Comparing GC2019 "Way Forward" Plans

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January 29, 2019

Which GC2019 Plan Brings More “Unity in Diversity” Part 1: PRACTICE

In recent United Methodist discussions about what we really mean by the word “unity,” we often hear some version or sense of the phrase, “unity in diversity.”

So how do the main plans compare in how much they would preserve or limit our ability to have unity in diversity?

This can be looked at in three key ways.

  1. Diversity of Practice
  2. Diversity of Belief
  3. Diversity in Other Ways

 

For now, I’ll focus on the first. Analyses of the other two will come shortly.

 

  1. Diversity of Practice

The Connectional Conference Plan (CCP) would, hands-down, do the most for having diversity of practices with regard to marriage and ordination standards. Some United Methodist annual conferences would have same-sex marriages and partnered gay clergy, other United Methodist conferences would forbid them, both would have strong, non-temporary protections to pursue ministry in these different ways (unlike in the “One Church Plan”), and congregations could affiliate with the nearest annual conferences whose values they shared. This could lead to different UMC conferences then having mutually contradictory official doctrines and moral teachings related to many other concerns, such as abortion or pre-marital sex.

Separate questions are whether or not it would be a good thing, or sustainable in the long run, to have this level of official mutual contradiction within one denomination.

Unlike the other plans, Traditional Plan has no provision for officially affirming and authorizing directly contradictory marriage and ordination standards, and underlying theologies, within the same denomination. This plan does not impose any fundamentally new values, but rather re-affirms and ensures that we actually follow the standards we have already had in place for many years, which our bishops and other clergy have already vowed to uphold.

It is also worth noting that while ALL of the major plans with notable support would clearly result in at least a few people leaving the United Methodist Church to form new denominations, only the Traditional Plan (see its Petition #17 and Sections 4 and 19 of Petition #10) has any explicit provisions for how the UMC could potentially maintain some relatively amicable ecumenical relationships and ongoing ministry cooperation with such new denominations.

The Traditional Plan would still allow for a wide diversity of practice on many other matters, including maintaining the current range of allowable options pastors have for how they may respond when asked to perform a same-sex wedding (refer to a pastor in another denomination, find a sensitive and pastoral way to explain our denomination’s traditionalist values, etc.).

For a time, there would be some limited and temporary allowances under the “One Church Plan” (OCP) for some traditionalist United Methodists to continue some traditionalist practices. But the claim of some OCP supporters that this plan would continue “business as usual” for traditionalist congregations and annual conferences is simply false.

In contrast to the liberal policies that split the Episcopal Church, the OCP gives traditionalist-leaning annual conferences in the U.S. no right to continue prohibiting same-sex unions. If clergy in a traditionalist annual conference “came out” as having gay partners, there would no longer be the same clear basis in church law for disciplining them. Despite claims to the contrary, the OCP forces traditionalists to pay into the Episcopal Fund to support partnered gay bishops in other annual conferences. Hardly “business as usual”!

If a traditionalist congregation cannot in good conscience accept the authority of a pastor or bishop who is homosexually active or who is known to perform same-sex unions, or if a traditionalist pastor cannot in good conscience submit to the authority of a bishop who engages in sexual relationships they believe are sinful, then the OCP (after the recent Judicial Council ruling) offers one, and only one option to such traditionalist United Methodists: LEAVE the denomination.

Several of the OCP’s most prominent backers have not been shy about making clear how toleration of traditionalists would be rather narrow and time-limited if it passed. One recently declared “Antigay theology and practice has consequences” in apparent support of the Episcopal Church punishing one of its few remaining traditionalist bishops for refusing, as a matter of conscience, to support same-sex weddings. The chief leader and spokesman for the UM “Centrist Movement,” a pro-OCP caucus, recently tweeted that, in his own words “The WCA [Wesleyan Covenant Association] is no better than slave owning Methodists who considered God’s children as less than human,” and further indicated that this view was “widely” held by people in his faction of OCP supporters. Other prominent OCP supporters have used less harsh wording to also link traditionalist values on homosexuality to earlier defenses of slavery.

The point here is not to debate our opinions about my friends in the WCA. Rather, the fact is that passing either the OCP or the Simple Plan would empower the faction who championed either plan to enjoy a new level of dominance in the UMC after 2019. It is worth asking how other United Methodists outside of this faction would be treated under their leadership. If the OCP or Simple Plan was adopted and those who held onto traditional beliefs and related approaches to ministry were committing evil “no better” than the brutalities of American chattel slavery, then how realistic is it to expect much toleration for long of such evil?

The OCP includes language about how congregations cannot be forced to host and clergy cannot be forced to perform same-sex wedding services. But how much could this really, actually be enforced?  A liberal bishop could easily yank traditionalist pastors from large congregations that wanted to keep them into more difficult appointments that would involve massive salary cuts for these pastors, in ways that would be clearly understood to be punishment for their refusal to do same-sex weddings.

Under the OCP, inclusion of traditionalist believers would eventually expire. Eventually, a bishop would insist on imposing on that isolated traditionalist congregation a pastor who was homosexually active or known to do same-sex unions. Eventually, the denomination’s few remaining traditionalist clergy would retire, while gifted new clergy would either not bother pursuing ordination on our denomination or would find themselves discriminated against by overwhelmingly liberal boards of ordained ministry. Eventually, someone in every theologically mixed congregation would request a same-sex union in the sanctuary, and the most divisive debates of General Conference would come to that local church, perhaps with pressures from conference leaders and caucus activists outside of the church.

And all of this is before even noting how prominent OCP supporters have made clear that the talk of conscience protections for traditionalist believers is a temporary concession to help pass the plan in 2019, but that at future General Conferences, they would push for more uniformly required LGBTQ affirmations, as a justice imperative.

Upon closer look, despite the promises of letting everyone do what is right in their own eyes, the OCP is actually a roadmap to a new reality for our denomination that would become increasingly intolerant and exclusive of the shrinking number of people outside of the liberal faction who remained.


12 Responses to Which GC2019 Plan Brings More “Unity in Diversity” Part 1: PRACTICE

  1. William says:

    All strategic plans have steps. In order to accomplish the ultimate goal of a plan, each step must be developed and worked. The old adage applies — develop a plan and work the plan. This so called one church plan is step one of an overall plan, to liberalize the sexual ethics and marriage definition of the entire denomination — employing bullying, coercion, and ultimately excommunication if necessary. To frame it any other way is a bold face LIE.

  2. Scott says:

    Local Pastors would come under considerable pressure under the OCP. It would be do gay weddings are you are out of a job. I had a friend who was a LLP. He refused to do a gay wedding and was moved by his DS to another smaller and further away appointment. This was 7 or 8 years ago in New England. If you think you will be protected by the OCP you are sorely mistaken. You are not protected by the current book of discipline in AC that refuse to follow it. It will only get worse under the OCP. John is absolutely right.

  3. Bill T says:

    regarding the CCP “Separate questions are whether or not it would be a good thing, or sustainable in the long run, to have this level of official mutual contradiction within one denomination.”

    Probably one of the greatest understatements of our age. Or one of the most amusing.

    Lincoln had the last say on this- a house divided…

  4. William says:

    Selling these multi-church plans disguised as one would be like car salespeople selling cars with two front ends and telling prospective buyers that they can drive this new design in two opposite directions simultaneously.

  5. Gerry McDaniel says:

    The larger secular LGB Movt wants one thing from the Church, it’s approval. It won’t rest until it gets it and once it does it will cast the Church aside. Eros is a jealous god and she will do everything in her power to destroy the kingdom of God.

    Sadly Church members and leaders who are seduced by her will follow her movt not lead it. They will utimately be taken to where they do not wish to go and be left there.

  6. Jeffrey Baer says:

    Thanks for a clear and straightforward analysis of the OCP. As an Evangelical member of the N IL Conference I have seen firsthand how Progressive leaders deal with traditionalists

  7. Mark says:

    Lord have mercy. There is too much hierarchy in the first place determining this and that. You guys will have a mess on your hands like The Episcopal Church if you stay on the current path. Stay conservative and faithful and let the naysayers start another sect. All this doesn’t seem to be about the word of God but rather about individual power. Go with God and let the rest of them eat cake. Peace be with you.

  8. Rebecca says:

    If you don’t like it leave, but the money and property stays. Not a bad plan for thieves.

  9. Steve says:

    One aspect of the OCP that I have heard very little about is should the OCP be adopted, and the LGBTQ language is removed from the discipline, all traditionalist clergy and local churches will be like fish in a barrel for civil law suits, and possibly hate crime charges. The law of the land allows same sex unions and the discipline is currently our only protection from these charges today.

    • Charles says:

      Amen – I asked this very question at our recent informational meeting and the Pastor, District Supt. and Conference Delegate had no clear answer as to the amount of legal exposure an individual congregation would have or if it was even considered in creating the OCP.

  10. Ruth Linholm says:

    Supporters of the OCP keep talking about our finding unity without giving up our convictions. Our unity should be in Jesus and HIS convictions which are the same as those of God the father and spelled out in HIS Word. I am afraid our human wisdom is leading the UMC I have loved into foolishness.

  11. Martha Hooley says:

    It states in the bible a marriage is between a man and a woman, period. No church or clergy should be subjected to this bullying by LBGQT to perform a same sex wedding in the church. If they want a wedding, there are plenty of them being performed outside of the church by non clergy.
    The church needs to have a backbone on this issue and not be so wishy washy about it.

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