2019 UMC General Conference

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Mark Holland

March 14, 2019

Liberal Caucus Leader Suggests a “U.S. Expression of Methodism” Trajectory

Theologically liberal Methodist clergy, laity, and caucus groups continue to evaluate their next steps within the denomination after the special 2019 General Conference vote to maintain and strengthen enforcement of traditional sexual ethics on February 26. One especially rattled caucus group is the relatively new “Mainstream UMC,” led by the Rev. Dr. Mark Holland, whose primary mission was to campaign for the progressive One Church Plan and against any sort of “gracious exit” provisions to allow congregations to leave the denomination and keep their property if they could not in good conscience honor its sexuality standards after 2019.

During a recent public radio interview on KCUR, Holland, who was himself a delegate, expressed frustration with delegates from outside of the United States and confessed that “essentially, I think where we are going to be moving is to a U.S. expression of Methodism.” Presumably, the we refers to theologically liberal Methodists dissatisfied with the General Conference vote.

Holland is a United Methodist minister who served as both the Democratic mayor of Kansas City, Kansas and pastor of Trinity Community Church before losing his re-election and taking time off from the church to advocate full-time for the One Church Plan. Alongside the Rev. Nanette Roberts, Holland co-founded “Mainstream UMC” in 2018 to heavily campaign for the One Church Plan. So the downfall of the One Church Plan at the special session of General Conference has placed Holland’s caucus group in a precarious position.

“If this had been a U.S.-only vote, this would have passed 12 years ago,” professed Holland on public radio, “But because of the growing influence of the international church—and they said very clearly, the delegates from the international church—said very clearly ‘we cannot be in a church that allows inclusion, even if it’s not us.’”

In trying to sell the One Church Plan, Holland had repeatedly made the blatantly false claim that this liberalizing plan “has no impact on the Central Conferences outside of the U.S.” UMAction Director John Lomperis outlined here seven ways in which this plan would actually have a major impact on non-American United Methodists.

In this recent interview, Holland noted that the number of international delegates to General Conference has risen significantly since the five percent of international delegates before 1980. “Today that number is 42 percent. And so there’s been a dramatic change in our practice of including international delegates in voting of the General Conference,” he stated.

He’s right on that much. The United Methodist Church (UMC) is growing in international presence and significant influence, especially in the so-called Global South. This lends to the increased number in delegates from outside of the U.S. The next UMC General Conference, in 2020, will have even fewer delegates from the USA and even more from Africa and the Philippines. But isn’t this a good thing for a notably global church?

Funny enough, the KCUR radio host—who disclosed that he is a Presbyterian (USA) clergyman who affirms same-sex behavior—pointed out the awkwardness in Holland’s complaint of international delegates when the UMC is a proudly global church.

“I hope you didn’t hear me complaining about it,” Holland backtracked. “I think the issue is the delegates from outside of the United States said they will not be a part of a U.S. church that has inclusion.”

He continued: “The U.S. church was very willing and voted overwhelmingly—two-thirds of the U.S. delegates voted overwhelmingly—to be in a church where there were regional differences, including allowing the international churches to continue with no same-sex weddings or ordination of gay and lesbian persons.”

While Holland has repeatedly claimed that fully two-thirds of U.S. delegates supported the One Church Plan, he has no firm basis on which to make such precise claims, given how votes were cast via secret ballot.  And such “overwhelming” support for a divisive liberal plan, which despite the name was even more dramatic than the liberal policies that split other mainline denominations, certainly is not reflective of rank-and-file United Methodists in the pews.

In any case, the UMC is not a national church nor merely a “U.S. church” that allows its international congregants to practice Biblical sexual standards. As a third-generation Methodist minister, Holland understands this. But unfortunately for him, the significant Methodist presence outside of the United States limits his liberal agenda in opposing the UMC’s orthodox teaching on homosexuality.

“The U.S. church has extended an invitation to a diversity that was soundly rejected by the international delegates,” explained Holland. “And so the U.S. has wanted this diversity and a willingness to have a theological diversity in a way that the international delegates are not.”

Contrary to such rhetoric, Lomperis has outlined how it was actually the Traditional Plan that would foster far greater diversity within the denomination, both in terms of differences of opinion and in terms of global and ethnic diversity, while the One Church Plan would dramatically reduce diversity by these measures.

Perhaps Holland should seriously consider the words of Dr. Jerry Kulah, Dean of Gbarnga School of Theology, United Methodist University in Liberia,” who has said:

Friends, please hear me, we Africans are not afraid of our sisters and brothers who identify as lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgendered, questioning, or queer. We love them and we hope the best for them. But we know of no compelling arguments for forsaking our church’s understanding of Scripture and the teachings of the church universal.

And:

And then please hear me when I say as graciously as I can: we Africans are not children in need of western enlightenment when it comes to the church’s sexual ethics. We do not need to hear a progressive U.S. bishop lecture us about our need to “grow up.”

Let me assure you, we Africans, whether we have liked it or not, have had to engage in this debate for many years now. We stand with the global church, not a culturally liberal, church elite, in the U.S.

(You can read Dr. Kulah’s remarks in their entirety here.)

So what is next for Holland and his liberal caucus “Mainstream UMC” now that the One Church Plan is defeated?

According to Holland, a board meeting is scheduled to evaluate the caucus’s future. But Holland remains hopeful. “It looks like we may be headed to a new denominational structure now,” he said, “and the role for Mainstream, Uniting Methodists, and other organizations and other groups, probably is more important than ever to navigate this for the next year.”

A blog post written by Holland further indicates the agenda for “Mainstream UMC” is its focus on General Conference 2020 by recruiting delegates in-step with unorthodox sexual ethics.

“We need to recruit delegates who are tolerant of difference,” Holland wrote. “We need to challenge the vote at General Conference that wants to certify, punish, and evict everyone who does not share a particular view of scripture.”

Sadly, even after his misrepresentations of the facts were rejected by the 2019 General Conference, Holland is insisting on continuing the same blatant misrepresentations of the facts about the Traditional Plan (again, you can read Lomperis’s setting the record straight here) as he embarks on his new project of trying to elect more theologically liberal and fewer theologically orthodox delegates to the 2020 General Conference.

 

*John Lomperis, IRD’s UMAction director, contributed to this article.


40 Responses to Liberal Caucus Leader Suggests a “U.S. Expression of Methodism” Trajectory

  1. Andrew Hughes says:

    Our UMC Bishop in Arkansas, (Gary Mueller) is still pushing this liberal agenda in the form of the “Connectional Church Plan”. This plan is just another step towards division. The only way to keep peace for all, is for those who don’t agree with the 2019 General Conference vote to take advantage of the gracious exit offered and let peace rule all things. Politicking and coercing will not change the vote dramatically in 2020. Help us Lord let reason, experience, tradition and most importantly, scripture, guide us through these trying days.

  2. Palamas says:

    Gee, a politician who lies to try to get his way. What a surprise.

    Must really stink to be a white liberal in an increasingly global, black-and-brown, orthodox church, huh?

  3. Gary Bebop says:

    Please continue to “call out” these misbegotten strategies intended to magnify U.S. domination of our global diversity. The elite thought-managers are not concealing their vituperation now. Their agendas are naked to our eyes and boastful to our ears.

  4. William says:

    Heresy at best, blasphemy at worst — Holland and his cohorts. So, they’re going to try and rig another General Conference? They’ve dropped Jesus as the Messiah, no longer believe in repentance, and must be extremely confused with his death and resurrection. They have become idol worshippers at best or are evolving into a cult at worst. Of course forming their own movement would be the right thing to do or migrating to the UUA as a less costly approach. But, doing the right thing is the antithesis of their DNA.

  5. David says:

    “We Africans are not children in need of western enlightenment.” According to the US Dept of State Country Reports on Human Rights (2018), 66% of women in Liberia have been subject to genital mutilation. Also mentioned was trial by ordeal for suspected witches. “There were press and civil society reports of harassment of persons on the basis of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, with some newspapers targeting the LGBTI community. Hate speech was a persistent issue. Influential figures such as government officials and traditional and religious leaders made public homophobic and transphobic statements.” Perhaps some western enlightenment is indeed needed.

    • Palamas says:

      You forgot to mention cannibalism among the pygmies, and the white man’s burden.

      Speaking of hate speech, you might want to buy a mirror.

    • Mike says:

      Dr. Kulah and his African Methodist are hardly responsible for all of the things you name. Don’t use that smear tactic; it hardly advances your cause.

      • David says:

        Dr. Kulah is busy boasting that Africans do not need “enlightenment” from the west when in fact they very much do. While he may not be personally responsible for what goes on in his own country, he is obviously turning a blind eye to it. The report I quote is rather lengthy and I would encourage to read it online.

  6. Marilyn says:

    https://www.susumc.org/understanding-general-conference-2019
    We in the Susquehanna Annual Conference have had our district meetings postponed until a video presentation can be prepared to educate us on what went on at the Special Conference. To me, this is very ominous. I feel that the powers that be have something up their sleeves due to the touchy-feely letter from Bishop Jeremiah Park announcing this change. I have written to him asking some clarification but have not received any acknowledgement of my letter let alone a reply.

    • Gary Bebop says:

      Keep asking those questions. Be wary of shines, tricks, and capers. We are entering the Second Season of the One Church campaign.

  7. Lee D. Cary says:

    “Sadly, even after his misrepresentations of the facts were rejected by the 2019 General Conference, Holland is insisting on continuing the same blatant misrepresentations of the facts about the Traditional Plan (again, you can read Lomperis’s setting the record straight here) as he embarks on his new project of trying to elect more theologically liberal and fewer theologically orthodox delegates to the 2020 General Conference.”

    “Sadly?” “Predictably” is both more accurate, and, frankly, more adult realistic.

    This issue – inclusiveness of all expressions of “human sexuality” by Christian protestant denominations – is just one, relatively insignificant, wing of a much broader Progressive agenda. Others parts include:

    (1) the challenge to firearm ownership by private citizens (by deleting the 2nd Amendment);
    (2) abortion of very late term pregnancies (up until the due date) and, in some cases, even into early life (AKA eugenics has been a Progressive agenda item for a very long time);
    (3) the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC) movement which would transition America from a Republic to a Democracy (generations of younger American were never taught the difference in public school – nor were some of their teachers);
    (4) the legalization of recreational marijuana is well underway – in part, through the lobbying work of a former Republican Speaker of the House and Roman Catholic;
    (5) voting rights for non-citizen US residents – very largely a fact accompli by the non-enforcement of voting laws, in compliance with the Open Borders push;
    (6) a guaranteed income for everyone, including those able to work, but unwilling;
    (7) guaranteed health care for all (AKA socialized medicine);
    (8) guaranteed free college for all, the list goes on…

    Here the problem: In alignment with its inherent tolerant sensitivity, many leaders in the church continue to see the LGBTQAI+ push as a free-standing issue, rather than just one front in a much wider Progressive movement that’s been underway in America for over 100 years.

    POINT: Many traditionally ecclesiastically-oriented persons live in a bubble, naively unaware that their theological opponents are just one part of a much broader movement.

    • William says:

      And they all need to be asked where they will be spending eternity — starting with our UMC liberal bishops, our liberal district superintendents, and our liberal clergy.

      Note: Our liberal UMC brethren seem to have misread the memo that they are being taken to the cleaners while being unsuspecting conspirators by the liberal secularists who are out to do great harm to Christianity.
      .

    • Mike says:

      ” “Sadly?”Predictably” is both more accurate, and, frankly, more adult realistic.

      This issue – inclusiveness of all expressions of “human sexuality” by Christian protestant denominations – is just one, relatively insignificant, wing of a much broader Progressive agenda.”

      I hope the conservatives realize that liberals never give up. They will either continue in hopes of eventually winning, or, if it seems as if there is no hope of victory, as happened in the Southern Baptist Convention in the 1980’s and 1990’s, they will finally withdraw to form their own church group, still taking potshots at the opposition on the way out.

      • Lee D. Cary says:

        Mike, you hit on the more constructive outcome. But It will not be a road quickly taken. Here’s why:

        Collectively, the senior leadership (bishops) and the bureaucracy (boards & agencies) side with the Progressives. They will keep the pot boiling because it’s in their best interests.

    • betsy says:

      Church leadership has not even be able to acknowledged that during the 40+ years this “discussion” has been going on how much the sexuality question has expanded. And then there is still the claim that liberalizing our understanding of sexuality will somehow increase attendance; the exact opposite has been proven time and time again. Either Leadership is living and operating in a vacuum devoid of the reality that is going on around them or they think they are leading people who are blindly waiting to be told what to do.

    • td says:

      You should be careful with this line of thought that mingles political and religious matters. Many people who are traditional christians do not align with conservative political thoughts once you leave religious issues.

      Please don’t turn your back on your allies in this battle to preserve orthodox christian teachings by painting this with red vs blue; it will shrink your base of support in the pews- especially in the midwest.

  8. Richard says:

    Lee, the progressive agenda – beyond human sexuality was also a take away from yesterday’s, UM Voices: Some Still Trust in Chariots”. The progressive side of the UMC taking money from the Haas Fund, ARCUS and the Carpenter Foundation to further their cause should indeed be a wake up call for those “traditional ecclesiastically-oriented persons” living in a bubble. Politics in the UMC is alive and well. Sadly, the peace that came from a Sunday and week of worship in a traditional church is fading. February’s Special Called Conference was provided the proof.

    • Lee D. Cary says:

      The LGBTQAI+ movement in the UMC has every right to garner funding from LGBTQ-advocate foundations like Arcus. (See a previous post on this site at https://tinyurl.com/y2u96m75 where $3.1 million granted to the Reconciling Ministries Network by three friendly foundations. But the total was still mounting when the search stopped. The point was made: LGBTQ is a well-funded effort by sources outside the UMC. No surprise there.)

      The “wake up call” you properly note, William, should cause UMC traditionalists, particularly laity, to accept that (1) the OCP advocates are well-organized, sufficiently-funded, and dedicated to a sustained campaign to fundamentally change the UMC, and (2) similar efforts directed toward smaller mainline Protestant denominations have been successful because liberal, bureaucratic, hierarchical Protestant denominations are soft targets for hostile takeovers. (See https://tinyurl.com/yxvqm2yv )

      There will be negative consequences to the UMC in general by a long LGBTQAI+ campaign. first, it will sap energy from the body. And, secondly, some laity will become fatigued with the white noise and bolt. It’s what the Progressives are counting on happening.

      The only remedy is to find a way to render a final (as final as these debates can be), definitive judgement on the matter and end the debate by enforcing the BoD. That’s a function of leadership, and leadership in the UMC today is sympathetic to the LGBTQ agenda, and inherently weak. If the debate doesn’t cease-fire, and relatively soon, the saga will continue and the progressives will ultimately have their way by default.

      The pivot point comes in 2020.

  9. April User says:

    The progressives love diversity but when “diverse” folks, i.e., the central conferences, don’t agree with the progressives, they are attacked and vilified.

  10. Diane says:

    My ancestors include European explorers, six Mayflower Pilgrims, Salem witch accusers and one Salem dissenter. Others were clergyleaders of progressive churches that publicly named slavery as un-Christlike and called for abolition.

    The biblical verses used to demonize lgbtq people were among the scriptural baggage called “clobber passages” that were used to justify discrimination of women, people of color, girls, Jews, Baptists, Germans, the Irish, the disabled, and yes, gay folks were all part of the ages-old white upremacist ideology. That brand of religion was taught to enslaved people, Native Americans, and by the missionaries who colonized Africa.

    It is a warped way of using scripture to denounce as inferior any group not born straight, white, healthy male. Every group beneath these men – women, children, “witches”, gay people, people of color, non-Christians, have had to fight for equality because their status as full human beings was lessened by Bible bullets these White Europeans brought here and used against them.

    The traditional plan is nothing more than a reflection of deep-rooted white-male supremacy that has dominated this land – and Africa – since the white man ruleth.

    LGBTQ people are everywhere. Where there is condemnation, they in closets and the church becomes a place for white supremacists to play “let’s pretend we’ve destroyed them”. It is a stupid game of self-deception all around and it is destructive. I am a senior citizen…lived most of my life in a small southern town. Because I am friend to many lgbtq people (who have their own network outside of heterosexual supremacists), I’m aware that for the last fifty years, United Methodist pulpits in thatbtown were filled by closeted gay men. They cheated on their wives. This is what the traditional plan advocates want to continue. Progressives want honesty – which is far healthier and creates stable, honest marital relationships. As long as there is condemnation, your little gay children who grow up and want to faithfully serve your church, will have to remain closeted. The best way not to be discovered as gay is marry some innocent straight person, usually a woman. When the stress of hiding becomes too great, just cheat on her.

    Conservatives surely know that among the leaders of the international Straight Spouse (Support) Network are United Methodist women who thought they were married to straight men – only to divorce after their spouses came out as gay.

    A resurrection faith and theology lifts up. The traditional plan that essentially tells gay people to closet themselves if they want to be ordained or marry, is a destructive theology. It does tremendous harm to innocent people. It is white supremacy.

    • William says:

      Again you elevate the LGBT identity above all else, certainly above the transforming power of Jesus Christ. Citing all these sins of the past is not a very good defense of the sins of the present. Sin is sin. But, all of us sinners have an out, Jesus Christ on the cross. But — there’s a catch, REPENTANCE. If we do not believe that sinners must repent, be born again, and walk anew with Jesus – then we’ve fallen into that eternal damnation trap of Satan.

    • Palamas says:

      Of course it’s white supremacy. In fact, everything Diane hates is white supremacy. Climate change is white supremacy. Heterosexuality is white supremacy. Spam (the meat, not the digital trash) is white supremacy. Barry Manilow’s music is white supremacy. And, of course, African evangelicalism is white supremacy, because as we all know those stupid people can’t think for or read the Bible for themselves.

      Somewhere, Inigo Montoya is laughing his tail off at Diane’s destruction of the English language, and David Duke is relishing her bigotry.

      • Arthur Terracio says:

        Wow. You make very convincing replies. Wish I could argue like you. Gay Revisionist Theology ignores God’s word. My bishop is pro-gay and so is my pastor. What do we do?

    • Lee D. Cary says:

      “The traditional plan is nothing more than a reflection of deep-rooted white-male supremacy that has dominated this land – and Africa – since the white man ruleth.”

      So, let me see if I have this, Diane:

      You assert that the GC delegates representing mainly non-white Methodists outside the US are persons whose judgement has long been (deep-rooted) subverted by “white-male supremacy.” And, that “domination,” at the hands of white-male supremacy, has resulted in persons-of-color (my words) voting their inculcated bias against the interests of members of another victim group (LBGTQ+).

      That a fair summary of your assertion, Diane?

  11. John Smith says:

    What matter the facts when the narrative is correct? We must realize that the liberal/progressive branch is not interested in “facts”, “truth” “scriptural authority” if it contradicts the revealed truth of their preconceived notions, grievances, history and lack of empathy or discernment. A prime example would be Diane’s post above with irrelevant credentials, incorrect analysis, wrong conclusions and a contradictory air of both victimhood and entitlement. There really is no path forward except separation but even that will be bitter. The liberal/progressive wing is unwilling to part with the cachet, property and money of the UMC. If the conservatives were to form a separate denomination it would only be a matter of time until the infiltration and pressure to conform to the world would begin again in the US.

  12. cbbyrd says:

    Ironic how UMC spent years of energy, money, marketing, and lipservice touting its “global church” status. Now that its reality is evidenced some would have us believe that the US not driving the bus and narrating the tour dialogue will take it off a cliff. Have a little faith.

  13. Scott says:

    I have church members that have closely followed what happened and some listened to the livestream of the GC. They were truly shocked by the comments of the progressives and what they are writing now. They are rapidly becoming disillusioned and I may lose some of my best members. If this problem is not solved next year and if the two sides do not separate, I am sure that my church will enter a death spiral. This needs to end and it needs to end at next years GC.

    • William says:

      Scott,
      I am unable to get past the strong suspicion that the progressives, perhaps subconsciously and with the aid of the Great Deceiver, have the overall goal of sending the church into a death spiral.

    • Darrell Clark says:

      I think you have a very good grasp on the thoughts of your congregation. I’m astonished, appalled , bewildered and exhausted spiritually. I have already started visiting other churches. I thought if the traditional plan passed it would end the fighting but sadly the other side has vowed to stay and fight. I’m beginning to think the conservatives would have been better off if the traditional plan had been defeated. They, we seem to be more willing to bow out gracefully. I am ready to give them the UMC in its entirety, I’m ready to “shake the dust from my shoes “

    • Darrell Clark says:

      I think you have a very good grasp on the thoughts of your congregation. I’m astonished, appalled , bewildered and exhausted spiritually. I have already started visiting other churches. I thought if the traditional plan passed it would end the fighting but sadly the other side has vowed to stay and fight. I’m beginning to think the conservatives would have been better off if the traditional plan had been defeated. They, we seem to be more willing to bow out gracefully. I am ready to give them the UMC in its entirety, I’m ready to “shake the dust from my feet”

      • Tom says:

        Not to put too fine a point on it Darrell, but *that’s what they want*. That’s their strategy. They know they can’t win through legitimate means, so they’re digging in their trenches even deeper. They know that good people who simply want to do the work of the Gospel don’t have the stomach to fight, but instead will leave. And that’s how they will win. I urge you not to give in.

        • Darrell says:

          I ask how is this issue to be resolved? Without some form of punishment to enforce the book of discipline,I see no end. Until 2016 , I didn’t know so many of UMC church leadership was so liberal, misguided and secular. I believe there is a “core belief “ in Christianity that MUST be followed . It’s not open to contextual interpretations. This issue is a sexual sin just as adultry is a sin. The difference is the other sinners(me included) are not trying to force the church to condone our sins. I ask for forgiveness from god not blame him for making me this way!

    • Katherine says:

      The overall the long term goal of progressives is the destruction of the church. Adam Hamilton has said this in not so many words.
      The progressive liberal theology taught at most UMC seminaries and is what the early church considered Gnosticism. Gnostic’s were considered heretics.
      I say this because both sides agree that this GC was prayed over more than any other meeting or conference. Yet when the votes were tallied and the OCP died they said the majority of people voting were not listening to God. I assume this means that the progressive are the only ones who can know God’s will. They are the only ones who have been enlightened. The rest of us are just poor stupid goats.
      To hear anyone say that God’s voice was not heard, or was ignored implies that only those aligned with the OCP can hear and understand God.
      I am reminded of several scriptural passages but Proverbs 3: 5-6 came to mind first.
      Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
      I prayed that God’s will would be know during the conference. I was not for the one church plan but had decided that if it should pass I would abide by the decision.
      It is clear from reading quotes from my Bishop (Trimble) that he thinks he knows more than God. That his direction for the church is the only correct plan.
      I am greatly sadden to see Gnosticism being accepted and celebrated within the church when it was once considered heretical.
      I am greatly sadden at the vile retoric spewed by these loving progressives.

  14. BJ Haines says:

    And here’s me thinking that a delegate’s job is to vote the beliefs of the people in the pews, not the apostates who preach identity politics instead of the Word.
    “Of Jerusalem I thought, ‘Surely you will fear me and accept correction?’ Then her place of refuge would not be destroyed, nor all my punishments come upon her. But they were still eager to acct corruptly in all they did.” –Zephaniah 3:2-7

    • John Smith says:

      In the UMC it is the job of the Bishops to tell the Elders what to do, the Elders to obey and tell the laity what to do. The laity to do what they are told, shut their mouths and open their checkbooks. Thus the all delegates are to adhere to the COB. Since they did not do so the fault is at the feet of the selfish, self willed laity not the “leaders”.

  15. Raymond Lanham says:

    Wow! I’m a new Methodist and didn’t realize that my theology was white supremacist inspired. I thought that all scripture was inspired by God, of course He is the ultimate white supremacist, isn’t that right?
    Homosexuality in all it’s forms is sin (see 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and Romans 1:26-28) and all homosexuals are called to repentance just like the rest of us sinners. The problem with repentance is that it’s so humbling and most folks just find humility a cross to great to bear.

  16. td says:

    It becomes more and more obvious as time goes on that the liberal wing of the church claims to have a problem with traditional believers, but what they actually have a problem with is god.

    It seems their anger should be addressed to the father, son, and holy spirit instead of those that are following the christian faith as revealed by christ- the faith and teachings that has been handed down to us.

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