An official in the United Methodist Church who helped create a proposed plan of gracious separation for the denomination has died from cancer at age 55.
The Rev. Junius B. Dotson, the general secretary and chief executive officer of the UMC’s Discipleship Ministries, an agency of the denomination, died last Wednesday after a weekslong battle with pancreatic cancer.
In his memory, there will be a livestreamed celebration of life service held on Saturday in Houston, Texas, with limited in-person attendance due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Junius Dotson was an exceedingly faithful disciple of Jesus Christ,” said the Rev. Tom Berlin, lead pastor of Floris United Methodist Church in Herndon, Virginia, as reported by UM News.
“His love for Christ expressed itself in conviction about the nature of the church — who the church should include, how the church should be in ministry and a desire that all would know the love of Jesus.”
Dotson was ordained in 1992 and known for being a church planter and former megachurch pastor when he was elected head of Discipleship Ministries in 2016.
“Dotson was senior pastor of Saint Mark United Methodist Church in Wichita, Kansas, where he was instrumental in transforming the 3,500-member church into a multi-campus congregation,” explained his official biography.
“In 1996, Rev. Dotson responded to the challenge of planting Genesis United Methodist Church, a new and innovative church in the Silicon Valley of California, which grew into a diverse faith community of nearly 500 people.”
Dotson was one of 16 UMC leaders from diverse theological backgrounds who came together to write the Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation.
The Protocol was created as a proposal to help resolve the denomination’s longtime debate over whether to change its biblically-held position on homosexuality.
Along with identifying homosexuality as a sin, the UMC also bans clergy from officiating same-sex marital unions and prohibits the ordination of noncelibate homosexuals.
Although past proposals to change the UMC's stance on the issue have failed, LGBT advocates within the denomination continue to resist the official standards.
Announced in January 2020, the Protocol sought to allow congregations that hold to the biblical standard of marriage and sexuality to create their own denomination with funds from the UMC.
To take effect, the Protocol still needs to be approved by a majority of delegates at the UMC General Conference, which recently postponed their legislative meeting to next year over ongoing COVID-19 concerns.