On what was supposed to be the first day of the 2020 General Conference, the leaders of the Mainstream UMC movement urged fellow centrists and progressives to not let their guard down for LGBTQ equality.
“Their hopes and dreams were waiting in the balance, and now they have to wait another year and a half,” said the Rev. Dr. Mark Holland, co-founder and executive director of Mainstream UMC.
The May 5 video town hall, “A Call for Grace,” came on the original date of the worldwide gathering in Minneapolis, delayed until next year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Tentative dates are Aug. 31 to Sept. 10, 2021.
Holland said Mainstream UMC was hoping for passage of the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation, a proposal that was introduced in January after negotiated agreement from all factions of the denomination.
“We can go ahead and be living into the grace of the Protocol that’s already been negotiated, already been presented to General Conference, and we can begin to live into it now,” said Holland, a South Central Jurisdictional Conference delegate for 2021.
In “A Call for Grace,” Holland called for bishops and annual conferences to continue the moratorium for church trials involving pastors performing same-sex weddings and for LGBTQ clergy.
“We need to go the extra mile for the next year-and-a-half and extend that moratorium,” he said. “We don’t have the energy, we don’t have the financial resources, and really it’s just the wrong message to be sending people to trial over something that’s going to be resolved once we get to General Conference.”
Another component is asking bishops and General Conferences to “honor the spirit of the Protocol” by allowing churches wanting to leave to do so with the more favorable financial terms that the proposal offered.
“We believe with those two provisions we can really help our church move forward in a strong and powerful way, and give people an opportunity to get started on living into the kind of church that each group imagines,” Holland said.
Andrew Ponder Williams, a Mainstream UMC lay advisory board member from Arizona, led an opening prayer by thanking all of the front-line workers -- including his husband, a grocery store manager – during the time of pandemic and sheltering.
“We know our call to be the church is renewed in this crisis,” Williams said. “God, we pray that when we exit this trying time, we will not be the church we were.”
The Rev. David Livingston, a member of the Mainstream UMC board of directors and pastor at Fairway Old Mission UMC, said he was gratified by the presentation and response.
“I think it was a good conversation,” said Livingston, a clergy delegate to the 2021 General Conference. “There was some good, constructive feedback. There was a lot of appreciation for answers to questions that people had. I appreciated Mark took all the questions that he had time for and didn’t edit out the questions he didn’t want to deal with. He dealt with them as they came in.
“We’re in an uncertain time right now, for lots of reasons, and I think it was helpful to get some people back on the same page,” he added.
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