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Central Conferences Flex Their Muscles

Bishop Samuel Quire leads a discussion during the 2020 session of the Liberia Annual Conference, which has requested numerous changes in the negotiated separation plan, the "Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation." (Photo by E. Julu Swen/UM News)

This week may be remembered as the time when United Methodists outside the USA exerted stronger influence on the denomination's future. Philippines Annual Conference Cavite became the first unit of the worldwide denomination to forward legislation to enact the "Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation." However, its clergy and lay members also endorsed the "Christmas Covenant," a document created in December 2020 by a coalition of Central Conference delegates supporting unity through greater regionalization. The forwarding vote ensures that both documents will be considered by General Conference 2020 in May. According to Davao Area Bishop Rodolfo "Rudy" Juan, "I believe that the Christmas Covenant and the Protocol complement each other,and I am glad that both are endorsed by PAC Cavite." The Rev. Mark R. Holland of Mainstream UMC was on hand for the Cavite vote and a GC2020 briefing, and provided reports on his visit in three installments.

Fifty-two General Conference 2020 delegates from the Philippines Central Conference gathered in Manila for orientation. (Photo Courtesy of Mark R. Holland, Mainstream UMC)

On the other side of the world, United Methodists in Liberia aren't at all supportive of the "Protocol" as it's now written. During its 187th annual session, Liberian clergy and laity voted 725 to 0, with one abstention, in favor of a resolution demanding changes. A major part of the resolution "requires Liberia’s General Conference delegates to work with other Africans to amend the financial aspects of the plan and lower the percentage of votes needed for a conference to decide to leave The United Methodist Church," according to an article by E. Julu Swen and Sam Hodges for UM News. Back in the USA, good news and diverse views marked the week. The General Council on Finance and Administration announced that 85 percent of the year's apportionments were received. GCFA had warned late last year that 2019 receipts might drop to 70 percent as annual conferences and local churches withheld giving in protest of the 2019 General Conference vote to retain and strengthen anti-LGBTQ stances.

Faced with the prospect of a heavy workload on controversial topics, organizers of General Conference 2020 announced they had set up a "think tank" to come up with ways to improve handling of legislation (see photo). Meanwhile, first-elected GC2020 delegates from the Western Jurisdiction announce their support, with reservations, for consideration of the "Protocol" and the creation of a U.S. regional conference.

At the same time, the ad hoc group UM Forward, supporter of the "New Expressions Worldwide" (NEW) separation plan, published the agenda for its March 6-8 "Lenten Gathering" in Dallas, Texas.The event follows up on last May's "Our Movement Forward" conference at which aspirations for the "liberation" of Methodism were outlined. The Rev. Dr. Jay Williams, lead pastor of Union UMC in Boston, cited Methodism's "racist, sexist, colonizing past" among the oppressions the movement aims to overcome in a new denomination. United Methodist bloggers mixed factual criticism with deep emotions in their contributions:

No doubt there will be more surprising developments between now and May when we gather for what our friend, the late Bishop Felton E. May, once called "the 10-day indoor picnic." Let's keep up with our prayers for General Conference, and stay tuned.


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