Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation
I write to commend to you the fruit of a mediation process 
undertaken by sixteen United Methodists, entitled “A Protocol 
of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation.” The 
eight-page document, linked here, represents work done by a 
group of United Methodists from across the world who 
represent many (not all) of the important streams of our 
church. This work was done in collaboration with Mr. Kenneth
 Feinberg, noted mediator known for his work with the 
September 11 Victim’s Compensation Fund, the Virginia Tech 
and Boston Marathon victims, and the BP Deepwater Horizon 
Disaster. Mr. Feinberg, who is not a United Methodist, offered 
his professional guidance to us pro bono.

The Protocol is offered in service to the delegates who will gather four short months from now in Minneapolis for the 2020 General Conference. It is not perfect--no mediation is--but it gives a great deal to each of these different streams, more than I could have imagined at the beginning. All of this has been done—and the word I hear from many is that it is something of a miracle—without harming these persons. I attribute this to the work of the Holy Spirit.

The protocol was unanimously affirmed and signed by the sixteen participants. Key features of the mediation protocol and proposed legislation that will follow are:

  • The ongoing existence of The United Methodist Church
  • A gracious way of departure for a traditionalist conservative Methodist Church, with a financial settlement.
  • The creation of four regional conferences—Africa, U.S., Europe, Philippines—each with its own ability to adapt the Book of Discipline.
  • The removal of restrictive language related to LGBTQ identity and practice in the U.S. post-separation United Methodist Church immediately following the May General Conference.
  • Holding in abeyance any administrative or judicial processes regarding restrictions in the Book of Discipline related to LGBTQ persons, as of January 1, 2020.
  • Creation of a fund to strengthen the Black Church and ministries with and among marginalized persons.
  • No annual conference or local church is required to vote on departure from the United Methodist Church.
  • No one is asked to leave or separate from the church.
  • Annual Conferences and local churches may vote to depart from The United Methodist Church with their property in order to participate in another Methodist expression.
  • Wespath will offer a continuity of service across the various Methodist expressions.

Note: This brief summary is not intended to be a substitute for the actual reading of the protocol. It is simply to encourage United Methodists to develop an understanding of the contents of the protocol.

Much of the effect of this protocol will be how we receive it and how we turn toward each other. It is not about winners or losers, but about how God's promise of grace and reconciliation relates to our structures, convictions, and hopes. It is significant, and at the same time, it is one step in a journey.

For me, this mediation work is in the fulfillment of my consecration vows as a bishop, to seek the unity of the church. And for me, it is in continuity with the work of the Commission on a Way Forward.

  • No one has to vote to leave the church.
  • No one is being asked to leave the church.
  • And the United Methodist Church, under the cross and flame, will continue to be in ministry across the world.

We were told in the mediation process that if we did not write the narrative, it would be written for us. A culture of trials related to LGBTQ persons in the church becomes the dominant narrative. By holding these administrative and judicial processes in abeyance until the resolution of these matters, we are able to devote our energies to working and walking together to finding reconciliation and grace through structural separation.

I give thanks for those who participated in the mediation and particularly to Mr. Kenneth Feinberg, who led us in this process. I give thanks for all the people of the Florida Conference, and believe this mediation does no harm to anyone of them. I also place great trust in our delegation to the 2020 General Conference. They are authorized to help our church to move forward into a new season of mission and flourishing.

In the interim, we have much work to do in service to our Lord, in the strengthening of our local churches and ministries. We have an important question to answer: “What kind of annual conference will we be?” And we are in connection with each other, for a larger purpose: “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” This will continue to be my focus, and I ask you to join me.

The Peace of the Lord,
Ken Carter
Bishop, Florida Conference,
The United Methodist Church

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Relational Evangelism—The Power of One

Although most of us agree on the importance of evangelism, there is often a reluctance to get involved on a personal level. The New Testament demonstrates three distinct kinds of evangelism. All three approaches have God’s blessing, and each one is effective.

Proclamational Evangelism occurs when one person stands in front of a large group and proclaims the message of Jesus. Peter used this approach in Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit arrived on the scene and the church began. In our modern world, preachers like Charles Stanley and Tim Keller are highly effective practitioners of this method. However, most of us are uncomfortable speaking about our faith in front of a large audience.

Confrontational Evangelism is when a believer approaches a stranger and shares a simple gospel message. In Acts 8, Phillip uses this approach when he ministers to the Ethiopian eunuch. Our most prominent local confrontational evangelism is Diane Williams, known as the “Jesus Cares” lady, sharing with every passerby the simple message that Jesus Cares. This is yet another method that most of us non-confrontational Christians feel uncomfortable with.

Relational Evangelism is the method of evangelism that seems to work for most Christians. This method involves building intentional relationships with people who don’t know Jesus. Over times, as our friendship grows, opportunities arise naturally to talk about issues of faith. Jesus himself was a great exponent of this method, repeatedly befriending sinners such as Zacchaeus (See Luke 19).

Although most of us are not comfortable as public speakers or in evangelizing random non-Christians, we are willing to use our relationships to tell our friends and acquaintances about our relationship with Jesus.

The focus on relational evangelism stresses the importance of dealing with people on an individual level. In Luke 15:1-7, Jesus tells the parable of the Lost Sheep. In this parable, a shepherd has 100 sheep, but one of them has wandered away and has become lost. In response, the shepherd leaves the 99 behind and focuses his energy on finding the lost one. That is the goal of relational evangelism: to focus our love and attention on lost individuals.

When the shepherd found his lost sheep, there was joy on three levels. There was personal joy, for the shepherd; there was collective joy when the shepherd called all his friends and relatives to celebrate his sheep’s return; and, there was heavenly joy. Yes, there is heavenly joy when someone accepts Jesus and becomes a child of God. Jesus said, “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than 99 righteous persons who need no repentance.”

Our unsaved friends and relations are “blind” (2 Corinthians 4:3-5), they are “dead” (Ephesians 2) and they are “trapped by Satan” (2 Timothy 2:25-26). But we must remember that they are not the enemy—rather they are the victims of the enemy.

The parable of the lost sheep teaches us three valuable lessons:

1. Every person matters to God.
2. You may be the critical link in reaching someone who is lost.
3. Joy comes as a result of reflecting God’s heart toward lost people.

Is there someone in your world who is lost? Would you pray daily for that person or couple? Pray that God would send a loving, seeking shepherd to find them—and that shepherd might be you!

Gwen and Ed Diaz
71:17 Ministries