A Pastoral Letter to the Members and Friends of Mary Esther United Methodist Church

ChurchPastor's Blog

Rev. Dr. Sam Pearson Parkes

Greetings, dear colleagues in Christ’s Ministry! May the continuing gift of the Christ Child fill us all with joy on this 10th day of Christmastide!

Many of you have already seen the articles and interviews in the major news outlets in the nation about the proposed Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace through Separation for the UMC. (Also see this set of FAQs) This came as a surprise to many of us today! But many of the headlines that we are seeing are inaccurate and misinterpret where we are in this process. While we can discuss the aspects of the Protocol at a later date, for today I wanted to address a couple of issues:

First, non-UMC outlets with non-UMC reporters are inevitably going to get it wrong! They just don’t understand our systems and ways of doing things. So, if you want the most accurate analysis and facts, please go to www.UMNews.org. The attached article is the original post from them on these issues.

Second, the ONLY body of people that can speak for the UMC is the General Conference which is held quadrennially for about 10 days. The group of people who wrote the Protocol represents many (but not ALL) constituencies in our church. It is indeed an interesting addition to the other plans already submitted as legislation to this year’s General Conference from May 5-15. But, this Protocol does NOT split the church. At least not yet. However, at first glance, it does seem to be garnering significant support.

Third, given our legislative process, there is every likelihood that the Protocol will not retain this form by the end. Like ANY OTHER PROPOSAL, the Protocol must be submitted as one petition or a set of petitions to the General Conference. When it gets to the sausage-grinder of the legislative floor things will likely change. It will have to garner the majority of delegates just like any other legislation. We will not know the ultimate outcome until May 16.

So, your church has not split! And we have miles to go before anything happens. What is important right now is for us to PRAY for the United Methodist Church and to continue being a witness for Jesus Christ in this community. Your church leadership and I will collaborate soon on a process that can help our church understand what is happening in the general church. Until then, perhaps you will join me in praying this wonderful prayer by Walter Rauschenbusch:

O God of all times and places,
we pray for your Church,
which is set today amid the perplexities of a changing order,
and face to face with new tasks.
Baptize her afresh in the life–giving spirit of Jesus.
Bestow upon her a great responsiveness to duty,
a swifter compassion with suffering,
and an utter loyalty to your will.
Help her to proclaim boldly the coming of your kingdom.
Put upon her lips the ancient gospel of her Lord.
Fill her with the prophets’ scorn of tyranny,
and with a Christlike tenderness for the heavyladen and downtrodden.
Bid her cease from seeking her own life, lest she lose it.
Make her valiant to give up her life to humanity,
that, like her crucified Lord,
she may mount by the path of the cross to a higher glory;
through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Grace and Peace be with you all!