Delegates at United Methodism’s General Conference in St. Louis, meeting as legislative committee, endorsed the Traditional Plan by 56% to 44%. The plan, which would strengthen the church’s policies defining marriage as male/female, will be voted on again by the delegates in plenary tomorrow, Tuesday.
The One Church Plan to liberalize the church’s policy on sexuality was rejected 53% to 47%. It is now defeated unless there’s an attempt to bring it tomorrow’s plenary as minority report.
Also approved were two petitions allowing congregations who can’t abide the church’s marriage teaching to leave the denomination with their property. Potentially some liberal churches consequently would leave United Methodism.
Most liberals opposed these plans for “gracious exit.” But pro-LGBTQ retired clergy Mike Slaughter of West Ohio spoke in favor of one petition, saying he did not wish to remain in a church that was not entirely affirming for all.
About 800 United Methodist congregations out of over 30,000 in America have declared themselves “reconciling” i.e. opposed to church policy on sexuality. These exit petitions also will go before the plenary session tomorrow.
The Judicial Council, top court for the denomination, will rule tomorrow on the constitutionality of all these proposals going to plenary. USA evangelicals and overseas delegates provided consistent majorities for these petitions.
Delegates voted not to address any other legislation except the “Simple Plan,” which was rejected 60% to 40%. It would have deleted all church teaching limiting sex to husband and wife, including premarital sex, adultery and same sex behavior.
Many liberal church activists and institutionalists remain surprised by the global support for the Traditional Plan, having assumed the liberalizing One Church Plan backed by most bishops would prevail. Efforts by USA church officials to cajole overseas delegates into supporting the One Church Plan have so far failed.
It remains to be seen whether liberal churches will form a new denomination after General Conference if the Traditional Plan passes. The next General Conference in 2020 will see a further shift in delegate strength towards Africa and away from America, making change in traditional church policy even more unlikely.