From the desk of Bishop Mark J. Webb: Should the 2020 General Conference approve the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation
March 12, 2020 / By Bishop Mark J. Webb
Editor’s Note: The following is a letter written by Upper New York Conference Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb that was sent to the UNY Conference on March 12, 2020.
Dear Sisters & Brothers in Christ,
For many years The United Methodist Church has attempted to be unified through our mission of “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world’, while experiencing deep disagreement about how we carry out the mission. As we move closer to the 2020 General Conference, one of the significant pieces of legislation is the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation. Whether this legislation will be supported by the General Conference delegates is yet to be seen.
The Protocol attempts to end our debate regarding the definition of Christian marriage and the ability of LGBTQIA individuals to be certified as candidates for ministry and licensed or ordained as clergy in The United Methodist Church. While the Protocol deals specifically with our disagreements around human sexuality there are also areas of disagreement around additional doctrinal, theological, ecclesiology and missiology matters within The United Methodist Church. The intended result of the Protocol is the opportunity to create multiple expressions of Methodism that allow us to bless one another and provide the space to be the Church of Jesus Christ that we believe God is calling us to be.
If the Protocol passes, individuals will be given the ability to decide whether to remain in the United Methodist Church or become a part of a new traditional expression of Methodism or other expressions that may emerge. It’s a decision that we will all have to make. A hard decision.
Like you, I love the United Methodist Church, it is a Church that introduced me to the amazing grace of Jesus Christ, drew me deeper in my journey of spiritual formation and discipleship and provided amazing opportunities to live out God’s call upon my life. I love the people who are The United Methodist Church. In every place, God has used the women, men, youth and children of The United Methodist Church to shape my life, encourage my spirit and be my spiritual family.
Since the release of the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation, many conversations have been happening around the Church among United Methodists as they dream about God’s future and their place within it. Bishops, District Superintendents, General Agency leaders, clergy and laity have and will continue to engage in these kinds of conversations. I have been a participant in many conversations, and I want you to be aware of my participation in a recent conversation focused on a vision for a new traditional expression of Methodism which could emerge if the Protocol is passed. It is as a bishop of The United Methodist Church that I engage with other United Methodist followers of Jesus Christ in this conversation and work.
As a bishop of The United Methodist Church, I remain committed to positioning the whole of The United Methodist Church to be a vital part of the body of Christ in whatever form. In this “in-between” time, I remain committed to serving the Upper New York Area of The United Methodist Church and placing this conference in the best position, - so that, wherever and however clergy, laity and congregations live out their ministry and mission in the future, they will do so with excellence. I will continue to put my energy in the work we have been doing together to increase the capacity of Christ-following leaders, multiplying the number of vital congregations in Upper New York and equipping us to go deeper in our journey with Christ, while boldly inviting others to a life of following Jesus fully. I will continue to partner with you so that you may live out God’s call upon your life today and tomorrow.
While the future shape of The United Methodist Church is unknown, the future of the Church of Jesus Christ is clear. The Gospel of Jesus Christ remains unchanged, the need of the world for Jesus is urgent and the mission God invites us to share, demands our faithfulness. May we boldly say yes to God’s call upon our lives and assist one another in that response.
A summary of the recent conversation I participated in regarding the vision and creation of a new traditional expression of Methodism should the 2020 General Conference approve the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation can be found here.
I encourage all of us to engage deeply in prayer and respectful conversation with one another and create an environment that honors and equips one another to hear God’s voice and follow God’s call according to our convictions.
As always, I remain available to share in any conversation with you and journey with you in any way as we travel this season within the life of our beloved United Methodist Church.
My prayers continue for each of you – thank you for praying for me.
Mark J. Webb