The Jan. 3 announcement of the Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation came as a surprise to many United Methodists, including Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr.
“Everyone was caught off guard, including many on the Council of Bishops,” the Great Plains Conference episcopal leader told clergy during the 2020 Orders & Fellowship clergy training event at Lincoln St. Mark’s UMC. The bishop provided a time of explanation and questions following the close of Wednesday’s session for clergy interested in the subject.
Bishop Saenz said he welcomed the agreement created by a 16-member group that included bishops and representatives of several United Methodist organizations on multiple sides of the ongoing debate.
“It was a release and a relief that the church doesn’t have hold its breath for the next four months” until the General Conference, May 5-15 in Minneapolis, the bishop told clergy.
Bishop Saenz told the clergy that he had already planned a four-day inventory retreat with the appointive cabinet in Schuyler, Nebraska, when the protocol was released to the public and was unable to fully view the protocol nor share his opinions.
Since then, he has released a video and letter to the Great Plains Conference with his insight on the protocol. His PowerPoint presentation, with notes used for his presentation, are available on the conference website.
“For now, I’m going to be living into the spirit of the protocol,” Bishop Saenz said, adding that LGBTQ persons who did not previously publicly declare their sexual orientations had been a part of the denomination for decades.
The protocol, if passed in its legislative form at the upcoming General Conference, would allow churches who don’t agree with the inclusion of LGBTQ clergy nor the new allowance to perform same-gender weddings to leave the United Methodist Church and form new denominations.
The bishop took questions from the audience, addressing topics such as addressing discrimination and what passage of the protocol could mean for the future of the denomination and its local churches.
“We’re already living with it,” the bishop said while encouraging pastors to continue doing the work of making disciples of Jesus Christ. “If you’re already growing and flourishing, what’s going to happen?”
Bishop Saenz told the clergy it “pains” him to be talking about separation, acknowledging that by the time the next Orders & Fellowship comes in January 2021, “some of you might not be here.”
“I see this not as a time for fear, but a time for trust,” the bishop said. “My hope is that everybody will see we’re better together than we are apart.”
The bishop’s presentation will be available on the conference website as soon as video from the event has been processed and edited.
View the bishop's Powerpoint presentation.
View a video of the bishop's conversation with clergy.
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