Annual Conference Report from Paul Cadlaon
Greetings in His name Church Family and from Hawaii Aloha to Everyone!
This is my report as your delegate to the 2022 UMC 38th Session of the California-Pacific Annual Conference that took place for 4 days in June on Zoom, which made it possible for us to participate while we were in the Philippines.
This year’s theme is Ending Spiritual and Physical Hunger.
As always, lots of blessings for Agnes and I to partake, albeit virtually, in this region wide worships, memorial, and retiree services, plenary sessions to legislate, video presentations and current events, just to name a few, of the latest happenings in this parts of our Connectional Table.
( May I suggest that you review on the Connectional Table Chart that I’ve made some years ago posted on the west wall of our social hall as your visual aid to what I’m reporting about. )
So much was covered, as typical in every Annual Conferences.
Due to time constraint I am reporting on one highlight that I feel interests you; which is the matter that I have been reporting on over the years: the likelihood that our UMC denomination eventually breaks up due to irreconcilable differences in theology, culture, and practices around human sexuality.
The latest legislation regarding separation is Resolution 22-05. This is to rescind ( withdraw ) support for the Separation Protocol. We voted 70% in favor and 30% opposed, a typical election result percentage, wherein this resolution passed.
The prior year at the 2021 Annual Conference we approved legislation endorsing this same Separation Protocol, a mediated agreement for the UMC to separate amicably.
Our conference mode then was gracious and reconciliatory, but this year we reversed it.
Obviously your immediate question is what’s all these?
Okay, these are legislative proposals for the General Conference, which is the top lawmaking body of our denomination, to vote on and if approved will be an added paragraph or amendment to our church’s constitution the Book of Discipline.
So let me try my best, the way I understand the nuances, to give you a picture of the situation.
There is a centuries-old trust clause in the Book of Discipline that states “ a local church is held in trust for the benefit of the entire denomination. “ Meaning a local church can depart but without the property.
At the 2019 special General Conference where the Traditional Plan prevailed, also approved is Paragraph 2553, which is applicable only in the US. This paragraph 2553 was added to the Book of Discipline, wherein this paragraph provides for a church to be able to separate with property if it meets certain financial and procedural requirements. Depending on its size, location, unfunded clergy pension future obligations and annual conference policies, a departing church must pay upfront thousands to millions of dollars.
Separation process must be completed by end of 2023.
Early in 2020, worldwide representatives from every UMC theological persuasion, the conservatives, traditionalists, centrists, liberals, and progressives together came up with a legislative proposal: the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation, published on February 2020. This Protocol provides a more gracious way than paragraph 2553 for a local church or group of churches to separate and form or join another denomination. Departing churches keep their properties for free, plus financial support to establish another Methodist denomination, while the post-separation UMC reforms itself to full inclusion of the LGBTQ community.
This Protocol legislative proposal was to be taken up and voted upon at the scheduled May 2020 General Conference, but due to the Covid-19 Pandemic it’s been postponed to 2024.
Because of this General Conference postponement to 2024 , and provisions of paragraph 2553 expires at the end of 2023, the separation decision powers were handed down to the annual conference level, herein Each of the 53 Annual Conferences in the United States will make the call on their own.
As a result, more complex and widely diverse contexts and different circumstances are at play throughout UMC America. An annual conference, for instance, may add additional terms beyond paragraph 2553 or another conference may be more gracious than the law. Contextual alignment or realignment outcomes seem to depend on which geographical region a group of churches are in. Our California-Pacific Conference are within the Western Jurisdiction, where theological interpretations, culture and practices, in terms of majority ( consensus ratio: 2 to 1 ) are fully inclusive and non-discriminatory to all Believers.
This year as I have reported with you at the sanctuary on 1st of May, the Global Methodist Church, a new Methodist denomination, launched that Sunday. Its leadership comprise of conservative bishops, clergies, and laity leaders who still are present members of UMC, apparently are aggressively recruiting whole churches and members to join them.
So seemingly our Annual Conference’s withdrawing support for the Protocol was a reaction to that going on.
Since paragraph 2553 took effect in 2019, disaffiliation numbers are at 130 churches departing in the past 2 years, and so far this year 300 separations are approved, the jump attributed largely to GMC.
More separating churches are expected in the future, mostly within the Southeastern and South Central Jurisdictions, in my impression, where members are southerners and more conservative.
That’s the beauty of our democratic system in the UMC, decisions are representative.
There are around 30,500 UM churches in the United States, so far, less than one and a half percent chose to disaffiliate due to issues related to human sexuality.
So presently, each of the 53 annual conferences in the nation has this balancing act: to provide gracious exits for churches wanting to separate, while keeping its fiduciary duty for the financial security of the Pension fund and the entire UMC denomination as a whole.
Prayerfully, I’m quite confident looking forward that our UMC remains largely intact and continue its disciple-making works with full inclusivity.
Paul and Agnes