The mission of the Buncombe Street UMC Way Forward Task Force is to create an educational program available to all church members in anticipation of General Conference 2024. In the spirit of shared faith and Christian love, our goal is to identify, organize and communicate information to clarify the issues that might impact the future of the United Methodist Church.
Buncombe Street Church Council and leadership have established the Way Forward Task Force to serve as a resource to all BSUMC members in preparation for the General Conference in 2024.
Way Forward Task Force: What You Want to Know
Submit questions regarding the special Church Conference scheduled for October 30, 2022.
Educational Meetings to begin in August
In preparation for our special church conference on October 30, the Way Forward Task Force will host six educational town hall style meetings weekly beginning in August. These meetings will be recorded, and the replay will be available on this webpage. The Task Force continues to regularly meet to work towards the mission to provide balanced content on the main topic areas regarding the potential disaffiliation from the United Methodist Church. Stay tuned for more specific information!
Expanded Task Force and Objective of the Way Forward Task Force
On May 10, 2022, Buncombe Street’s Church Council approved the members of the Way Forward Task Force, both continuing members and new members are listed on the document linked below. In addition, Church Council approved the Objective of the Task Force (also on below document.) The Task Force is beginning its work and will communicate updates periodically. Please feel free to reach out to any of the members or submit questions or comments through the form on the bottom of this webpage.
On April 12th, our Buncombe Street Church Council (the administrative body which executes our annual Charge Conference) passed a motion that calls for a Church Conference to occur between September 12 and November 18, 2022 on the affiliation question. These actions are two of the three ways, according to our Book of Discipline 2016, to require the District Superintendent to hold a special Church Conference whereby all of our church members may vote on a singular issue – similar to the vote on adopting Trinity UMC in April, 2017. Church Council will be expanding our Way Forward Task Force to add more members at their next meeting on May 10, 2022.
The motion passed at the Church Council meeting on April 12, 2022 may be read by clicking the button below.
Citing the continuing pandemic and the difficulty in obtaining visas for foreign attendees, the United Methodist Church committee responsible for planning the General Conference (scheduled August / September 2022- Minneapolis) has postponed the General Conference and rescheduled it for 2024.
Frequently Asked Questions: General Conference of the United Methodist Church
Thank you to our pastors for their thoughtful crafting of the below frequently asked questions (FAQ) about the United Methodist Church, its General Conference 2024, and the “Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation,” one of the proposals to be considered at this upcoming General Conference. This summary supports the efforts of the BSUMC Way Forward Task Force to identify, organize, and communicate information about the connectional structure of the United Methodist Church, its processes, and the issues to be considered at General Conference 2024. Offering this resources in the spirit of shared faith and Christian love, we hope you will use them in your own conversations about the future of the United Methodist Church.
The General Conference is the decision making body of the United Methodist denomination and is made up of clergy and laity (non-clergy) delegates from all the conference areas around the world, including the US, Africa, Europe, and Asia. General Conference is scheduled to meet every four years, with the last regularly scheduled session was in 2016. In 2019, a special General Conference was called to discuss the issue of sexuality as it relates to same-sex marriages, weddings, and ordinations. The next regularly scheduled General Conference was supposed to be May 2020, which was postponed due to the pandemic. South Carolina Annual Conference is sending 8 clergy and 8 laity delegates to the next General Conference.
General Conference was postponed due to the pandemic and the subsequent restrictions on large gatherings and international travel. Although a 2021 date was proposed, the Commission on General Conference rescheduled it for August 29 – September 6, 2022 in Minneapolis. It has now been rescheduled to 2024.
During the pandemic, since many people and institutions have adapted to virtual platforms, why hasn’t the UMC pursued a virtual option so that General Conference can resume without delay? This General Conference has 862 voting delegates who live in different time zones across the world, who need language interpreters, whose voting credentials need to be certified, and who have varying accessibility to technology. Only 55.9% of the delegates come from the U.S. and some delegates live in areas that do not have reliable electricity, let alone internet access. To hold a conference that limits or denies participation to delegates in determining the future of the denomination where voting delegates could not participate would be inequitable and unjust.
In addition to the regular business of General Conference, proposals are expected that will allow groups to separate from the United Methodist Church to create new Methodist denominations. Over 13 proposals were submitted and previewed by delegates before the General Conference was postponed. Sending legislation to General Conference is very similar to sending a bill through Congress in that legislative committees that can review and edit proposals and that the body can make amendments before it is voted on. If General Conference passes legislation for separation, a sequence of events will follow, including decisions by conference areas, congregations, and clergy. They will decide to remain with the United Methodist denomination or leave to create new Methodist denominations. Currently, these possibilities are just proposals and do not determine any course of action from anyone at this time.
Although 13 proposals were submitted to General Conference regarding sexuality and separation, one proposal was favored across the theological spectrum. It is “The Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation,” more commonly known as “The Protocol.” This proposal was drafted by a group representing traditionalists, centrists, and progressives with a mediator’s help. If The Protocol is received with no amendments and is adopted by General Conference 2024, there will be a plan for groups to leave the UMC to start new Methodist denominations including whole conference areas. If a local church or conference area wishes to remain within the UMC, there are no actions required.
Although the conversation about separation centers on human sexuality as it relates to same-sex weddings, marriages, and ordination, other related concerns will influence decision-making, including but not limited to 1) scriptural interpretation, 2) the work and authority of bishops, 3) global connectional ministry with differing cultural contexts, and 4) the process for appointing clergy to churches. What the separation will look like is difficult to predict because the plans are just proposals at this time. However, the United Methodist Church will persist after General Conference and will remain a denomination with congregations, clergy, conference areas, and agencies. At least one group called the Global Methodist Church has already announced its intention to leave the United Methodist denomination after General Conference 2024. Currently, it “has not been legally formed and is not operating as a church at this time.” After a decision is made in 2024, conference areas, congregations, and clergy will have the opportunity to align with their choice of denomination.
BSUMC Church Council has created the Way Forward Task Force, a small committee of members, joined by Rev. Gilmer from our staff, to provide information to the congregation as we move towards 2024 General Conference. We ask that everyone continue to be patient, prayerful, and persistent in the good work of the Kingdom of God. Every church member and clergy person is a child of God, and every congregation and conference area exists for the ministry of Jesus Christ. As a church, we must continue to be faithful to the call to be and make disciples for the transformation of the world as best we can. In the words of John Wesley, founder of the Wesleyan movement, “Though we can’t think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt we may. Herein all children of God may unite, notwithstanding these smaller differences. These remaining as they are, they may forward one another in love and in good works.”
Quotation is taken from John Wesley’s sermon “Catholic Spirit,” which can be read in full here.
Frequently Asked Questions: Affiliation under The Protocols and Voting
The attendees at the October 24th meeting have requested information about the voting which might take place pursuant to the Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation(“The Protocol.”) The Protocol calls for the continuation of The United Methodist Church (“post-separation United Methodist Church”) and the creation of other affiliated Methodist denominations.
The United Methodist Church (UMC) is organized and structured in a “connectional” system. At the top is the General Conference, which consists of all the Annual Conferences (within the US) and Central Conferences (outside the US or worldwide). As Buncombe Street UMC, we are members of the South Carolina Annual Conference, and the South Carolina Annual Conference sends its delegates to General Conference.
It is anticipated that the post-separation United Methodist Church will amend the current Book of Discipline relative to issues of human sexuality as it relates to same-sex weddings, marriages and ordination, as well as many other regulatory issues. While no other Methodist denominations have yet to be legally formed, it is anticipated that the newly created Methodist denomination(s) will adopt the current or more traditional view relative to issues of human sexuality.
If The Protocol is adopted at the next General Conference, the voting to determine denomination affiliations would occur in a cascading fashion from General Conference to SC Annual Conference to Buncombe Street UMC, along the following sequence:
Given that General Conference 2020 has been delayed until 2024, the exact timeline for voting is uncertain.
Should The Protocol be adopted by the General Conference without amendment, Annual Conferences and then Local Churches may vote to align with any new Methodist denominations formed pursuant to The Protocol. Therefore, the potential for a cascading vote would first occur at the South Carolina Annual Conference, followed by a potential vote at a BSUMC church conference.
South Carolina Annual Conference – An affiliation vote must be conducted if 20% of those delegates support a motion to conduct such a vote. In order for the South Carolina Annual conference to affiliate with a newly created Methodist denomination, the vote must be supported by 57% of those delegates voting. If the Annual Conference does not take a vote, all churches in South Carolina will automatically align with the post-separation United Methodist Church. (See, Protocol at Article III, 1.c.).
Local Church– Should BSUMC question its affiliation from that selected by the South Carolina Annual Conference with a proper motion, our church council will determine a voting threshold of either a simple majority or a two-thirds majority of those members “present and voting” at a duly-called Church Conference. The vote on a motion to opt for an affiliation different from that chosen by the Annual Conference shall be held not more than 60 days after the request for such vote is made by church council. (See, Protocol at Article III, 1.d.).
** Again, this voting structure would only be valid should “The Protocol” be adopted by the General Conference without amendment. **
Currently, The Protocol is silent as to voting eligibility at the local church level. We are hopeful that additional legislation or resolution at General Conference will clarify the particulars of voting eligibility. According to the Book of Discipline, at ¶ 248, “Professing Members” of local churches present at a duly constituted church conference will be eligible to vote (2016).
**Again, this voting structure would only be valid should “The Protocol” be adopted by the General Conference without amendment. **