of one.

  7. Comment by Anthony on September 5, 2022 at 1:37 pm

    Not only do the liberals desperately need the money of traditionalists, as they’re now promising us the moon to keep us — they also need us as whipping boys to help keep them together under their big tent. The money need is obvious — but the other need is most insidious. Without traditionalists to blame, scapegoat, and hate, they would digress into an all out war amongst themselves trying to define their LGBTQ+ idol and how to worship it. So, they obviously need us for our money, but more so for a rallying cry to bring them together in hate. They are one mass psychotic enigma.

  8. Comment by Jeff on September 5, 2022 at 3:33 pm

    >> They are one mass psychotic enigma.

    Yup. And God gives them over to sexual impurity, shameful lusts and depraved minds…(Romans 1).

    24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

    26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

    28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. ..

  9. Comment by Tom on September 5, 2022 at 5:36 pm

    As I’ve said before, the Presbyterians have some wisdom in rejecting the whole concept of “bishop” as one person who can wield almost unlimited power in a certain area.

  10. Comment by Larry Jackson on September 5, 2022 at 9:11 pm

    I agree with Tom that bishop-led churches almost always have problems. In theory, the bishop’s role is to protect the flock from error. In practice, bishops (due primarily to their seminary studies) lead their churches away from orthodoxy. Churches led by elders, often laymen themselves, such as Churches of Christ, most non-denominational churches and an increasing number of Baptist churches, are far more likely to remain committed to Biblical truth and Biblical practices.

  11. Comment by Anthony on September 6, 2022 at 8:25 am

    Yes, Jeff. A redeeming message from Paul as the answer for those verses you listed, a message that large segments of the UMC have abandoned and ceased preaching and practicing. Adam Hamilton would have to toss this into his ‘scripture that no longer applies’ bucket in order to remain true to his position on marriage and sexual immorality. He would also be compelled to include the other sins here in order to be fully inclusive.

    1 Corinthians 6:9-11

    9 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men[a] 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

  12. Comment by When you don't care enough... on September 6, 2022 at 10:23 am

    I can’t wait to hear from the other bishops, one in particular. However, the bishop in today’s article said what at least one other bishop has said. That bishop’s words included ‘that the tent is big enough for all of us to continue the mission of the church’.

    In my opinion what that means is that those who disagree with leftist theology are not equal participants, they are wayward sinful people who have not been liberated from their patriarchal mind set that infects them. But eventually they will either leave, die off, or repent and get with the program, and we can all be one happy family.

    Is it not obvious at this point that if one is perceived/known as a sinner the perceived righteous can modify their commitments to deal with the perceived sinners in a different way (for their benefit, of course).

    At this point maybe IRD should have a memorial service for the denomination so that those of us weep and live in despair over this act of hypocrisy can have some closure and start to heal.

  13. Comment by David S. on September 6, 2022 at 12:54 pm

    While Tom and Larry note that the Presbyterian and Reformed denominations were right to reject the office of bishop, I would argue as evidenced by the PC(USA) in particular that rejection is no guarantee. The PC(USA) is plagued with credentialism among others and the institutional PC(USA) leadership states, “But we have a polity of diversity of thought!” every time an orthodox confessional or evangelical formally objects to the slightest Scriptural departure from orthodox, P&R, Christian doctrine. Sadly, they then just as quickly indicate that they are not making that statement in good faith, much less actually believe in that polity, when they in the same breath, say, but if you still believe X, even if you have factually demonstrated that it has nothing to do with people who did so for the wrong reasons, you are still a name-your-leftist-epithet, and invoke their preferred, credential “experts”, even if said experts have been credibly called into question, to do so.

  14. Comment by Anthony on September 6, 2022 at 5:23 pm

    This emerging big tent United Methodist Church (Circus) is shaping up for a coming circus under its big top — looking more and more like that of another circus:

    In Unitarian Universalism, you can bring your whole self: your full identity, your questioning mind, your expansive heart. Together, we create a force more powerful than one person or one belief system. As Unitarian Universalists, we do not have to check our personal background and beliefs at the door: we join together on a journey that honors everywhere we’ve been before. Our beliefs are diverse and inclusive.

  15. Comment by Jeff on September 7, 2022 at 12:20 am


    “Together, we create a force more powerful than one person or one belief system. As Unitarian Universalists, we do not have to check our personal background and beliefs at the door: we join together on a journey that honors everywhere we’ve been before. Our beliefs are diverse and inclusive.”

    We, we we. Almighty I. Me me me me.
    1 Why do the nations conspire[a]
    and the peoples plot in vain?
    2 The kings of the earth rise up
    and the rulers band together
    against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,
    3 “Let us break their chains
    and throw off their shackles.”

    4 The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
    the Lord scoffs at them.
    5 He rebukes them in his anger
    and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
    6 “I have installed my king
    on Zion, my holy mountain.”

    from Psalm 2

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