On Comity and Conferencing

By Chuck Griffin

Tomorrow marks a week since the ground beneath the United Methodist Church shook. It all became official: no General Conference until 2024; a new, traditional denomination, the Global Methodist Church, will form on May 1.

Two words best describe how we all, UMC-bound or GMC-bound, can move into our new situations as smoothly as possible. The first word is “comity” and the second word is “conferencing.”

The word “comity” usually is seen in combination with “agreement,” creating a legal term. But comity also is an important life concept, one that should guide our behaviors in the coming months.

The Holston WCA began seeking comity as far back as July of 2019. Comity exists where people with conflicting interests and opinions show each other civility and mutual courtesy. Back in those pre-Covid days, your WCA used the term “mutual care.”

In the Methodist tradition, we have long seen comity in conferencing. Right now, that sounds a bit ironic, considering the efforts that have been made to keep the 2020 General Conference from considering the Protocol legislation, in and of itself an act of comity. But there’s always our 2022 Holston Annual Conference.

In an annual conference—either the regularly scheduled one in June or in a called annual conference held shortly before or after—we could agree to separate while showing mutual care. Through a well-crafted resolution, we could vote to determine in which denomination the Holston Annual Conference should reside, and we could be sure to take care of clergy and churches within our conference who disagree with the final results.

When I raised this idea last Thursday, there were people who took to social media flatly denying such a conference-wide decision was even possible. The Council of Bishops proved yesterday, however, that it is at least possible, asking the UMC’s Judicial Council to rule whether an entire annual conference can leave the denomination.

An annual conference decision remains the fairest, most efficient way to move forward, assuming the Judicial Council agrees this is allowable. (Experts on church law say there is at least some precedent pointing in this direction.)

For those who would resist such efforts, I will again draw on something raised in 2019: a little book on decision-making called “Who Moved My Cheese?” Published in 1998, the book has been popular in both business and church circles.

If you haven’t read it, you might want to do so. If you have read it, understand it is not theoretical. We are in the maze right now.

Without an annual conference agreement, it becomes slightly more complicated for individual churches to leave the UMC, but comity can still come into play. More on that tomorrow.

5 Comments on “On Comity and Conferencing

  1. Pingback: Peaceful, Easy Agreements – Holston WCA

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