By Walter Fenton
January 26, 2022
As most countries around the world emerge from strict lockdowns in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, organizations are holding major gatherings they cancelled in 2020 and 2021. It requires initiative and ingenuity on the part of organizers, but many are finding ways to return to normal. Whether it’s an international, five-day pediatricians’ conference in Colorado, or a major music festival in California, organizations are moving ahead with events this year.
So, it increasingly seems likely The United Methodist Church’s General Conference will convene its twice postponed General Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 29 – September 6, 2022. While the Commission on the General Conference continues to monitor the pandemic, the organizers say they are continuing to plan as if the conference will be held this year.
The convening of the General Conference will allow delegates to vote on the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation, an amicable and orderly plan that would allow theologically conservative local churches, annual conferences, and even central conferences to join the new Global Methodist Church. Neither theological centrists, progressives, nor conservatives agree with every detail of the Protocol. However, the majority of United Methodists appear to believe its adoption is preferable to keeping local churches locked in a denomination where continued fighting harms everyone.
“As soon as the Protocol is adopted, we will be prepared to launch the Global Methodist Church,” said the Rev. Keith Boyette, chairman of the Transitional Leadership Council, a body charged with shepherding the new church through a transitional period.
According to the terms of the Protocol, local churches will be allowed to convene church conferences where its membership can vote to join the new Global Methodist Church. And annual and central conferences, at either regularly scheduled or special called sessions, could also vote to join the new church.
During their 2023 annual conferences, predominantly centrist to progressive United Methodist annual conferences will almost certainly decide to remain with the post separation UM Church. Therefore, theologically conservative local churches in these conferences are likely to be the first churches to join the Global Methodist Church in the Fall of 2022. It also likely some theologically conservative U.S. annual conferences will convene special sessions late this year so they can vote to join the new church as well.
On the other hand, many local churches, and annual, and central conferences around the world will wait until 2023 to decide whether they will join the Global Methodist Church.
“Given the terms of the Protocol and the scheduling of annual and central conferences worldwide, the Global Methodist Church will have some early and late adopters, and many that will fall somewhere in between,” said Boyette. “That’s the purpose of the Transitional Leadership Council; it will guide the new denomination through a 12-to-18-month transitional period until the church is ready to hold its convening General Conference. We want to make sure as many local churches and conferences as possible are fairly represented by duly elected delegates at the Global Methodist Church’s convening conference.”
Pastors and lay leaders can learn more about the new church and how to prepare for transitioning to it by visiting the Global Methodist Church’s website.
The Rev. Walter Fenton serves as the secretary for the Transitional Leadership Council.