The following letter was sent on behalf of the Church Council of Eastport United Methodist to the Bishop of the Baltimore-Washington Conference concerning the postponement of the General Conference.
March 16, 2022
Dear Bishop Easterling:
I am writing in my capacity as the Lay Leader at Eastport United Methodist Church and the laity representative to the Baltimore-Washington Conference. I also am writing on behalf of our church council, which has asked me to contact you regarding the decision to postpone the General Conference for the third time—this time to 2024.
Our church council understands the challenges that the Commission on the General Conference has faced during the past two years. Yet, we are dismayed by the outcome it reached in its most recent deliberations. This sentiment appears to be widespread within the denomination and shared by both progressive and conservative congregations.
Many theologically progressive churches are frustrated by the prospect of a continued delay in removing the language in the Book of Discipline and in the Social Principles that is disparaging of LGBTQ persons and in eliminating the ban on clergy officiating at same-sex marriages and on preventing “self-avowed practicing” gays from serving as pastors and in other ministry positions. Civil disobedience is the likely outcome. Many theologically conservative churches are giving up on the process and unwilling to wait any longer for the General Conference to act. These churches have taken steps to launch a new denomination, The Global Methodist Church, less than two months from now.
These conflicts have exhausted parishioners and have attracted negative publicity in the news media for the United Methodist Church.
Our church council believes that the denomination cannot afford to wait another two years to resolve its longtime debate over LGBTQ inclusion and to approve a separation plan for those churches and conferences that favor a different direction. There is a proposal on the table, the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation, which appears to have widespread support among both conservatives and progressives especially within the American church. I recall the strong endorsement which it received in the resolution passed in last year’s Annual Meeting of the Baltimore-Washington Conference.
For that reason, our church council calls on the Council of Bishops to convene a Virtual Special General Conference this year with just one item on the agenda: a discussion and vote on the Protocol. With the technology that is available, this task should not be formidable even for those conferences and churches that are located in developing countries. As one of the members of our church council put it, “if a delegation can purchase plane tickets and deal with the rigors of international travel, it can find a way to obtain satisfactory internet access for a few hours”.
It is likely that the Protocol would be rapidly approved and that would avoid the difficulties and hardships that otherwise will hamper the ministries of the United Methodist Church for the next two years to say nothing about the legal issues that will have to be considered by the Judicial Council. It is time for action, and the Council of Bishops should initiate it.
Thank you for your consideration.
Michael J. Keller
cc: Rev. Christopher Broadwell
Church Council of Eastport United Methodist Church