One Church Plan

United Methodists Reject Liberalizing Marriage Teaching

on February 26, 2019

In a final vote, delegates at United Methodism’s governing General Conference rejected the One Church Plan heavily pushed by most USA bishops to overturn the church’s definition of marriage as husband and wife. It would have compelled local churches to choose their own marriage definition, localizing to tens of thousands of congregations an issue always reserved by General Conference.

The final defeat of the One Church Plan, in the form of a minority report, was 55% to 45%. Yesterday the plan was defeated in legislative committee.

Delegates are convened in St Louis for this specially called General Conference to adjudicate the church’s teaching on marriage and sexual ethics. Unlike most other historically liberal USA Mainline Protestant denominations, United Methodism teaches sex is exclusively for husband and wife.

Over the last two decades, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church USA, United Church of Christ and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) have liberalized their marriage teaching. Schisms and accelerated membership losses followed.

Uniquely among Mainline Protestants, United Methodism is growing but only because of its overseas membership. The church has over 12.5 million members, 6.8 million of whom are in America, the rest mostly in Africa. United Methodism in Africa grows by several hundred thousand members annually, while the USA church loses almost 100,000 annually. Africans are currently at least 42% of membership and will soon become a majority.

African delegates nearly unanimously opposed the One Church Plan despite pressure from USA bishops and USA church bureaucracy. They were joined by most Filipino and European delegates.

All the forces of institutional USA United Methodism were arrayed behind the One Church Plan. But USA evangelical and overseas delegates together were an insurmountable majority. As the USA church declines and continues to lose delegates in favor of Africa, overturning the church’s marriage teaching becomes increasingly unlikely.

This afternoon, General Conference delegates will discuss the Traditional Plan, which would enhance enforcement of the church’s marriage teaching. Parts of the plan, which was approved yesterday in legislative committee, must be amended to overcome constitutional objections from the church’s top court.

  1. Comment by Bob Land on February 26, 2019 at 2:43 pm

    Praise God from Whom all blessings flow! And, thank you, John, for all your hard work.

  2. Comment by Bruce on February 26, 2019 at 3:02 pm

    Thank you Lord!!!
    We have been so worried about the outcome of this, as my Wife and I agree we will leave the UMC if the OCP went through – and we’ve been members for more than 70 years. Also a Thank You to the African and Philippine and other conferences.

  3. Comment by Sheila on February 27, 2019 at 3:04 am

    Your books of Discipline which are written by man contradict the Jesus’s teachings and Gods’s love. Your church can no longer call itself a Christian church nor use a slogan liken open hearts, minds and doors.
    People’s sexual orientation is no more chosen than your right or left handedness.

  4. Comment by Rev. Margaret DeMaris on February 26, 2019 at 3:16 pm

    My husband and I also agreed the OCP would necessitate our leaving. As retired clergy (both) we are grateful to GOD and will stay to help revitalize the church against the culture.

  5. Comment by Sheila on February 27, 2019 at 3:08 am

    Yes! Now we can get rid of all the people we don’t have to let in OUR church! I wonder if we should get rid of the divorcees next? I don’t think God loves them either, really!

  6. Comment by Sarah N. on March 2, 2019 at 8:56 am

    Sheila, There is a difference between actions that are repented and confessed and those acts of disobedience that we are asked to celebrate. In my church, the pastor will not commune those who live together before marriage. They are counseled and told to live apart before they come to communion. He will not marry them in the church if they refuse to live apart. There are consequences to flouting the Bible. This entire UMC situation is similar to our immigration dilemma where souls are encouraged to flout the law by lack of enforcement.

  7. Comment by Annette Dricker on February 26, 2019 at 3:18 pm

    To God Be the Glory!

  8. Comment by William on February 26, 2019 at 3:18 pm

    NOTE: This is also a NO CONFIDENCE vote for our liberal bishops and confirms what has been suspected for a long time that they have lost the trust of the church. First, Ken Carter should immediately step down as president of the Council of Bishops and one by one, those who were advocating this ‘one’ church plan should initiate plans culminating with their departures.

  9. Comment by Bruce on February 26, 2019 at 3:36 pm

    You’re right, William. The Discipline hasn’t been enforced for some time now. I hope this will change, as you say.

  10. Comment by Stephen C. Weber on February 26, 2019 at 4:37 pm

    If the discipline is not enforced and leadership who do not accept the traditional plan removed we will see this constantly coming up.

  11. Comment by UMC dissident on February 27, 2019 at 11:53 am

    Good to see you are all for a split. At least you’re open about it. Because if you do “enforce discipline” (or, as I call it, bigotry), you’ll be driving people out. So Christlike.

  12. Comment by Lee D. Cary on February 27, 2019 at 12:36 pm

    “…if the Bishops keep thumbing their noises at the laity and the bible with impunity, then it was all for nothing.”

    Yes, and that’s what we’ll likely see. What’s to stop that behavior?

    In individuals and in organizations the best determinate of future behavior is past behavior.

  13. Comment by Gary on February 26, 2019 at 4:52 pm

    Amen! We tout Matthew 18:15-17 all the time about matters of disagreement, but we NEVER follow through. It is time, PAST TIME, to address this issue of negligence and downright disrespect for Biblical authority by our bishops and church leaders. Nothing will change under the present leadership. Dissension and open defiance will grow. These false teachers and shepherds need to move on. And by the way folks, these are the words of Christ our Lord!

  14. Comment by Deborah on February 26, 2019 at 5:28 pm

    I totally agree.

  15. Comment by Connie on February 26, 2019 at 10:25 pm

    Gary, was Jesus not a friend of tax gathers, calling Matthew to be His disciple, eating with Zacheus. If Jesus had “followed the rules”, he never would have offered His grace to these and others, but unlike humans, Jesus looks at the heart and offers grace to those who don’t deserve it. Maybe that grace goes to those who sit in judgement of their brothers in Christ, rather than loving them. My Jesus states in Matthew 22:37-40 that the greatest commandment is “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these 2 commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets”. In the Good Samaritan parable we see that our “neighbor” May seem most unlike us, but we are still called to love them. How can our church love and welcome all if they judge their lifestyle to be incompatible with Christian teachings. Incompatibility indicates 2 things that are so opposed as to be unable to exist together. I don’t remember reading any teachings of Jesus about homosexuality. I choose to show Jesus’ love to all. It is not my job to judge but to offer radical hospitality to ALL my neighbors.

  16. Comment by Tracy on February 27, 2019 at 4:33 pm

    Jesus absolutely ate, stayed in their homes, went from town to town with them as you stated… the part you left out of all the stories of Jesus is the part where he taught them better ways … to turn their life around.. the stories state that some rejected his message and
    and others followed..

  17. Comment by Joel on February 26, 2019 at 10:31 pm


  18. Comment by Fred Ayers on February 26, 2019 at 3:20 pm

    Now the question is: how will this decision be implemented? Will there be real consequences for those who have violated the Book of Discipline, or will the liberal opposition simply hunker down and gather votes for another challenge at a future GenCon?

  19. Comment by Reynolds on February 26, 2019 at 3:40 pm

    This was the last best chance for them. Every year going forward the international delegates will become a larger percentage. They can stay which most will for money reasons or go to like minded church like the UCC. I suspect some Bishops will try to cause problems before they leave.

  20. Comment by MJ on February 27, 2019 at 12:25 am

    Yes, I think you should brace yourself for an institutional backlash. There’s still a lot of work ahead.

  21. Comment by Lee D. Cary on February 27, 2019 at 12:41 pm

    “…if the Bishops keep thumbing their noises at the laity and the bible with impunity, then it was all for nothing.”

    ONLY for nothing if the laity remain dormant at their annual conferences. It’s time for lay delegates to hold their bishops accountable in the UMC as well as in the Roman Catholic. Church in America.

  22. Comment by Rick on February 26, 2019 at 3:38 pm

    As one who grew up in the UMC, I find the fact that the vote was as close as it was very disturbing. Not surprising, though, if one simply pays attention to the headlines of the day. Heck. In an unrelated headline, democrats just voted to not protect children born alive from botched abortions. The debauchery of the world knows no limits. The only thing stemming the tide of evil rising in our country IS the church. If we don’t stand for truth and absolute moral authority, who will? Members of that 45% may want to reconsider their life choices. I’m grateful that the UMC stands almost alone as a symbol of adherence to the authority of the Bible as God’s best plan for life.

  23. Comment by Pam on February 26, 2019 at 3:50 pm

    Totally agree with your comment. It also bothered me to see the vote was so close and that most USA bishops pushed for it.

  24. Comment by John Campbell on February 27, 2019 at 1:50 am

    Amen! Brother.

  25. Comment by jeff melcher on February 26, 2019 at 3:40 pm

    I regret that LGBTQ X-tian former Methodists will have to choose new church homes from among the many options provided by denominations like the Episcopals, Anglicans, Lutherans, Presbyterians, etc etc etc. It’s going to be difficult and painful to date dozens of LGBTQ-friendly X-tian services and make a decision and committment. Go in peace.

    I am thrilled to welcome cis-het Christians from their former Episcopal, Anglican, Lutheran, etc communities into fellowship and communion with Traditional Methodist congregations. I hope you will find that we heirs of Wesley, Asbury and Coke are not so unlike our cousins inheriting the traditions of Thomas More, Martin Luther, or even John Calvin. May you we welcome, and fruitful, and blessed, and joyful, among us.

  26. Comment by David on February 26, 2019 at 4:14 pm

    “Know that Marriage is an outward material thing like any other secular business. The body has nothing to do with God. In this respect one can never sin against God, but only against one’s neighbour” [Weimar, Vol. 12, Pg. 131]. — Martin Luther

  27. Comment by Jim on February 26, 2019 at 4:41 pm

    Quoting a man even the stature of this reformation saint is not a good idea. Stick with the Word of God.
    “Therefore St James’ epistle is really an epistle of straw, compared to these others, for it has nothing of the nature of the Gospel about it.” (Luther’s Works 35, 362)
    Even this giant of the faith didn’t get it right all the time.

  28. Comment by Shane on February 26, 2019 at 5:14 pm

    That is talking about who has authority over marriages (Luther believed secular authorities should preside over marriage/divorce, etc.). It is not talking about the nature of marriage. You would have a hard time finding Luther condoning anything like homosexuality.

    You took that quote out of context. Luther was reacting to the real legal power of medieval church courts over people’s lives and marriages. He was not speaking about current affairs.

  29. Comment by Shane on February 26, 2019 at 5:19 pm

    What you cited is actually an amalgamation of of various things Luther said and it creates a distortion of what Luther was actually saying. Please read this post to be educated:

  30. Comment by Lee D. Cary on February 27, 2019 at 12:55 pm

    “’Set fire to their synagogues or schools,’ Martin Luther recommended in On the Jews and Their Lies. Jewish houses should ‘be razed and destroyed,’ and Jewish ‘prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing, and blasphemy are taught, [should] be taken from them.’ In addition, ‘their rabbis [should] be forbidden to teach on pain of loss of life and limb. Still, this wasn’t enough.”

    “Luther also urged that ‘safe-conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews,’ and that ‘all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them.’ What Jews could do was to have ‘a flail, an ax, a hoe, a spade” put into their hands so “young, strong Jews and Jewesses’ could ‘earn their bread in the sweat of their brow.’”

    You good with that, David?

  31. Comment by J Cole on February 26, 2019 at 4:24 pm

    Our whole family left our Episcopal Church at the first of the year and joined a wonderful, traditional Methodist congregation!

  32. Comment by April User on February 26, 2019 at 6:14 pm

    We moved to the Anglican Church (ACNA) 5 years ago and they are very traditional. Not to be confused with the Anglican Church Worldwide. My husband is a UMC elder and seeking orders in the ACNA.
    Sorry to see the toxic environment that is manifesting itself in the American UMC.

  33. Comment by Pat on February 26, 2019 at 3:48 pm

    Praise the Lord! I am thrilled by the final vote, but broken hearted many in our church leadership and membership had fallen trap to a falling away of God’s message regarding sexual behavior.

    We need Bishops who will whole heartily support the Traditional Plan, support and enforce the Book of Discipline as approved.

    Time to re-evangelize our church!

  34. Comment by Thomas Kyle on February 26, 2019 at 4:08 pm

    Praise the Lord for the UMC’s biblical stand on human sexuality!

  35. Comment by Martha Irwin on February 26, 2019 at 4:41 pm

    I’m glad that the majority voted to take God’s word literally. The Church should set and be the moral code for the world by NOT conforming to the ways of the world.

  36. Comment by Sheila on February 27, 2019 at 3:23 am

    The ways of the world? You mean not to love thy neighbor? We know what the consequences of that! Disregard the teachings of Jesus? We are taught to love that is all! The Book of Discipline is a modern day man made book of rules which is a politicized way churches are trying to force its members to believe the way a group thinks others should act and think and what consequences they face if they don’t follow the rules. They have nothing to do with the simple teachings of Jesus or the love of God.

  37. Comment by HBSP on February 27, 2019 at 3:05 pm

    Just because the OCP was voted down doesn’t mean that gay people are not loved and I still will welcome them to our

  38. Comment by Thom on February 26, 2019 at 4:50 pm

    Note to self: the will of God, the Lord Almighty, creator of Heaven and Earth, the Great I AM, and the uncreated ground of all creation, is subject to the whim of a majority vote by His creation.


  39. Comment by James Dick on February 26, 2019 at 4:57 pm

    Rather than falling in numbers like so many of the mainline Protestants who went weak kneed and caved to change for the sake of change, we Methodists stood tall and strong for the Word of God. We love everyone and yes, we are all sinners, but to change the church doctrine instead of maintaining discipline which has stood the test of time is folly. People are looking for God’s absolutes, not watered down proposals that are meaningless. They are thirsting for truth. Anyone is welcome to the Methodist Church, but your heart has to accept the Word of God as it was intended to serve in leadership positions, not the Word as you want it to be. And yes, you may falter, but you must fight to return to His way.

  40. Comment by Judith Hensley on February 26, 2019 at 5:41 pm

    I am not Methodist, but watched this situation with grief and intensity of spirit, praying that this abominable thing would not happen. It is hard to imagine that a group of believers with such deep historical roots, and such incredible outpouring of God’s Spirit in their midst would even have such a decision on the table. Thank God for those who prevailed and are more interested in obeying God’s word than expanding the “popular culture” of this deceived generation.

  41. Comment by Alice DeBoer on February 26, 2019 at 5:53 pm

    Praise God for leading our hearts and minds back to Him! He will bless our faithfulness! I believe our membership will grow worldwide if we now finally stand firm for what we believe. Like the church in Laodicia (Rev 3: 15-16) we were lukewarm. Let us now be refined and grow in righteousness for the Glory of God!

  42. Comment by Mary Ensley on February 26, 2019 at 6:03 pm

    It is disturbing that the vote was so close. I just can’t wrap my head around why they don’t just leave the UMC if they don’t agree with our book of discipline and the Bible.

  43. Comment by bob on February 26, 2019 at 7:17 pm

    Frankly, I think the American Bishops are tares sown by our enemy. DId the insidious idea of greenlighting sin originate with the church first, or did the world think of it first and then the church capitulated? Websites with as many as 25 bible English translations from the Greek ALL unanimously say the same thing in 1 Cor. 6:9.
    25 groups of scholars are ALL wrong?? Not likely.

  44. Comment by Lee D. Cary on February 27, 2019 at 12:57 pm

    They don’t want to leave it.
    They want to lead it.

  45. Comment by Tom on February 28, 2019 at 12:59 pm

    They’d rather burn it to the ground than accept defeat.

  46. Comment by Steven Zinser on February 26, 2019 at 6:36 pm

    I am glad the one church, pro-homosexuality plan has been defeated. I hope for passage of the traditional plan. However, that will not be enough.

    We must pass an amicable exit plan so dissenting churches can graciously leave with their property and money.

    It was the threat of church impoverishment that helped liberal bishops overthrow common sense.

  47. Comment by William on February 26, 2019 at 7:14 pm

    Our liberal bishops have drifted so far from Scripture that they sound absolutely ridiculous and absurd as they stand, straight faced, uttering their rhetoric. They have become an embarrassment to the UMC and have lost all credibility. They would be the last that one to seek out for a conversion experience since they do not comprehend the Good News Gospel of Jesus Christ. They need to gravitate into a secular job — running for Congress would be a good alternative.

  48. Comment by Jim on February 26, 2019 at 9:01 pm

    Good word William!

  49. Comment by B. J. Haines on February 26, 2019 at 7:18 pm

    Glory! Glory! Hallelujah for the good news!
    If our Bishops are afraid of losing members and money, they’re not fit to lead us. The Bible is filled with the miracles God has performed for those who do His will in the face of insurmountable odds.
    I left a UMC church where there was almost no scriptural message coming from the pulpit. The pastor actually FORGOT Pentecost, and instead ladled out an hour of social justice blather. He preached an entire month of “The Bible According to Winnie the Pooh.” Seriously.
    I left for another UMC church with a traditional pastor who practically glows with Spirit when she preaches the true Word of God on Sundays.
    In our present culture, people NEED the refuge of correct scripture. They’re lonely, desperate and afraid. I say, throw open the doors and let those who are seeking God stroll on in while those looking for 4 weeks of Pooh make room for them.

  50. Comment by Patti Martinson on February 26, 2019 at 8:07 pm

    I am not a Methodist, but I have friends who are part of the UMC and they are hurting over this decision. GLBTQ+ will always be under God’s loving arms, regardless of what any church decides.

  51. Comment by John on February 26, 2019 at 8:24 pm

    I am certainly happy the OCP failed. I’m certainly happy the Traditionalist Plan prevailed among a clear majority of the delegates. But did we win the battle only to lose the war? With the Judicial Council gutting the enforcement provisions in the Traditionalist Plan, are we incapable of meaningfully reforming our denomination? If enforcement will continue to be left up to each Annual Conference and its Bishop, we all know a sizeable proportion of those Bishops and Annual Conferences will simply do nothing about blatant violations of the Book of Discipline. And our apportionments will continue to go in part to financially support those who refuse to uphold their oaths as ministers of the UMC to follow the BOD. So please help me understand how Traditionalists have succeeded in saving our denomination, when it appears to me that after all the time, effort and the enormous expenditure of church funds, we are just where we were last week. The dissenter will stay and continue to dissent by defying the BOD and apparently there is nothing the Global Denomination can do about it. I’m very discouraged despite being pleased the Bishop’s disunity Plan went down in flames.

  52. Comment by MikeS on February 26, 2019 at 8:47 pm

    So the liberals’ favorite sexual minority has been defeated by the liberals’ favorite racial minority. What will they do, who dare they blame? They can’t blame White Supremacy on this one!

    But I would not count the liberals out. I don’t think their primary interest is to worship in their own way; they want your buildings. If I were an orthodox UMC member, I would stay on guard.

  53. Comment by Joel on February 26, 2019 at 10:30 pm

    Hallelujah! Now we just need to expel the American Bishops who promoted the Once Church Plan. God will bless the Traditional Plan!

  54. Comment by John Smith on February 27, 2019 at 6:28 am

    The rejection of the Bishops’ Plan is the one point of good news that needs no qualification. As someone else has eluded to above if the approved plan is not enforced, if the Bishops keep thumbing their noises at the laity and the bible with impunity, then it was all for nothing.

  55. Comment by Lloyd on February 27, 2019 at 9:20 am

    Thankfully God answered our prayers and the One Church Plan lost. Now it is time for ALL the Bishops and Clergy who supported this plan to resign their office and leave the church. They have no Biblical basis on which to base their position. The Bible is very clear on the issue of homosexuality. It is clearly a sin. The Bishops and Clergy who have supported this move have supported a move that is contradictory to the Bible. Their job is to teach the Bible and follow God’s word. They have failed to do that and have violated the trust of following scripture that must be maintained in their position.

  56. Comment by Amanda on February 27, 2019 at 10:29 pm

    I’m not holding my breath for any real change . I predict its going to be business as usual for a very long time because 1/ no one in this country respects/ submits to authority anymore, and 2/moral relativism is one of Satan’s sneakiest weapon.

  57. Comment by John Smith on February 28, 2019 at 6:51 am

    Something I posted on another IRD thread on the topic of implementing the approved changes:
    I guess the first thing would be for Methodists to start the complaint process, not something publicized by the Elders, Bishops, Districts and Conferences. Having a simple flow chart on the whos and hows of that could be very helpful. How about it IRD? Upon 2nd posting and consideration I could see how this could poison relationships between IRD and the UMC leadership and lead to charges that the IRD is “gunning” for it.

  58. Comment by John Smith on March 1, 2019 at 6:45 am

    I think the big miss on all of this was letting the Left/Progressives define the battle as one of homosexuality/gay rights. The Right/Conservative/Orthodox fell right into the trap. Thus you see numerous comments about the sin of homosexuality, it is evil, it should be condemned, etc. In many ways the Left is correct in saying homosexuals have been singled out. The right should have counterattacked vigorously that the question was the authority of scripture both personally and in the church itself. Then again a part of me thinks the Right was afraid of a full examination of the UMC in the light of scripture,

  59. Comment by becky on March 1, 2019 at 9:32 pm

    It is time that the Bishops come to the terms of what the laity stands for want for the future of the UMC

  60. Comment by John Smith on March 4, 2019 at 6:05 am

    Except for the fact that the laity pay the bills (and for agencies/societies, where there are large endowment not even then) why would the bishops pay attention to the laity? There is no mechanism of accountability back to the pews. The Bishops have shown repeatedly they will not discipline their “peers”. I would expect the COB to take this as proof positive that the laity are in need of intense instruction in church hierarchy and the obligations on the laity-obedience, deference and apportionments. Messages along the line of: You had your vote now start pumping the money back into the system. should be coming soon.

  61. Comment by John Smith on March 4, 2019 at 6:12 am

    On a side note I’m always amused when a Bishop stops by the district and you get the messages to meet the Bishop. Why? To be a Bishop one must be a good politician able to fit into the group, an adequate administrator and little else. Have not the last couple decades shown that a UMC Bishop may embrace whatever personal theology they so desire? Which they may dictate to the AC but don’t cross them. I remember on Bishop lost a decision contesting an Elder’s refusal of membership to someone. Bishop got the last word by downgrading the Elder on the next cycle of assignments. Why should I desire to spend time with such a person? Some would say respect the office but as pointed out above what does that office mean anymore?

  62. Comment by John Smith on March 4, 2019 at 7:10 am

    And while I’m on a roll being talkative. Has anybody else noticed the almost completely different coverage of the decision in the secular media. I feel like we should all be in sack cloth, shivering in the outer darkness, covered with ash.

  63. Comment by Marilyn on March 10, 2019 at 8:50 pm

    John Smith, we in the Susquehanna Annual Conference have received a letter from Bishop Park dated March 8 that states that all District meetings have been postponed until sometime in May so that we can view a message about the decisions of Judicial Council in regard to questions raised at the Special General Conference. This to me has ominous overtones. What is coming? How can we respond to this unknown? It is very “unsettling” and raises all kinds of suspicion. It sounds as if this will be a video presentation sent to various locations for indoctrination …. er, I mean viewing. Very strange.

  64. Comment by John Smith on March 11, 2019 at 6:58 am

    The only way to respond, that will get any attention, is to say that payment of apportionments has been delayed until May while awaiting clarification on the pending actions of the Annual Conference.

  65. Comment by JoAnn Knutson on September 20, 2019 at 2:20 am

    76% of USA Conferences have voted not to support or obey the Traditionalist Plan and are sending a majority of delegates to OCP representatives to General Conferences here in the Twin Cities. With the first enforcement of the Traditionalist Plan or possibly even right after GC2020 if the T Plan is not rescinded you will not have us to blight your Methodist Church. But we intend to stay Methodist…no longer United. Here is a map of the states likely to leave…hope you don’t get lonely!

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