A Letter From Our Pastor, Rev. Kenny Ott
A Message from Our Pastor Regarding the Current Media Publications about the United Methodist Church Denomination:
My brothers and sisters in Christ at Canton First UMC,
I am ever more thankful for you and your growing faith and it is both a pleasure and honor to serve you in Christ.
By now you have seen the inaccurate news reports and false social media posts that the leaders of The United Methodist Church have agreed to split. This is not true, so let me try to put this in perspective.
First the historical context. This is not a new issue, in fact The United Methodist Church has debated the authority of scripture and its interpretation around human sexuality since the first General Conference in 1972, and every General Conference since. In 2016 the debate reached an impasse and the delegates asked the Council of Bishops to lead the church in reconciling this long standing dispute. As a result the Council of Bishops formed the Commission On The Way Forward to study the various understandings within our denomination on the specific issues of ordination of self-avowed, practicing LGBTQ persons and same gender marriage and make a recommendation for moving forward in unity, to be considered at a Called Special General Conference in February of 2019. The Commission offered three possibilities: 1) the Connectional Conference Plan which would form three branches of the UMC (Progressive, Centrists, and Traditional), 2) the One Church Plan which called for each local church and each clergy to decide on the issue for themselves, and 3) the Traditional Plan which would reaffirm the current position on human sexuality, impose stricter sanctions on persons who violated the Book of Discipline, and provided a "gracious exit" for local churches who could not support the plan. The Traditional Plan was approved by a narrow margin and went into effect January 1, 2020.
Since February 2019 it seems the various factions and caucus groups have all admitted that we have reached an impasse and for the fist time begun to talk about how the denomination might split and stop doing further harm to one another and our witness as Christians.
The reports you have seen in the news and on social media since January 5th address the work and proposed legislation of one group of UMC leaders. However, while the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation is only one proposal among many, it is significant in that it was written by and supported by representatives from each of the various factions in the UMC (the first of its kind).
It is important to remember that none of these groups or factions can speak for the denomination. Only the General Conference can speak for the UMC.
When General Conference meets in May all proposed legislation will be considered by various working groups which then decide which proposals go before the whole Conference for discussion and vote. It is true that there is no way to predict which proposal or plan will actually be voted on and that there will likely be amendments and changes along the way. If any plan is approved it will then got before the Judicial Council to ensure that the approved legislation is in accord with the UMC constitution and Book of Discipline.
So, all of this to say that nothing has been decided at this point by the governing body of the UMC and any news report that says otherwise is false.
I am sure you still have questions and concerns so I have included links to the Protocol for Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation and a list of Frequently Asked Questions (see below). Additionally, you are invited to a Community Conversation on this issue on Wednesday, January 22nd at 6:30 pm in the Fellowship Hall.
In the meantime, I look around our community and the world and I see people and that are living in brokenness and apart from Jesus Christ. We are still the Body of Christ who are called to love God with all of who we are and love our neighbors as ourselves. We still have a mission and a calling to lead people to Christ.