The most significant piece of news in the UMC this week is undoubtedly the actions of the Philippines Annual Conference - Cavite, although many may have missed the significance. The PAC Cavite, meeting this week from the 12th through the 14th, passed two pieces of legislation on to the General Conference: the Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation and the Christmas Covenant legislation. UMNS has this report about the conference's actions.
It is significant not only that PAC Cavite was the first annual conference to send the Protocol to General Conference, but that it sent the Protocol and the Christmas Covenant legislation together. The legislation for the Protocol has been critiqued in US social media for failing to include provisions for regionalization or the repeal of the Traditionalist Plan. That legislation focuses solely on the process of creating new denominations out of the UMC and asset division among them.
While the text for the Christmas Covenant legislation has not yet been released, the principles of the Christmas Covenant are clear, based on the Covenant document itself and comments made in a UMNS story about the document's release. That legislation is likely to include provisions for regionalization of the church in a way that will allow each region to make whatever adaptations necessary for the missional realities of that region, including those related to the qualifications for ordination and the services offered to all members of congregations.
Thus, the Christmas Covenant supplies the mechanisms for regionalization and adaptation of UMC policies by the US that the Protocol legislation is missing. As Bishop Rudy Juan said to UMNS, "I believe that the Christmas Covenant and the Protocol complement each
other, and I am glad that both are endorsed by PAC Cavite."
But PAC Cavite has done something further by linking the Christmas Covenant and the Protocol. The Christmas Covenant includes a strong call for unity and an emphasis on the mission of the church. Thus, by linking the Christmas Covenant to the Protocol, the PAC Cavite has offered a way for those in the central conferences to vote for the Protocol while affirming the unity of the church. The Protocol alone might feel like voting for separation within the church, which the central conferences are opposed to. But voting for the Christmas Covenant with the Protocol is a way to affirm as much unity as possible in the church's present situation, while also taking actions to get the church out of some of the more intractable conflicts in which it finds itself.
For these reasons, along with the basic reason that the voices of United Methodists in the central conferences deserve to be heard, when the Christmas Covenant legislation is publicly released (probably in the near future), it deserves to be regarded as a serious and significant plan for the future of the UMC, on par with any other major plan.