Back in 2019, Kenneth Feinberg, a leading expert in mediation who happens to be Jewish, volunteered his services to help progressives, traditionalist, and centrist create the Protocol for Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation and Restructuring. The Protocol wasn’t perfect, but it did set forth a plan for the denomination to split in a way where we wouldn’t waste so much time, money, and energy fighting each other. That was the important thing. If the UMC is going to split, let’s get it over with so we can get back to the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ.
Much has changed since 2019 and most of it for the worse. The separation was going to be difficult enough, but then a pandemic, riots, war, inflation, and more was added to pot and given too much time to simmer. Now fear and anxiety over the last 2+ years has made it difficult to remember the spirit of respect and cooperation that led to the Protocol. Here are the principles that seem to be guiding us in the Dakotas UMC, that I hope we stick to and export to other regions:
- Staying on the road while keeping the destination in mind: Prior to General Conference 2019, the destination was unity. In the fall of 2019, the destination changed to amicable separation. Can we use our creativity to work within the bounds of the Book of Discipline to still arrive? I believe we can.
- A good home for every church and every pastor: In any conference, we know that there are churches and pastors that don’t fit. They are the crazy uncles that come to the family reunion. We put up with them, but we don’t really love or respect them. Can we help them be part of a denomination where they are valued?
- Faithfulness in our commitments to each other: Up until the date a church officially separates or a clergy person surrenders their credentials, they are United Methodists. We are on the same team. Can we fulfill our commitments to support each other as well as our other commitments to retirees and apportionments?
- A separation that encourages future cooperation: How you separate makes a difference. Imagine that, when you left your parent’s home, they handed you a bill for the last 18 years of room and board and sold your stuff to help pay the bill. Would you feel welcome to come home for Thanksgiving or Christmas? This is a necessary separation just like sending a kid off to college. Can we send them off well?
In the video, I go over what we are looking doing or thinking about in the Dakotas UMC to live up to this.
- Dakotas UMC Resolution for Cooperation: https://www.dropbox.com/s/17vsc84rints1l5/Inter-Methodist_Relations_Resolution.docx?dl=0
- Dakotas UMC Values Workshop: https://www.dakotasumc.org/about/strategy-team/values-workshop