Episcopalians’ Appraisal of the United Methodist Separation Protocol

Jan 11, 2020 by

by Jeffrey Walton, Juicy Ecumenism:

A diverse group of United Methodists has negotiated and released a proposed protocol to divide the denomination. This potentially concludes decades of internal conflict centered upon marriage and human sexual expression. IRD President Mark Tooley has a write-up of the proposal that can be viewed here.

In evaluating the separation protocol, it is instructive to examine the legacy of the litigious and ugly split that occurred in the Episcopal Church.

That split remains to be fully sorted out: theological revisionists continue their consolidation within the denomination, requiring dioceses to permit same-sex rites that were once optional. Revisionists also aim to revise the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) with those same-sex rites and “expansive” gender neutral language, undeterred by the defeat of a BCP revision proposal at the 2018 General Convention. Costly and time-consuming litigation continues in the cases of the Dioceses of Fort Worth and South Carolina that now affiliate with the Anglican Church in North America.

In the Episcopal Church, there is presently no accepted canonical way – short of an act of General Convention – for a parish or diocese to peaceably depart unchallenged by church authorities. This contrasts with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), which permits congregations to re-affiliate with another Lutheran denomination with two successive votes by two-thirds of church members present. The Presbyterian Church (USA) allows for congregations to seek “gracious dismissal” with property via negotiated agreements that vary widely across presbyteries but always provided some (often costly) route for departure.

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