Gods Way Forward

   THE United Methodist Church is at a crossroads… it may very well split into 2 churches over the full inclusion and acceptance of the LGBTQ community. since 1972, The United Methodist Church’s Social Principles have stated that the practice of homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching.” The Book of Discipline, the church lawbook, was amended in 1984 to use that same phrase in a passage that prohibits “self–avowed practicing homosexuals” from serving as clergy. Additionally, Methodist clergy were prohibited from performing marriages for same-sex couples. Many have worked to have this changed to include all people, including the LGBTQ community in full inclusion and participation in The Church.
   In February of 2019 a special General Conference was held in hopes of resolving this conflict and chance the doctrine. It did change, the majority decided to tighten the rules excluding the LGBTQ community even more.
   Today, the two sides are still at an impasse. Many ideas have been presented. Most recently, a group of church leaders from both sides met and came up with a possible solution which will be discussed and voted upon at the 2020 General Conference. Below is information that we have gathered over the past year.
   We will hold a special TOWN HALL MEETING at Epworth on Sunday, January 26 to have an open discussion on the most recent news.
A bit of recent history and how we arrived where we are today…
   We as church leaders are committed to an open, inclusive, welcoming church!  Our hope is that our denomination will heed our Lord’s call to welcome everyone to His table and church and pulpit.  In the meantime, we are making these plans to keep our members and friends up to date on what all of this means to us and the church we love.
   What was “Commission on a Way Forward”?  >>CLICK HERE<<
FEBRUARY 23-26, 2019
A Way Forward Response…
It is hard to find the words that speak to the deep hole in my heart over the actions of the United Methodist Church yesterday. The actions of the General Conference to draw harder boundaries instead of opening wider doors to the LGBTQI+ community is nothing my Jesus would ever do. Jesus was all about making a place at the table, welcoming the outcast and preaching against judgment. The General Conference chose a different path. Though the US delegates voted 2-1 in favor of the One Church Plan, the Traditional Plan won the day – we will have to see what that means in the coming weeks and months, even as its constitutionality is challenged. 
What I do know is that a very broken religious institution inflicted tremendous harm in this decision. This is NOT of God. I believe God will do a new thing, and Epworth can be part of the new expression of Methodists who do all we can to resist evil and injustice of every kind.
Rev. Todd and I want to stand on these words – Epworth is Epworth. We will not change – except to be even more bold and more sure that God has placed us in the Rehoboth-Lewes area as a beacon of hope to ALL and All means All! When Epworth was located on Baltimore Avenue in downtown Rehoboth, the faithful people of God took a stand, opened our doors to all and became the only Reconciling U.M. Church in Delaware. We build on that legacy every day. We are the community of faith that is sure of the welcoming love of Jesus and whether or not the United Methodist Church agrees with that, doesn’t matter. Hold each other friends, show love and don’t lose hope. God will deliver us.
On Friday, March 22 Epworth ran a full-page ad in the Cape Gazette pronouncing our open position to welcoming all people to our church. If you’d like to see the ad, simply CLICK HERE.
In love and peace,
Rev. Vicky Starnes and Rev. Todd Shultz
Next Steps for Inclusion
On May 20-22, 10 persons from the Pen-Del Conference of the UMC joined clergy and laity from all over the US Methodist Church to work on strategy for an inclusive Methodist Church. Nominations were made from Epworth and 2 of our laity were selected: David Garrett and Glen Pruitt.
Rev. Adam Hamilton, along with other leaders in the denomination, are hosted and planned this event.
Pen-Del Annual Sessions
Each year our Conference meets… this year it was held May 29-June 1. The Epworth FIRE Team brought with them Resolution R:14 (CLICK HERE) which asked for the Pen-Del Conference to be inclusive of all persons.
to view the proceeding
Bishop Peggy Johnson’s Pen-Del Annual Sessions State of the Church Presentation
At the 2019 Pen-Del Annual Sessions, Bishop Peggy Johnson delivered a State of the Church message. She talked about many happenings in each of the 4 Districts as well as AC 2019 – the Traditional Plan (which was adopted) and the One Church Plan. She spoke of her desire for the One Church Plan to have been adopted and her desire for inclusion of all persons.
to view her presentation
On February 28 Epworth held a  SPECIAL PRAYER SERVICE
during which we prayed for Epworth & The United Methodist Church
CLICK HERE to view the service
Bishop’s Prayer…
by Bishop Susan Morrison, retired
Gracious Spirit.
Forgiving Spirit.
Comforting Spirit.
   We are hurting this evening. We are angry. We feel betrayed. We feel rejected. Our souls are bruised. AND YET … we know you are surrounding us/infusing us with your grace-filled acceptance
   Help us remember the gift of love you bring to each person. EVERY PERSON! Help us remember that we are to love as you have loved us. That is our call. Please forgive our resistance to forgiving others who differ. Please forgive their righteous resistance and rejection in seeing life and faith through our eyes. Your healing presence flows over us. Over and over it comes. We can stand up and shout we are a resurrection people. WE ARE A RESURRECTION PEOPLE!       This is a new day:
We will survive in faith.
We will love others as ourselves!
We will listen and learn.
We will share our joy.
We will support others,
We will share hugs and high fives,

We will speak and be heard. We will be Epworth. We as a church will not go away. For we will love as you have taught us to love. And we will live in your love. Thank you, O Gracious One. And thank you for this beloved community called Epworth. Amen.

More info…
Watch Rev Adam Hamilton’s Town Hall Meeting that he hosted just after General Conference. Adam explains to his church in great detail what was asked of the Conference and what direction he believes the United Methodist Church will go.
Please write to our District Superintendent (DS), Rev Dr Kyung-Hee Sa, and let her know your feelings. Dr Sa is one of four DSs in the Peninsula-Delaware. She works for Bishop Johnson.  kyungheesa@gmail.com


Additionally, you may write to our Bishop, Peggy Johnson. Bishop Johnson is the Bishop for the Peninsula-Delaware Conference as well as the South-Eastern Pennsylvania Conference.
In The News…
WRDE-COAST TV, our local NBC affiliate,  interviewed Rev Vicky and Rev Todd on March 3rd. Here is the news report…
Things to Know…
1) The Traditional Plan, as amended, was adopted by a vote of 438-384. Due to take effect on January 1, 2020.
2) The One Church Plan, which was endorsed by Bishop Johnson and the Council of Bishops, was not adopted.
Individual stories for further reading include:

January 3, 2020
(Washington, D.C.): A diverse group of representatives from United Methodist advocacy groups with contrasting views and bishops from around the world has collaborated on a proposed agreement for the separation of The United Methodist Church (UMC) that has the unanimous support of all the parties involved.

The agreement, the Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation, was achieved on December 17, 2019 and announced today.

The action comes amid heightened tensions in the church over conflicting views related to human sexuality after the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference failed to resolve differences among church members.

Legislation to implement the Protocol statement – an eight-page document detailing the terms of a split of the 13+ million-member denomination – is expected to come before the United Methodist General Conference for a vote at their legislative meeting in Minneapolis, Minn. in May 2020.

The 16-member group came together as an outgrowth of a consultation initiated by bishops from Central Conferences located outside the United States.  The parties sought assistance from prominent attorney Kenneth Feinberg, who specializes in mediation and alternative dispute resolution. Feinberg, who served as Special Master of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and administrator of the BP Deepwater Horizon Disaster Victim Compensation Fund along with a number of other complex matters, agreed to provide his services pro bono.

Meeting over several months, the unofficial group reached an agreement by signatories associated with all of the constituencies within the UMC for a mutually supported pathway for separation, bridging differences among other plans to be considered by the General Conference.  “The undersigned propose restructuring The United Methodist Church by separation as the best means to resolve our differences, allowing each part of the Church to remain true to its theological understanding, while recognizing the dignity, equality, integrity, and respect of every person,” says the protocol statement.

The document’s signers include representatives from Europe, Africa, the Philippines, and the United States, and include persons representing UMCNext; Mainstream UMC; Uniting Methodists; The Confessing Movement; Good News; The Institute on Religion & Democracy; the Wesleyan Covenant Association; Affirmation; Methodist Federation for Social Action; Reconciling Ministries Network; and the United Methodist Queer Clergy Caucus; as well as bishops from the United States and across the world.  The representatives have pledged to work together to support the proposal and develop legislation to implement it.

The Protocol anticipates the formation of a new traditionalist Methodist denomination. Once formed, the new church would receive $25 million over the next four years and give up further claim to the UMC’s assets. An additional $2 million would be allocated for potential additional new Methodist denominations which may emerge from the UMC. Acknowledging the historical role of the Methodist movement in systematic racial violence, exploitation and discrimination, the Protocol would allocate $39 million to ensure there is no disruption in supporting ministries for communities historically marginalized by racism.

Under the protocol, conferences and local congregations could vote to separate from The United Methodist Church to affiliate with new Methodist denominations created under the agreement within a certain time frame.  Churches wishing to stay within the UMC would not be required to conduct a vote. Provisions exist for entities that choose to separate to retain their assets and liabilities. All current clergy and lay employees would keep their pensions regardless of the Methodist denomination with which they affiliate.

Under the Protocol, all administrative or judicial processes addressing restrictions in the United Methodist Book of Discipline related to self-avowed practicing homosexuals or same-sex weddings as well as actions to close churches would be held in abeyance until the separation is completed.  The protocol also references a plan which calls for a special general conference of the post-separation United Methodist Church. The purpose of the Special Session would be to create regional conferences, remove the current prohibitions against LGBTQ persons, and to repeal the Traditional Plan.
Speaking on behalf of the group, Bishop John Yambasu (Sierra Leone) stated, “All of us are servants of the church and realize that we are not the primary decision makers on these matters.  Instead, we humbly offer to the delegates of the 2020 General Conference the work which we have accomplished in the hopes that it will help heal the harms and conflicts within the body of Christ and free us to be more effective witnesses to God’s Kingdom.”
The signatories to the Protocol have provided a FAQ document  to provide additional information about the agreement. Comments and questions may be directed to the signatories at mediationprotocol@outlook.com.

A live stream event (will take place) was held on Monday, January 13th to provide further clarity and explanations of the plan by members of the Mediation Team. CLICK HERE to view the recording.
This statement is being released by the Council of Bishops Office on behalf of the Mediation Team members.

From Bishop Peggy A. Johnson,

Eastern Pennsylvania and Peninsula-Delaware Annual Conferences

January 4, 2020

The people called United Methodists have been on a long journey of conversation and debate regarding human sexuality: specifically the marriage and ordination of homosexual people and what “the practice of homosexuality being contrary to Christian teaching” means. The Protocol Statement that was released on January 3, 2020 seems to be a significant break-through in this 47 year impasse. It was crafted by a diverse group of 16 key United Methodist leaders along with a professional mediator. My deepest appreciation goes to them for this faithful and courageous work.

This was initiated by Bishop John Yambasu, from the Sierra Leone Annual Conference in July 2019. He yearned for the United Methodist Church to remain a denomination in the midst of much talk of schism and the many unhappy conversations after the 2019 General Conference that included blame and shame.

This group of 16 continued to meet throughout the fall and the Protocol statement that was just issued will go to General Conference. It must also be considered by Judicial Council (constitutional legality), the General Commission on Finance and Administration (financial impacts) and the Commission on General Conference (logistics and scheduling).

It is important to note that this must be approved by the delegates of General Conference (May 5-15, 2020 in Minneapolis, MN) for this to become a reality. This Protocol still needs to be written into legislation form and presented to the delegates. So it is not a done deal! My email inbox was flooded yesterday by numerous concerned pastors and laity and I was interviewed by three newspapers. The major concern was the same: The UMC has split!! Not so! Please tell people this is not a done deal!
Bishops Johnson’s letter goes on. Above is the main part of her message.