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Special to The New Courier—
While some United Methodist leaders have proposed to split the church and spin off a new “traditional Methodist” denomination after decades of fighting over same-sex marriage and LGBTQ clergy, pastor Benji Van Fleet of the Munday church has a different outlook on the matter.
A group of 16 bishops and representatives from United Methodist advocacy groups with diverse views announced last week they had a proposed agreement on the future separation of the second-largest Protestant denomination in the U.S.
The proposed plan, called the Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation, comes after decades of fighting over sexuality, including whether to lift the denomination’s ban on same-sex marriage and LGBTQ clergy. In February, a special meeting of the church’s top governing body failed to find an amicable solution.
In the midst of these ongoing tensions, this unofficial group of 16 spent several months collaborating on the proposed agreement, which says:
“The undersigned propose restructuring The United Methodist Church by separation as the best means to resolve our differences, allowing each part of the Church to remain true to its theological understanding while recognizing the dignity, equality, integrity, and respect of every person.”
This path forward and a future split is not a done deal, according to Van Fleet.
“Here is what most people don’t know from the inside,” he said, “and what reporters across all of the sources I have read have failed to include:
“As with any parliamentary legislation, the proposal must meet certain standards to be considered by the voting delegates of the general conference in May. First of all, the 16 individuals mentioned are prominent leaders in the church across the spectrum, but they do not have any authority from a church committee or support of all the organizations which they claim to represent. These individuals are acting not as representatives but as independent leaders.
“Secondly, the protocol legislation was submitted after the deadline for proposals to be placed on the agenda for the delegates this year, and so it will require a two-thirds vote of the delegates to suspend Roberts Rules of Order to even hear, discuss, or possibly take action upon the legislation.
“Bearing these two things in mind, it is unlikely that the general conference of the church will take action regarding the protocol legislation. In fact, it is unlikely that any of the groups will reach a consensus on even one proposal, because the reality is our denomination is not facing a split but a multi-faceted fracture…one which will take years to sort out.”