NY Bishop Thomas Bickerton and Other Denominational Leaders Craft Proposal to Preserve the United Methodist Church

NY Bishop Thomas Bickerton and Other Denominational Leaders Craft Proposal to Preserve the United Methodist Church


   New York Annual Conference (NYAC) Resident Bishop, Thomas J. Bickerton is among a diverse group of United Methodist Church (UMC) leaders and advocacy groups from around the world who have created a proposal that would preserve the Church while allowing traditionalist-minded congregations to form a new denomination.

   Details of the proposal called the “Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation,” were released January 3 in a nine-page document along with a press release and a detailed list of frequently asked questions.

   “This work has provided a pathway for separation which leaves the current United Methodist Church in place while blessing groups that feel as if they can no longer remain,” Bishop Bickerton explained. 
   “After 47 years of debate over differing theological perspectives, we cannot reconcile our differences without some feeling that there are winners and losers. We want to avoid a repetition of the hurtful manner in which the 2019 Special Session of General Conference unfolded, prevent the dissolution of The United Methodist Church, and provide a graceful way for other Methodist denominations to emerge.”
   Representatives of traditionalist, centrist and progressive advocacy groups joined with Bishops from the United States, Africa, Europe and the Philippines to reach the agreement with the help of high-profile mediator Kenneth Feinberg. Those who signed the proposal have promised to support the protocol and no other leading up to the 2020 General Conference at the Minneapolis Convention Center.
   The Protocol expects that a new traditionalist Methodist denomination will be created. Once formed, the new church would receive $25 million over the next four years and give up further claim to the UMC’s assets. An additional $2 million would be allocated for potential additional new Methodist denominations that emerge from the UMC. 
   In an acknowledging of the historical role of the Methodist movement in systematic racial violence, exploitation and discrimination, the Protocol also allocates $39 million to ensure there is no disruption in supporting ministries for communities historically marginalized by racism. 
   According to the Bishop, this work is still in development. He stresses that “legislation is being prepared for the General Conference delegates to consider and the period of transition will take several years to accomplish if the General Conference embraces this work.”  
   While the work accomplished by the mediation team marks much-needed progress, the Bishop acknowledges that it is not accomplished without a sense of sadness and loss.  “The results we anticipate in this work is not without heartbreak.  As I have stated throughout the parish events this fall, we need to be anticipating change taking place within our denomination.  We will not look the same as we do now.  That reality is closer to us now than ever before.  In the midst of the work that is presented today, as well as the conversations that emerge in the days to follow, we need to exercise great care for one another in the midst of our disagreements for the sake of the mission of the church as a whole.”

  In expectation of a need to personally connect and minister to all NYAC members, the Bishop began a series of face-to-face Cooperative Parish meetings with every pastor and local church within the Annual Conference, focused on openness about the future and support.

   “I pledged in the parish meetings that we would walk through these days together, no matter one’s theological preference or desire.  This is an extremely important time for us exercise the love of God through the Holy Spirit to enable us to together get through these days of transition.”
   The Bishop says there will be more information in the upcoming days and weeks, adding that he “pledges to continue to be transparent in providing opportunities for conversation and dialogue each step of the way.”
 A live-stream event on Monday, January 13 will provide further clarity and explanations of the plan by members of the mediation team.