An Important Message from Rev. Jim Bass

Thu, April 7, 2022

Dear Friendswood Methodist Family:

I want to take this opportunity to share with you some developments in The United Methodist Church. Some of you may already be aware that the General Commission on General Conference has delayed General Conference until 2024.

General Conference was originally scheduled for May 2020. However, the Covid pandemic prevented large gatherings and international travel. General Conference was therefore rescheduled for later this summer. In March, the Commission again delayed this quadrennial meeting until 2024, to the disappointment of many. They cited continued Covid difficulties with visas, vaccinations, and travel, especially for African delegates. However, the international commissioners voted overwhelmingly to proceed with General Conference as scheduled in 2022.

The consequence of this delay has broad ramifications for the denomination’s future. The United Methodist Church has been deeply divided for years over numerous theological questions, marriage and sexual ethics, social issues, the nature of missions, and the place an authority of Scripture. Many acknowledge that our differences are irreconcilable and represent different understandings of the Christian faith and visions about where God is leading the church. Many therefore recognize the best path forward is to form different expressions of Methodism that would allow each group to focus on their understandings of faith and mission without the continued distraction of our current conflict.

A group of leaders representing the theological spectrum in the UMC negotiated such a path called “The Protocol for Grace Through Separation.” Once adopted by General Conference, it would allow the formation of a more traditionalist/conservative church and a post-separation UMC that would be more progressive/centrist.

With the delay of the General Conference again, the Protocol does not appear to remain a viable option. In response to the postponement, The Global Methodist Church announced it would officially launch as a new denomination May 1st. Many churches across the nation are initiating disaffiliation from the UMC to join the GMC. Sadly, this process will be more conflicted without the Protocol as various bishops are making it harder and more costly for local congregations to leave.

At the same time, the Texas Annual Conference has several resolutions before it to consider in response to these developments with the delay in General Conference. One resolution would ask the conference to follow the spirit of the Protocol and allow churches that desire to disaffiliate to do so with minimal cost to the local congregation. Another resolution calls for a special session of the Conference in August or September to consider withdrawing as a conference and aligning with the new Global Methodist Church with those pastors and churches that desire to remain in the UMC to do so. The Judicial Council has previously stated that annual conferences retain a reserved right to withdraw as the basic body of the UMC. They will clarify what that means in early May.

What does all this mean for our church? I’m not sure. We are walking down an uncharted path. I know the Lord will lead us in the direction he would have us go. We are finishing our message series on prayer this Sunday. I ask you to pray daily for the general church, bishops (especially our bishop Scott Jones), pastors and leaders, the Texas Annual Conference, and Friendswood Methodist.

Bishop Jones has often said amid the uncertainty we face as a denomination to be sure to “keep the main thing, the main thing.” I will continue to do that as we share the life-changing power of Jesus Christ everywhere and every day.

Blessings!
Jim