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Parting Ways with Christian Charity

By Kent Millard

March 25, 2022

The Rev. Dr. Kent Millard addresses the 2020 Pre-General Conference Briefing in Nashville, Tennessee. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS

For 18 years I served as the senior pastor at St Luke’s United Methodist Church in Indianapolis, Indiana, a 6,000 member congregation that includes conservative, centrist and progressive followers of Jesus. I wanted all of our members to know that God sent Jesus Christ into the world to demonstrate God’s amazing grace and unconditional love for us and to die on a cross and rise again for our redemption and the forgiveness of our sins regardless of where we are on the theological spectrum.

I have served as a delegate to four General Conferences and watched our denomination descend into uncharitable conflict. The rancor and anger at the 2019 special General Conference convinced me and many others that we needed to find a way to amicably separate from one another since we could no longer work together fruitfully in making disciples of Jesus Christ.

I worked with conservatives, centrists, and progressives on the Indianapolis Plan, an amicable proposal for separation that preceded the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation. I then happily endorsed the Protocol as a better proposal for what me and my theologically diverse partners were attempting to accomplish with our Indianapolis Plan.

Like many United Methodists I had hoped the Protocol would be passed at the 2020 General Conference or the 2021 General Conference or the 2022 General Conference so we could bless each other as we went our separate ways. I am deeply disappointed that the Commission on General Conference has now postponed the decision about an organized amicable separation to 2024.

The African Methodist Episcopal Zion and the African Methodist Episcopal denominations both held successful, inclusive General Conferences in August 2021. They conducted virtual conferences with over 800 delegates in different locations around the world. Unfortunately, our United Methodist leaders chose not to take that obvious path.

I am a centrist, and I will remain in the UM Church, but I understand the frustration my conservative brothers and sisters have with this unnecessary delay of General Conference to 2024.

Now my prayer is that United Methodist bishops and annual conferences will practice Christian charity as they work through the process of allowing pastors and congregations to transfer to the newly formed Global Methodist Church. Amicable separation is still a possibility if United Methodist leaders choose a fair and grace filled path in each annual conference. This would be an excellent time for all of us to practice the fruit of the spirit with each other: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22).

I currently serve as President at United Theological Seminary which will remain as a seminary of the UM Church. United currently has students from 37 different denominations. We will welcome students from any denomination (including the Global Methodist Church) that supports our mission to prepare “faithful and fruitful Christian leaders who make disciples of Jesus Christ.” Despite our differences, I pray we can all support that mission, and bless one another in Christian charity as we go our separate ways.

The Rev. Dr. Kent Millard is the President of United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio.

East Ohio WCA is not affiliated with the East Ohio UNITED METHODIST CHURCH.

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