A Great Plains Conference pastor who was among those consulted in the first steps of the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation said he’s pleased with the outcome of the document released Jan. 3, but there is still work ahead.
“I think it’s a huge step forward. It’s an acknowledgement that we’re stuck,” said the Rev. Dr. Mark Holland, a Kansas City pastor and founder of Mainstream UMC, which began in August 2018 to represent centrists and progressives in The United Methodist Church.
Holland said the protocol, which he consulted on beginning in July 2019, is fair to the traditional churches, clergy and laity in the denomination who do not want LGBTQ clergy nor have same-sex weddings performed by their clergy or in their facilities.
“We want to bless that and honor that,” he said.
Holland said the fact that the protocol passed unanimously by its panel of theologically diverse bishops bodes well for the proposal.
“It’s a watershed event in that we have an agreement,” he said. “We have a lot of work left to do, but it’s a great step forward.”
That work, he said, includes meeting with delegates from the central conferences, particularly the Philippines and Africa, to “explain why this is a good proposition.”
“It helps to build the trust that we’re going to get this agreement across the finish line, and do so in good faith,” he said.
Interviewed before the #ResistHarm rally at Topeka Countryside UMC just 24 hours after the proposal was made public, Holland said he feels “a lot of positive, guarded optimism” with the plan after response from others.
“There’s a real lack of trust in our church right now, and I think for good reason, on both sides,” Holland said. “There’s some hesitation, but I think that everyone has signed onto it.”
During the #ResistHarm gathering, one of two in the conference that day, Holland publicly asked Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. to join with other episcopal leaders to declare a five-month abeyance on any church trials for clergy defying the human sexuality-related matters in the Book of Discipline.
The bishop, who was in northern Nebraska at a previously scheduled appointive cabinet retreat, told conference staff members on Jan. 6 that he would make a statement next week, following the South Central Jurisdiction College of Bishops meeting in Dallas.
“There is a lot of hope in what lies ahead,” the bishop told the staff regarding the proposal, “and there is a lot of disappointment and grief as well.”
Bishop Saenz said the plan should not be viewed as one side getting its way over another.
“There are no winners and no losers in this situation,” he said. “The idea is that we do no harm to each other.”
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