Carta Pastoral sobre un “Protocolo de Reconciliación y Gracia a través de la Separación”

Estimados Miembros y Amigos de la Iglesia Metodista Unida de Echo Park:

El viernes pasado por la mañana, el Concilio de Obispos de La Iglesia Metodista Unida publicó un comunicado de prensa que anunció que el Concilio había llegado a un acuerdo con los representantes de varios grupos de promoción dentro de la denominación sobre un Protocolo de Reconciliación y Gracia a través de la Separación.

Este Protocolo provee un marco para el establecimiento de una nueva denominación metodista traditionalista que tendría su propio Disciplina además de sus propias juntas y agencias. Durante los próximos cuatro años, esta denominación traditionalista recibiría $25 millones de La Iglesia Metodista Unida a cambio de renunciar a cualquier otra reclamación contra los activos metodistas unidos.

El Protocolo también asignaría $2 millones adicionales para apoyar otras denominaciones metodistas que podrían surgir de La Iglesia Metodista Unida durante este tiempo de transición, además de $39 millones para asegurar que los ministerios en comunidades que históricamente han sido marginadas por el racismo no serán negativamente afectadas.

El Protocolo pide que la restante Iglesia Metodista Unida celebre una Conferencia General especialmente llamada después de la suspensión de la Conferencia General de 2020 para eliminar prohibiciones actuales contra personas LGBTQ, crear conferencias regionals, y revocar el plan tradicionalista adoptado por la Conferencia General especial de 2019.

Bajo los términos del Protocolo, las conferencias centrales, las conferencias anuales, y iglesias locales tendrán un período de tiempo establecido para separarse oficialmente de La Iglesia Metodista Unida y afiliarse con una de las denominaciones metodistas recién formadas. Entidades que deciden dejar bajo estos términos retendrán sus activos y pasivos. Ningún voto se requerirá de conferencias o de iglesias locales que deciden permanecer dentro de La Iglesia Metodista Unida. Todos los clérigos y empleados laicos de la iglesia retendrán sus planes de pensiones independientemente de la denominación con la que finalmente decidan afiliarse.

Por fin, el Protocolo pide una moratoria de todas las acciones administrativa y judiciales relacionadas con las restricciones de la Disciplina relativas a las “personas que admitan ser homosexuales practicantes” y a las bodas de personas del mismo sexo hasta que la separación sea completa. El Protocolo también pide una moratoria de todos los cierres de iglesias hasta después de la Conferencia General de 2020.

Hay algunas cosas que debemos tener en cuenta mientras consideramos este Protocolo y sus implicaciones duraderas para la Iglesia:

  • Primero, el Protocolo no es una solución en sí misma para los problemas que actualmenmte enfrentan nuestra Iglesia Metodista Unida. Sólo la Conferencia General tiene poder para tomar decisions sobre la adopción e implementación de cambios importantes en la política y la estructura, como los previstos por este Protocolo. (La Conferencia General se reunirá del 5 al 15 de mayo de 2020 en Minneapolis.)
  • Segundo, el Protocolo aún no se ha convertido en una legislación viable que puede ser presentada a y actuada por la sesión de 2020 de la Conferencia General. Como se suele decir, lo más dificil son los detalles, y todavía no sabemos cuáles esos detalles son.
  • Tercero, el Protocolo prevé que una Conferencia General especialmente llamada se celebrará después de la separación para eliminar el lenguaje discriminatorio de La Disciplina contra las personas LGBTQ y las bodas de personas del mismo sexo, para rescindir el plan traditionalista, y para crear conferencias regionals. Tenemos que recordar que ninguna Conferencia General puede obligor a una Conferencia General posterior. No hay garantía de que una Conferencia especialmente llamada realmente tomará las decisiones que esperamos que tome. Si vayamos en esta dirección tendremos que permanecer estratégicamente vigilantes y comprometidos en oración en nuestros esfuerzos de construir una iglesia que es verdadermente inclusiva.

Es demasiado pronto para determinar la mejor manera de avanzar a raíz del anuncio de viernes. Tendremos que tomar tiempo para considerar las implicaciones completes del Protocolo – tanto sus puntos fuertes como sus puntos débiles – antes de decidir si respaldarlo o no. Mientras tanto, estaré contento estar involucrado con sus preguntas e ideas. Apreciaré cualquier aporte que decidan compartir conmigo. Espero un encuentro congregacional en el futuro próximo cuando podemos discutir estos acontecimientos abiertamente.

Antes de cerrar esta carta, quiero llamar la atención sobre Un Pacto Navideño: Nuestro Regalo de Esperanza. Este documento, que se publicó recientemente por delegados de regiones de la iglesia en África, Europa, y las Filipinas, ofrece un camino alternativo a seguir para La Iglesia Metodista Unida. Una de las razones por las cuales el Pacto es importante es que llega de partes de la Iglesia fuera de los Estados Unidos. Demuestra una voluntad por parte de las Conferencias Centrales de dar espacio a la diversidad amplia de perspectivas teológicas sobre la sexualidad que son representadas en nuestra denominación. A medida que seguimos, es importante que todas las partes de nuestra Iglesia global sean incluidas en estas conversaciones sobre nuestro futuro.

Creo que podamos estar cautelosamente optimistas mientras nuestra denominación busca formas fieles y prácticas de cumplir con su compromiso de hacer discípulos de Jesucristo para la transformación del mundo. Sin embargo, debemos ser más fervientes que nunca en nuestra obra y oración para que el reino inclusivo de Dios de justicia y paz sea una realidad.

¡Gracias a Dios!

Pastor Frank Wulf

P.D. Por favor, consulten los siguientes enlaces importantes:

Un Pacto Navideño: Nuestro Regalo de Esperanza:

  1. Un Pacto Navideño: Nuestro Regalo de Esperanza (sólo ingles)

https://www.umnews.org/-/media/umc-media/2019/12/19/20/51/christmas-covenant-document.ashx

  1. Los delegados ofrecen propuesta de unidad de la iglesia (artículo de UM Noticias por Heather Hahn) (Elijan “Spanish” debajo del enlace marcado “Google Translate”)

https://www.umnews.org/en/news/delegates-offer-proposal-for-church-unity

Protocolo de Reconciliación y Gracia a través de la Separación:

  1. Protocolo de Reconciliación y Gracia a través de la Separación (sólo ingles)

https://www.unitedmethodistbishops.org/files/websites/www/pdfs/signed+umc+mediation+protocoal+statement+-2020.pdf

  1. Preguntas frecuentes sobre el Equipo Metodista Unido de Mediación (sólo ingles)

https://www.unitedmethodistbishops.org/newsdetail/frequently-asked-questions-about-the-united-methodist-mediation-team-13133711

  1. Traditionalistas, Centristas, Progresistas y Obispos firman un acuerdo apuntado a la separación (Comunicado de Prensa del Concilio de Obispos de La Iglesia Metodista Unida) (sólo ingles)

https://www.unitedmethodistbishops.org/newsdetail/united-methodist-traditionalists-centrists-progressives-bishops-sign-agreement-aimed-at-separation-13133654

 Grupo diverso de líderes ofrece un plan de separación (artículo de UM Noticias por Sam Hodges) (Elijan “Spanish” debajo del enlace marcado “Google Translate”)

https://www.umnews.org/en/news/diverse-leaders-group-offers-separation-plan

Pastoral Letter on “A Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation”

Dear Members and Friends of Echo Park United Methodist Church:

Last Friday morning, the United Methodist Council of Bishops issued a press release announcing that an agreement had been reached between the Council and representatives from various advocacy groups within the denomination on a Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation.

This Protocol provides a framework for the establishment of a new traditionalist Methodist denomination that would have its own Book of Discipline as well as its own boards and agencies. Over the next four years, this traditionalist denomination would receive $25 million from The United Methodist Church in exchange for surrendering any further claim against United Methodist assets.

The Protocol would also allocate an additional $2 million to support other Methodist denominations that might emerge from The United Methodist Church during this time of transition, as well as $39 million to ensure that ministries in communities historically marginalized by racism will not be disrupted.

The Protocol calls for the remaining United Methodist Church to hold a specially-called General Conference after the adjournment of the 2020 General Conference to remove current prohibitions against LGBTQ persons, create regional conferences, and repeal the traditional plan adopted by the special General Conference of 2019.

Under the terms of the Protocol, central conferences, annual conferences, and local churches will be given a set period of time to separate officially from The United Methodist Church and to affiliate with one of the newly formed Methodist denominations. Entities that choose to leave under these terms will retain their assets and liabilities. No vote will be required of conferences or local churches that choose to remain within The United Methodist Church. All clergy and lay employees of the church will retain their pension plans irrespective of the denomination with which they ultimately decide to affiliate.

Finally, the Protocol calls for a moratorium on all administrative and judicial actions related to restrictions in The Book of Discipline concerning “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” and same-sex weddings until such time as the separation is complete. The Protocol also calls for a moratorium on all church closures until after the 2020 General Conference.

There are a few things that we need to keep in mind as we consider this Protocol and its lasting implications for the Church:

  • First, the Protocol is not in and of itself a solution to the problems that currently face our United Methodist Church. Only the General Conference has power to make decisions concerning the adoption and implementation of major policy and structural changes such as those envisioned by this Protocol. (The General Conference will be meeting May 5-15, 2020 in Minneapolis.)
  • Second, the Protocol has yet to be turned into workable legislation that can be presented to and acted upon by the 2020 session of the General Conference. The devil is, as they say, in the details, and we still don’t know what the details are.
  • Third, the Protocol envisions a specially-called General Conference to be held by The United Methodist Church following separation to eliminate discriminatory language in The Discipline against LGBTQ persons and same-sex weddings, to rescind the traditionalist plan, and to create regional conferences. We must remember that no General Conference can bind a subsequent General Conference. So, there is no guarantee that a specially-called Conference will actually make the decisions that we hope it will make. If we take this route, we will need to remain strategically vigilant and prayerfully committed in our efforts to build a truly inclusive church.

It’s too soon to determine the best way to move forward in the wake of Friday’s announcement. We will need to take time to consider the full implications of the Protocol – both its strengths and its weaknesses – before deciding whether or not to back it. In the meantime, I encourage you to review the attached documents for yourselves. I will be happy to engage your questions and ideas. I will cherish any input that you choose to share with me. I look forward to a congregational meeting in the near future when we can discuss these developments openly.

Before I close this epistle, I want to call your attention to A Christmas Covenant: Our Gift of Hope. This document, which was recently released by delegates from church regions in Africa, Europe, and the Philippines, offers an alternative way forward for The United Methodist Church. One of the reasons why the Covenant is important is because it comes from parts of the Church outside the United States. It demonstrates a willingness on the part of the Central Conferences to make room for the wide diversity of theological perspectives on sexuality that are represented in our denomination. As we move forward, it is important that all parts of our global Church be included in these conversations about our future.

I believe that we can be cautiously optimistic as our denomination seeks faithful and practical ways to fulfill its commitment to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. And yet, we must be more fervent than ever in our working and praying to make God’s inclusive reign of justice and peace a reality.

Thanks be to God!

Pastor Frank Wulf

P.S. Please refer to the following important links:

A Christmas Covenant: Our Gift of Hope:

  1. A Christmas Covenant: Our Gift of Hope 

https://www.umnews.org/-/media/umc-media/2019/12/19/20/51/christmas-covenant-document.ashx

  1. Delegates offer proposal for church unity (UM News Service article by Heather Hahn) 

https://www.umnews.org/en/news/delegates-offer-proposal-for-church-unity

Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation:

  1. Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation 

https://www.unitedmethodistbishops.org/files/websites/www/pdfs/signed+umc+mediation+protocoal+statement+-2020.pdf

  1. Frequently Asked Questions About The United Methodist Mediation Team 

https://www.unitedmethodistbishops.org/newsdetail/frequently-asked-questions-about-the-united-methodist-mediation-team-13133711

  1. United Methodist Traditionalists, Centrists, Progressives & Bishops sign agreement aimed at separation (Press Release from the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church) 

https://www.unitedmethodistbishops.org/newsdetail/united-methodist-traditionalists-centrists-progressives-bishops-sign-agreement-aimed-at-separation-13133654

  1. Diverse leaders’ group offers separation plan (UM News Service article by Sam Hodges) 

https://www.umnews.org/en/news/diverse-leaders-group-offers-separation-plan

Pastoral Letter for Thanksgiving Day 2019

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

Dear members and friends of Echo Park United Methodist Church:

We live in a world that perpetually seems to be plagued by bad news. Each day brings new stories of suffering and terror around our world… war and civil unrest… political chaos… mass migration… epidemic disease… natural disaster and climate catastrophe… violence and lawlessness… economic uncertainty… human trafficking… homelessness and poverty… The list goes on and on! How can we help but despair… especially when we add to these global crises our own local struggles, uncertainties and tragedies? There are moments when worry and despair seem to be the only rational responses to the circumstances in which we live out our lives.

In this regard, the world of the apostle Paul was not much different from our own. In some ways, it was even worse. As a Christian, Paul belonged to a persecuted minority that faced imprisonment, torture, and even death for its embrace of Christ’s gospel and its commitment to the way of Jesus. He himself would eventually die at the hands of a Roman executioner after years of incarceration in Roman jails. And multitudes of other disciples of Jesus would suffer a similar fate. The history of Christianity was built on the foundation of these first century martyrs.

We might have expected Paul and his followers to complain about the hazards of following Jesus. After all, it wouldn’t have been easy to endure the ridicule, abuse, and violence to which they were daily subjected. And yet, Paul refuses to endorse such a path. Instead, he advises the Philippian Christians to stop worrying and to put their trust in God who hears their prayers and responds to their needs. The proper response for a follower of Jesus is not anxiety and fear in the face of ongoing difficulties and dangers but thanksgiving rooted in faith that God has all things under control. Or, as Paul affirms in his other letter to the church in Rome: “All things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to God’s purpose.” But, if this is so, then how can we not say thanks, and say it continuously?

The Thanksgiving feast on which our current holiday is based took place just before the Pilgrims’ second winter in Massachusetts. They had barely survived their first winter in 1620. More than half their company had died from starvation, disease and exposure to the elements. However, with the help of the Wampanoag tribe of Native Americans, they had learned how to farm the land effectively, and their harvest in 1621 was abundant. In November of that year, they gathered to give thanks to God not just for the blessings that they had already received, but also for their faithful expectation that God would enable them to survive until the following spring. Thanksgiving is not just our response to the good things that have already happened, it is a way of life rooted in our conviction that everything, past, present, and future, is in the hands of a loving God who cares for us and blesses us in all the circumstances of our lives.

May God bless you and all of your loved ones with this spirit of faithful and hopeful thanksgiving! And may the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Pastor Frank Wulf