Here are some important announcements that we think you should be aware of! As for now, this one announcement is regarding the recent article published by UMNEWS, on the subject of inclusion of LGBTQ+ clergy and lay members.
We here at Fremont First UMC will provide our own language about what our plan is during this time. We encourage you to form your own opinions and insights on this issue, and we are always here to talk if you need spiritual guidance. Here is what we would like to expect from our members, but if you have any questions, please continue to read this message from Rev. Bill Gepford.
Dear Fremont First UMC:
I hope you are having a great week so far! I wanted to take a moment to address the recent headlines regarding the United Methodist Church.
Last week news began to circulate with the headline: ‘United Methodist Traditionalists, Centrists, Progressives and Bishops sign agreement aimed at separation.”
Other news sources circulated even more alarming headlines – ‘United Methodist Church is expected to split’
That headline can be anxiety-inducing; here’s a quick summary of what happened:
In light of the decades long conflict in the UMC regarding the full inclusion of LGBTQ persons, a broad cross section of UMC leaders, from every camp came together and, with the help of a mediator, created a proposal (‘the protocol’) for a way forward.
This is not legislation; it is merely a framework that will have to be turned into legislation and then voted upon at General Conference (May 5-15). However, given the incredibly diverse leadership team that put this together – leaders of traditionalists, moderate, and progressive camps, as well as the council of bishops – I’m optimistic that it can pass.
In summary, if the protocol is adopted, the United Methodist Church will continue, removing the traditionalist plan/language, and create a gracious exit for a group of traditionalists and gifting them with the resources to create a denominational infrastructure (one of the traditionalist groups had already begun laying the groundwork for a new denomination).
Next, if a traditionalist denomination were to be created, it would have to announce it’s intent to form by May 2021.
Next, non-US conferences would have to pass a reaffiliation vote; US conferences that desire to leave en-mass would have to pass a 57% vote by July 20201
If a church disagrees with their conference, they can take a Charge Conference vote by 2024. Regardless, churches would keep their assets and liabilities (relaxing the trust clause).
While all this is happening, there is an abeyance on trails for LGBTQ clergy and allies, allowing the time to reorganize with the least rancor possible.
Here’s what that means for us at Fremont First UMC:
If this passes general conference, our local conference (the Great Plains) would have the option of voting to leave; if no vote is taken, or if the vote fails, then the Great Plains Conference would stay in the (moderate/inclusive) UMC. If the vote passes, the Great Plains would move to the new traditionalist denomination. Whichever way the conference goes, Fremont First UMC would then have the choice to call a vote at a Charge Conference under the guidance of our Church Council should we choose a different path than the one determined by the Conference.
By now, many of you know where I stand. I’m for the full inclusion of LGBTQ persons into the Church at every level. I have friends who are both pastors, and LGBTQ – and I’ve seen God work through them; I’m not going to stand in the way of that. I’ve pastored same-sex couples, and seen God working in their marriages and their lives. I’ve wrestled deeply with scripture, tradition, experience, and reason, and come to my stance on inclusion.
I’m also for a UMC that is big enough that we can disagree with each other and still love each other. We’ve got traditionalists and progressive (and a whole bunch of moderates) at Fremont First UMC – and I’m honored to serve as the pastor for all. Some of you think I’m too progressive (and some think I’m not progressive enough). I respect that. But I also believe that the God who made each of us
So here’s where we go from here:
- Pray for those on your side – and for the other side. Perhaps the best part of this proposal is that it was written by such a broad spectrum of leaders – and it proves that the love of God can bring us together, even from very diverse backgrounds.
- If you have questions, we have two town halls planned – Saturday, January 18th at 1pm in the Sanctuary, or Thursday, January 23 at 6:15pm in the Sanctuary.
- Join us for a 4 week book study starting Tuesday, January 21st at 6pm. This will be focused on the specific issues, paths, and divisions; with an emphasis on polity and organization of Churches. Childcare will be provided. If you are interested in attending, would you please RSVP by contacting the office (We will cover the following topics:
- Scriptural/theological underpinnings of the dispute
- Same Gender Marriage
- Ordination of LGBTQ+ persons
- Where we are now (and where we might go from here)
- Read the Protocol yourself. The official UMC press release, the full text of the protocol, and the FAQ can all be found here – https://www.unitedmethodistbishops.org/newsdetail/united-methodist-traditionalists-centrists-progressives-bishops-sign-agreement-aimed-at-separation-13133654