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General Conference 2020 – First United Methodist Church of Ocala


A Message from Your Pastors (updated March 4, 2020)

On Friday, January, 3, 2020, United Methodists made national news headlines with the release of the new “Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation” by a diverse group of leaders in our denomination. These leaders represented very different and significant values and constituencies in our twelve million member global church. Some of the news reports you may have read have been accurate, while others have gotten many details wrong.

The biggest misconception is that decisions have already been made and that a split in the United Methodist Church is a done deal. In reality, only our General Conference can make official decisions and speak for The United Methodist Church.  General Conference is a representative global gathering of United Methodist clergy and layperson delegates, which meets again May 5-15, 2020. A number of proposals for splitting The United Methodist Church have been submitted for consideration, but until General Conference meets, they are only proposals for consideration.

The “Protocol” has gotten so much attention for a number of reasons. First, it is supported by an unprecedented range of leaders across our denomination. Second, it is the only proposal that both leaves The United Methodist Church intact, and provides a gracious way for churches and annual conference to leave the denomination with a blessing. Third, it does not require a local church to vote in order to remain United Methodist, unless their Annual Conference chooses to leave the denomination. And finally, in combination with other legislation before General Conference, the intent is to shift the responsibility for making decisions about same-sex weddings and ordination of LGBTQ persons from General Conference to local churches and annual conferences who better know their own missional context. This “big tent” approach allows traditional, centrist, and progressive churches and pastors to follow their own conscience in these matters, while remaining United Methodist.

Our denomination does have differences in the various ways we interpret scripture. These differences surface most often over the identity and place of LGBTQ person in our churches, specifically related to marriage and ordination qualifications. For many United Methodists, these differences are significant but do not strike at the root of our faith as Christians. They remain committed to the unity of the church, seeing the things on which we agree as greater than our disagreements. For others, these differences are irreconcilable. They believe the best option for them is to separate from The United Methodist Church. This video from Tom Berlin (click here) gives a clear explanation of the various ways church members respond to such differences.

The reality facing our denomination is heartbreaking. But herein lies our hope: these same differences are present in our Family Life Center and Sanctuary each time we gather for worship, celebrate a Baptism, receive Holy Communion, meet with our Sunday School classes, sing in the choir, sit down for a meal together on Wednesday night, and serve our homeless neighbors on Tuesday morning. We are the Body of Christ together in all of these times and places because of God’s grace. Our hope is in our unity in Christ that transcends our differences at Ocala First UMC. In a world increasing divided along political, economic, racial and cultural lines, our unity in diversity is one of our most essential testimonies to the power and presence of Jesus Christ today. They will know we are Christians by our love.

We are available to talk with you about these proposals. If you missed our Information Sessions in February, many of those resources are available on this page. We are committed to keeping you updated with accurate and timely information.

We love being your pastors, and we know you will join us in prayer for our denomination in the weeks and months ahead.

Grace and Peace,

Anne and David Fuquay