By Chuck Griffin
Chair, Holston WCA Board
If you keep up with happenings in the United Methodist Church at all, you’re aware of what’s being called the “Protocol Statement.” It is the beginning of a way to divide the current United Methodist Church along doctrinal lines, one that would create a separate, yet-to-be-named traditional Methodist denomination.
I’ll not waste space rehashing details here; at the end of this article, I’ll provide some links for those of you wanting to study the details. And as I’ve tried to remind people repeatedly, it is not a done deal, but a deal that ultimately has to be done at 2020 General Conference in May.
Today I’m going to address a question I’ve heard repeatedly in emails, texts, meetings with local church representatives, and on social media. It goes something like this: “We won at General Conference 2019—why should the Traditionalists have to leave?”
Keith Boyette, president of the global Wesleyan Covenant Association, already has provided a very good answer by saying, “Progressives and centrists are not willing to leave the UM Church,” a stubborn reality that would force a long, destructive fight even if future general conferences were to continue to affirm traditional doctrine.
I want to add that I think we would be better off moving forward as a new denomination, deploying a new name and logo. We would have a powerful opportunity to communicate clearly who we are.
About a year-and-a-half ago, I wrote an article for the Holston WCA on the concept of “branding.” Drawing on my public relations background, I focused on how the UM brand had been severely damaged by our wildly different views on scriptural authority. At the end of that article, I did hold out hope that if General Conference 2019 upheld traditional views, we might yet be able to salvage that brand.
That last assertion naively assumed the 2019 General Conference would fulfill its purpose and put the issue to rest once and for all. As we’re all aware, defiance of the Discipline and general hostility from theological liberals have increased in sometimes shocking ways.
I’m now firmly convinced the UM name and logo are, from a Traditionalist perspective, no longer salvageable. Instead, I think they ultimately will be associated with a failed half-century-long experiment in theological pluralism.
Ideally, the new denomination’s name and logo will capture that we are heirs to the Methodism that began changing the world for Christ’s kingdom in the 18th century. We will continue that Methodist tradition, bringing people to a biblical understanding of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior until we see Christ in full.
The question “Why do we have to leave?” arises in our hearts because we currently are comparing a known to an unknown, naturally triggering an identity crisis. This concern will resolve itself quickly once the branding work for the new denomination is complete.
Assuming the Protocol Statement becomes 2020 General Conference legislation and plays out as its developers hope, I think it’s actually a big win to be on the side that gets to move forward with a new name and look.