Frequently Asked Questions
Does the Protocol establish two new denominations—one progressive and one conservative?
No, the Protocol provides a way for those who do not desire to remain in The United Methodist Church to withdraw and separate themselves from the denomination. In addition to the expectation that a so-called traditionalist denomination will be formed by those planning to leave the UMC, the Protocol allows for the possibility that a progressive movement will also leave (see here). The United Methodist Church will continue to exist as the diverse expression of grace that it has been. You can read the Protocol for yourself here.
If the Protocol does not create two new denominations, why do some people seem to be saying that it does?
There are several possibilities. The first possibility is that some of us do not understand the Protocol. Another possibility is that some of us wish to portray it in this way in order to make leaving our denomination seem more attractive. Regardless, it is a misleading portrayal of the Protocol. A video explaining the Protocol in a fair and balanced way may be viewed here.
Is there any guarantee that pastors and churches would not be required to change their policies regarding weddings? What about the Episcopal bishop who was “defrocked?” Didn’t the Episcopal Church make assurances that those who remained traditional would not be forced to change?
What is in writing in the Protocol is the following: “We envision the Post-Separation United Methodist Church will strive to be a place where traditional United Methodists can continue to serve.” (Protocol – proposed ¶ 2556, last paragraph under 1.a). There is nothing in writing that alters a pastor or a church’s ability to set their own policies. Protections against interfering in another pastor’s ministry are expected to remain in the Book of Discipline (¶ 2702.3.j). Churches and pastors are expected to have several years to discern where they would like to serve, so those wishing to test the water in post-separation UMC could do so and make decisions later based on their experiences.
Anything happening within the Episcopal Church is beyond our control or purview. However, this appears to refer to Bishop Robert Duncan, who was removed from the Episcopal Church not because he wished to remain traditional in thought and practice, but because he organized dioceses in a schism to leave the Episcopal Church and form a new structure outside of the main body. More can be read here.
What happens now since the General Conference has been delayed?
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the planned 2020 General Conference was delayed twice. The new dates have been announced as August 29-September 6, 2022. We anticipate that all of these decisions affecting The United Methodist Church and our North Alabama Conference will still occur, starting at that time. Should the landscape of likely legislative action change as result of these schedule changes, we anticipate doing all we can to make sure that our churches and Annual Conference stand within a United Methodist Church that makes space for all persons, including traditionalists, centrists, and progressives. This website will reflect any changes in plans as they develop.
What if the Protocol does not pass at the rescheduled General Conference in 2022?
The signatories on this site and the coalition under the Stay UMC umbrella assume passage of the Protocol for Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation. We realize the possibility that this legislation may not pass, could be ruled unconstitutional, or could be altered substantially. Any number of possibilities could emerge from General Conference. Should the Protocol not pass in its current from, check back to this site for an update.
Do you endorse the Protocol for Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation?
Stay UMC does not have a position on the Protocol. Some signatories may support it, others may not. We do acknowledge the very real possibility that the Protocol and its provisions will likely force the North Alabama Conference to make a decision about whether or not it wishes to remain in The United Methodist Church. Assuming this comes to pass, we wish for the North Alabama Conference to remain in The United Methodist Church.
Does “Stay UMC” have a position on the ordination and marriage of LGBTQ+ persons?
In a word, no. Some of us support full inclusion in a “Post-Separation UMC.” Others may not share that goal, but wish to have a United Methodist Church with open hearts, open minds, and open doors and to that end yearn to “Stay UMC.” Many of us believe it is best to remove harmful and discriminatory language in the Discipline as recommended by the Protocol. Many others of us wrestle with this. But we believe in staying at the table, moving forward in history together, and being the Church that welcomes and affirms all of God’s people. We share the common goal of staying in The UMC.
Why are only so-called “traditionalists” the ones who are leaving the United Methodist Church?
In the negotiations that led to the creation of the Protocol, it was key leaders from the Wesleyan Covenant Association and other allied groups who agreed to leave the United Methodist Church to create a new expression of Methodism that is now taking the name of the “Global Methodist Church.” You can hear Keith Boyette, president of the WCA (and now chairperson of the Transitional Leadership Council of the Global Methodist Church), explain his rationale for this here. We still have many traditionalists within Stay UMC as well as centrists and progressives, each who work out their own understanding of ethics through first listening to the witness of Scripture, but also tradition, reason, and experience. We believe the United Methodist Church should be a place that respects this diversity of thought and practice.
Why do you have your own logo and not use the United Methodist Cross & Flame?
We love the Cross and Flame! However, the General Council on Finance and Administration prohibits any group that is not an official United Methodist organization from using it. We do, however, exist solely to support The UMC and keep the North Alabama Conference in it.
I have read in the literature of breakaway Methodists of the grand plans for spiritual revival, world wide ministry, and a reclaiming of Methodist heritage. This all sounds wonderful. Why should I “Stay UMC” instead?
We wish all those departing from The UMC well and hope their anticipated future has a positive impact for God’s kingdom. We simply believe that spiritual revival, meaningful ministry, and a movement that takes risks for the transformation of the world has already been happening in The UMC and will continue in greater ways in the future. The Holy Spirit is at work in the North Alabama Conference, and we have faith that our churches and ministries together will continue to impact our world and transform lives in the name of Jesus Christ. This isn’t to say that the UMC is perfect. Like any institution, it has its challenges. Yet, we do not wish to abandon the Church, just as God never abandons us. In a idealized view of starting a new denomination, one can forget how much there is to be lost by leaving.
How many churches in the United States will leave the UMC and form the new breakaway denomination called the Global Methodist Church?
Naturally, no one can be sure. However, there are presently about 1,500 congregations aligned with the Wesleyan Covenant Association (the advocacy group promoting withdrawal from the UMC and founding of the new so-called “traditionalist” denomination). The WCA estimates that between 3,000 and 5,000 congregations in the United States will secede and join the GMC. This represents somewhere between 10% and 16% of the 30,000 United Methodist Churches in the United States. The WCA estimates that 95% of these congregations will have less than 500 members. See here for more information.
Local leadership from various perspectives within the North Alabama Conference generally assume that this percentage will be higher in North Alabama, since we are in the religious context of the southern United States.
I have seen a simple chart that contrasts the post-separation UMC with the newly forming GMC. Is true that the post-separation UMC will have a new position on issues like abortion and pluralism?
In a word, no. The Protocol allows for a gracious exit and startup funds for at least two breakaway denominations to withdraw from the main body of the UMC (one “traditionalist” and one “progressive”). The Protocol assumes the post-separation UMC will then remove the controversial language regarding human sexuality from the Discipline, leaving room for contextualized ministry and diversity of thought. However, any assumption regarding the beliefs of the UMC on other social issues is simply conjecture.
Every four years, the General Conference of the UMC revises the United Methodist Discipline and the Social Principles (a non-binding teaching document). The General Conference is the only body that speaks for the United Methodist Church.
How could I find out more about the UMC?
If you are new to all this, there are excellent online resources for exploring Methodist spirituality, beliefs, missions, and structure. Check out the official website of The United Methodist Church and its articles on what we believe and how we are structured.
There are also resources at United Methodist Communications, including basics on United Methodism and a primer on what General Conference is and how it works. One of those resources is a study guide to help United Methodists have constructive conversations on the difficult topic of human sexuality.
I see all the lay and clergy signatories, but who is organizing Stay UMC?
The Stay UMC Board is comprised of the following persons:
Blair Bassham, an active layperson who worships at Mountain Chapel United Methodist Church Birmingham, AL
Elizabeth Crosby, a student at UAB and member of the UAB Wesley Foundation
Lindsey Meadows Eastwood, a Birmingham based attorney and life long United Methodist layperson who worships at First United Methodist Church in Birmingham, AL
Randy Kelley, an ordained elder in the North Alabama Conference now serving as pastor at Lakeside United Methodist Church in Huntsville, AL
Todd Noren-Hentz, an ordained elder in the North Alabama Conference now serving as pastor at Epworth United Methodist Church in Huntsville, AL
Tammy Jackson, an ordained elder in the North Alabama Conference now serving as pastor at Anniston First United Methodist Church in Anniston, AL
Kip Laxson, an ordained elder in the North Alabama Conference now serving as pastor at Asbury United Methodist Church in Birmingham, AL
Steve West, an ordained elder in the North Alabama Conference now serving as pastor at Jacksonville First United Methodist Church in Jacksonville, AL