Still, the statement said, leaders of the Reconciling Ministries Network lament the delay in discussing a possible split.
“These circumstances only prolong the road to justice for our LGBTQ+ kin and to parity in the global Church,” it said.
The General Conference, which usually gathers delegates from across the globe every four years, originally was planned for 2020. But the Commission on General Conference postponed the denominational meeting twice because of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, delaying an expected vote on a proposal to schism after a decades-long debate over whether LGBTQ United Methodists can marry or be ordained.
The commission’s latest decision comes as United Methodists have published letters and statements arguing for and against postponing the 2022 meeting.
Last month, 170 delegates from around the globe sent a letter to the commission urging its members to delay the conference until 2024 to “properly ensure the health, safety, and participation of all attendees.”
Travel still carries health risks in 2022, according to the letter. And the General Conference doesn’t have the kind of technology and systems it would take to make sure delegates from all over the world could fully participate in the meeting.
“Especially because of the seriousness of the legislation that this General Conference will be debating, including the possibility of ‘amicable separation,’ it is important that the Commission on the General Conference err on the side of caution and ensure that no delegate, particularly those from Central Conferences” — the denomination’s regional bodies outside the United States — “is precluded from full, in-person participation because of the ongoing COVID pandemic,” the letter read.
Meantime, competing letters from African delegates argued both for and against another postponement.
The 2020 General Conference originally had been set for May 5 – 15, 2020, in Minneapolis. That meeting was rescheduled for Aug. 29 – Sept. 7, 2021, when the Minneapolis Convention Center announced it was restricting events during the pandemic.
It was rescheduled again for 2022 at the same venue.
It is not immediately clear whether the postponed 2020 General Conference will replace the regularly scheduled 2024 General Conference.
Delegates to the General Conference are expected to take up a proposal to split the denomination, called “A Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation.” The proposal, negotiated by 16 United Methodist bishops and advocacy group leaders from across theological divides, would allow churches and conferences to leave with their buildings and other assets to form new Methodist denominations, including a conservative “traditionalist” Methodist denomination that would receive $25 million over the next four years.
Calls to split one of the largest denominations in the United States have grown since the 2019 special session of the United Methodist General Conference approved the so-called Traditional Plan strengthening the church’s bans on the ordination and marriage of LGBTQ United Methodists.
This article originally appeared here.