2019 UMC General Conference

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United Methodist Agency

April 17, 2019

United Methodist Agency Responses to General Conference 2019

In the wake of the momentous and emotional Special General Conference held in St. Louis, several general agencies of the United Methodist Church (UMC) have issued formal, written statements in response. In other agencies, notable staff have expressed their own opinions publicly. The passage of the Traditional Plan was certainly a landmark moment in the history of the denomination. The official churchwide offices are created by General Conference to perform services that local congregations and annual conferences cannot, and they are funded through general church funds. Their goals are to carry out the programs adopted by General Conference and to provide “a common vision, mission and ministry for the entire global church.”

Jeff Walton has reported on General Board of Church and Society (GBCS) General Secretary the Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe’s press release. Displeased with the decisions made by the global legislative body, she wrote that “The 2019 General Conference brought unbearable pain to the body of Christ,” and that “The delegates’ resistance to hear and honor the presence and voices of LGBTQIA people has created a wound. The wound may one day be healed by the grace of God, but the scar left behind will be visible forever.” She hopes the church will see the error of its ways, adding: “Our prayer must be of repentance. We must seek forgiveness. We must call on Christ to heal all of the brokenness we have imposed on the body.”

Two leaders of The Connectional Table (CT), formed in 2004 “to discern and articulate the vision for the church and the stewardship of the mission, ministries, and resources of The United Methodist Church as determined by General Conference” gave a less partisan response. CT Chair Bishop Christian Alsted and Chief Connectional Ministries Officer the Rev. Kennetha J. Bigham-Tsai issued a joint statement acknowledging the deep divisions within the UMC that are not going away. “We believe that, because of these fundamental differences, we cannot maintain unity as we have understood and practiced it in the past,” they said. They appear to view the differences in the UMC as so deeply irreconcilable that a split would be beneficial, a significantly different message than the common institutionalist position of preserving unity at all costs. But they were a bit vague in terms of firm commitments: “We are not suggesting any specific plan. We are instead pointing to the need to move forward in ways that address the current reality of our church.” United Methodists should seek after a unity that is not defined organizationally or structurally, they said.

Erin Hawkins, the General Secretary of the General Commission on Religion and Race (GCORR) issued a statement accusing the General Conference of causing harm to LGBTQ people and tied it to the UMC’s history of racial discrimination. She wrote that “the action of the Special Called Session of General Conference to support the Traditional Plan serves as proof that our comfort with sanctioned discrimination and exclusion has never left.” She expressed sorrow for LGBTQ United Methodists, adding that her heart grieves for her LGBTQ siblings “who experienced the harm of continued rejection, insensitive and bigoted rhetoric, and emotional and spiritual disregard.” Not giving up hope, Hawkins asserted that “The struggle to end oppression in all of its forms and to realize the vision of full inclusion must continue.”

GCORR’s Board of Directors officially endorsed and affirmed their General Secretary Hawkin’s statement. President of the Board, Bishop Earl Bledsoe stated that they support her as she speaks “a word of truth about the sin of oppression that continues to plague our church as well as a word of encouragement for those who have been discouraged and wounded.” Bishop Bledsoe added that they “deplore the continued oppression exhibited by The United Methodist denomination.”

United Methodist Women, which is celebrating the 150th anniversary of its founding this year, spoke to its role in promoting unity across the church while acknowledging how difficult General Conference was. “The Special General Conference was difficult for all—even the Traditional Plan adopted may not be enforceable—but LGBTQIA sisters and brothers bear the brunt of the pain. United Methodist Women will continue to pray for our beloved church and stand in solidarity with all those who are in pain.”

In their statement, UMW wrote that the Traditional Plan encourages those who disagreed with the church’s stance on LGBTQ people to “leave the denomination and form a new expression of Methodism,” and that despite the many opinions held within their membership, “United Methodist Women stands together, committed to serving women, children and youth” and will continue to be a “creative supportive fellowship.”

Some notable general agency employees have made questionable personal but public responses. Rev. Junius Dotson, General Secretary of United Methodist Discipleship Ministries, helped lead the “UMC Next” Gathering. Despite being a paid leader of the whole denomination, Dotson has a prominent role in a group that asserts its “first course of action is to resist what we believe are unjust policies enacted by the General Conference and to apply pressure on the system.” Instead of honoring the decisions of General Conference, Dotson and other so-called centrists and progressives are looking for a “better way forward” than the Traditional Plan.

The Rev. Victoria Rebeck, Director of Public Relations for the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM), made the erroneous factual claim on social media that IRD is funding the Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA), in her words, “as they have other groups in their attempt to topple other churches.” After this was brought to the attention of GBHEM General Secretary Kim Cape by John Lomperis, Cape said “GBHEM does not have a position or opinion on the 2019 General Conference discussions or decisions. As servants of the whole global church, we stand ready to support the decisions made.”

As the dust continues to settle across the United Methodist Church, there may still be much more to see from the general agencies and their leaders. Let us pray that they may serve the global body of Christ well in these difficult and polarizing times.


37 Responses to United Methodist Agency Responses to General Conference 2019

  1. Mike says:

    As usual, the liberals lie and twist words as they continue to subvert the will of the majority. They will never acknowledge that they, in the words of Gamaliel, “be found even to fight against God.” Jude rightly refers to such as “clouds without water”, and “twice dead”.

    • Diane says:

      Mike, there’s a larger context that conservative UMC members are associated with and will be judged as to how they respond. The political campaign of Pete Buttigieg. and openly gay and Christian man, has already brought out the mean-spirited comments of his detractors with which many Americans associate conservative Christians. He has been called “not a real Christian” because he’s an Episcopalian and today’s news is spotlighting protesters shouting Sodom and Gomorrah. Conservatives have long talked about “hate the sin, love the sinner.” Let’s see how much “love” is shown to Buttigieg. My guess it’s going to get pretty ugly and conservative Christians of every stripe will be judged for their hate, not for their love. You have a bigger problem than the denominational response to your anti-lgbt conference vote. Buttigieg’s campaign has the potential to turn more and more people away from traditional Christianity and indeed, anything that smacks of organized religion. While your focus is on the UMC, the bigger issue for you on the national stage will be a perceived association of all Christian conservatives with what is increasingly understood as the hateful religious fringe of white supremacy in America (and yes, homophobic attacks are associated with white supremacists). What’s your strategy to quell the anti-gay Christians that will make themselves loud and obnoxious while Buttigieg continues to campaign?

      • Joan Wesley says:

        I agree with what you are saying. The problem is many people do not know the difference between a true traditionalist who is grounded in historical Christian doctrine and modern fundamentalists who are there are their own stream of Christianity that has gone awry. But I also believe that many hard core progressives do not want to know there is a difference because Traditional fundamentalists are a perfect foil for hard core Progressive fundamentalists.

      • Margaret DeMaris says:

        Perhaps Mayor Pete should not have started his campaign by attacking another Christian like Vice President Pence? Also, when did all the LGBTQetc get smarter than GOD?

        • Tom McCann says:

          Perhaps one should not tell lies like “Mayor Pete starting his campaign by attacking Mike Pence.”
          For the record, that is not how he started his campaign.

        • Diane says:

          I’m guessing you would’ve supported John Tarbell who attacked the born-again Christians in 1692 Salem? He was ex-communicated because he wasn’t a real Christian like them.

          The point: Buttigieg I saw rightly calling out those who use their faith to harm others. And just for the record, those opposed to marriage equality enjoy the benefits of Social Security tax dollars paid by lgbtq citizens for surviving spouse benefits to heterosexual widows. Same-sex individuals who lost their committed partner prior to the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision have lost thousands of dollars in Social Security surviving spouse benefits because of greedy, self-serving Christians who supported this discrimination and the theft of income from which they benefit.

          I have received the average amount of SS surviving spouse benefits for the past ten years – more than $150,000. My cousin lost her same-sex partner, a military veteran who risked her life for your freedom, to breast cancer before the Supreme Court decision. Because of the anti-gay opposition to marriage equality, they were never able to legally marry. She’s lost thousands of dollars of surviving spouse benefits/income. She’s a single mom who’s raising the daughter they adopted – a child abandoned at birth because the birth mother chose adoption over abortion.

          My brother died of a stroke at age 59. His partner would’ve been eligible the following year for surviving spouse SS benefits had they been allowed to legally marry. They both worked and paid their fair share of Social Security taxes.

          Civil marriage was withheld from these couples for no other reason than conservatives gaming a financial tax system to deny millions of dollars in earned benefits to same-sex couples.

          Of course, conservatives might say they could’ve married someone of the opposite sex. I have a gay friend who did just that (he believed marriage to a woman and “pray the gay away” would make him straight.). Forty years later, exhausted and stressed by his secret, he came out to his wife. They decided not to divorce – they would keep the heterosexual marriage charade in order to keep the respect of unsuspecting co-workers and church members. Devastated, traumatized, and depressed, his wife committed suicide. His reward? He quit his job because he now gets a monthly SS surviving spouse benefit check.

          For the immeasurable pain to lgbtq folks caused by conservative Christians and the tax dollars stolen from lgbtq citizens to benefit opposite-sex married couples while same-sex individuals have never received a penny of that lost income because of outright discrimination, Peter Buttigieg had every reason to attack folks who believe they have the right to use their religious faith to hurt and rob American taxpayers.

          • Diane says:

            To clarify: John Tarbell was opposed – on religious grounds – to the witch trials, the accusations, the harm and indeed, the execution of Salem citizens. He spoke out and was condemned by born again Christians in his community. They were aghast that he would attack their faith. Tarbell, his family and several others were banished from the Salem church for heresy. Tarbell was on the right side of Christian history. If he hadn’t attacked those born again Christians for the harm they were doing to Salem citizens, we might still be hanging witches. Oh wait, we are – only the witches of today, according to born again Christians are lgbtq folk. The biblical injunctions against witchcraft are still there – but we now ignore them for good reason. The biblical injunctions re same-sex behavior are still there, but most Americans are choosing to ignore them. For good reason. Puritans eventually dropped their primitive beliefs re witchcraft and most Americans now view the biblical understanding of sexuality as primitive.

          • td says:

            This whole situation is unseemly. It is beyond outrageous that those who have promised to follow the rules of the UMC have decided to disregard the decisions of the only body that the UMC has authorized to make these decisions.

            I used to think that the UMC could orchestrate a managed splitting of the institution; I don’t think that is possible anymore. I suggest that those clergy who can’t abide by the decisions (which, by the way, are consistent with over 2000 years of judaeo-christian belief) have some integrity and resign their positions. If they can not bring themselves to acknowledge the authority of our Church, why should the Church acknowledge their ability to serve as our clergy? Are they so beholden to their salaries and pensions that they have forgotten their higher calling?

            If the clergy can’t abide by the rules, they should resign. If an annual conference or local church can’t abide by the rules, they have the opportunity to leave under the terms and conditions that already exist. If they want a better way out, I suggest that they initiate constitutional changes to make it possible. I am beyond the point of bending every which way to appease a schismatic group of clergy. The only reason I am at all sympathetic to their situation is because I assume that they have been lead to believe by our bishops and boards that the rules will eventually be changed for them.

            Nothing is stopping them, on this very day, from resigning and going out into the streets, hills, and mountaintops to preach and convert the masses. Isn’t this the same group of people that keep telling us that the church is the people and not the property? Aren’t they excited and passionate enough about their convictions to start their own churches? If they are concerned about bishop succession, it seems that there are plenty of bishops that would join them.

          • Lamar Aiazzi says:

            The LGBTQIASTUVWXYZ are constantly sobbing about how victimized they are. They refuse to recognize that God’s word in the Bible says the practice of homosexuality is evil. In addition, Christ confirmed marriage as existing only between one man and one woman. There’s no wound over the General Conference decision to choose traditional Methodism, only willful people frustrated that they can’t brow-beat, bully, or shout down the faithful into complying to their re-definition of sin as virtue. The Bible warns about that saying something like “woe to them who call good evil, and evil good.” So, why are you condemning the goodness represented by the Traditional Plan by calling it evil, and trying to justify the sin of homosexuality by calling it virtue?

      • Dan says:

        One can make a case that Episcopalians, if they agree with the current theology of the denomination, are not Christian, at least in the classical sense of fully assenting to the historical creeds and the thiry nine articles of religion. Buttigieg has already given his approval to abortion at any time for any reason. IMHO, that alone disqualifies him from my support and should cause pause for any Christian considering supporting him

  2. Dave says:

    We will never be more loving than God is. God has stated what is best for us in His word. This isn’t a trivial topic in the Bible. Clear warnings about homosexuality are made in both the OT and NT. The loving thing to do is to follow His word on this issue. The vote at the Special General Conference is what the church has decided and it does fall in line with Scripture. Those that oppose this should be heard, but at the end of the day, Scripture needs to be our standard and again, the church has made its decision. If someone truly disagrees and can’t accept these perspectives, they need to leave the church. The unloving and the wreckless action to take would be to fight against the decision, go against God’s word, and promote a destructive lifestyle that God has warned us against.

    • Diane says:

      I disagree. The reason I don’t believe in your god is because I’ve witnessed and experienced greater love among humans than you attribute to your god.

      Currently, Buttigieg’s campaign rallies are being protested by conservative Christians dressed up in Halloween costumes. They are witnessing to your god of “love”.

      • Palamas says:

        Your god is an idol, pure and simple, made in the image of your political ideology. The Unitarian church is waiting for you with open arms.

        • Diane says:

          I’ve always been a part of interfaith events. Love Unitarian Universalists and Reformed Jewish folk, but prefer to identify with progressive Christians.

      • Jim says:

        You are so disingenuous Diane- if you have “any “ interest in knowing the true God, you need only to ask Him to reveal Himself. Quit hiding behind the excuse that some of His followers fall very short of His grace. My guess is that you have no interest in knowing God- use enjoy using Him and Christians as your pawns in your little game.

        • Diane says:

          Why not vary your language re God? Or have you made an idol of a masculinity and can only use “he”, not “she”. I know many UMC folks who regularly use a variety of images when speaking of God, but I’ve noticed in these forums that masculine pronouns for God are preferred. It’s very retro – I’m a senior who’s been in many ecumenical settings and worship services where a masculine God is spoken of, but there’s also a variety of other language, too, to avoid idolizing any one image.

      • Loren Golden says:

        “I’ve witnessed and experienced greater love among humans than you attribute to your god.”
         
        I don’t believe you, madam.  The volume of angry, denunciatory, bitter, vociferous words that you have written in responses to nearly every article that has been posted on this site in the past few months belies your statement.  As the Lord Jesus said, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Lk. 6.45)  I have read dozens of your responses here, and nowhere do I see evidence of a heart speaking out of love.  Above you wrote, “My guess it’s going to get pretty ugly and conservative Christians of every stripe will be judged for their hate, not for their love.”  How do you think you will escape that same judgment?  Please, for the sake of your immortal soul, “first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Mt. 7.5)

  3. Andrew Hughes says:

    Everyone needs to read the book by Bill T. Arnold, “Seeing Black and White In a Grey World” which is a response to Adam Hamilton’s book “Seeing Grey In a Black and White World”. The theology and reasoning is clearly put forth. We must get back to our heritage, church law, and most importantly scriptural foundations.

  4. Nancy says:

    As a Methodist of 70+ years, this whole thing makes me so sad. I’ve left the church just in the last 4 months. It seems to me some of this is a matter of integrity. I am in the WJ where those who were ordained and said they’d uphold the Discipline, haven’t. They’ve basically said screw the Discipline by their votes and actions. I have a real problem with that. I also have a real problem with being called unloving and a homophobe by those who castigate us for wanting to follow the Scripture. Your words are no better than what you accuse us of. I am not unloving and a homophobe. I have beloved family members and friends who are gay. In addition, before the General Conference, what were people praying for? Were you praying for God’s will to be done or for a specific plan to succeed? Who are all of you to decide something is or isn’t God’s will. God does allow pain in order to make changes. What if that’s what’s going on here? Whatever it is, I’m out of it and at a place I can worship without wondering if our pastor is misinterpreting the scripture to achieve his/her own biases or if he/she is “sneaking” in a gay intern because he/she thinks we can’t deal with homosexuality in a kind manner. It hurts my heart to see all of this happening but I can’t be a part of it any more. I’ll be praying for those of you who are trying to figure it out.

    • Jim says:

      Good word Nancy- thank you. My wife and I exited the UMC as well two years ago and are thankfully in a church where scripture is exposures and where the congregation is in no uncertain terms clear that marriage is between one man and one woman. Mayor Pete may have the political charm to woo some of the masses but mayor Pete will not sway the sovereign almighty and holy God.

  5. Dan says:

    OK, pet peeve of mine. Why do they keep talking about our “LGBTQIA brothers and sisters?” That is so blatantly binary gendered for those who claim to be ever so sensitive to all things sexual.

  6. Palamas says:

    The 2020 General Conference needs to defund the General Board of Church and Society and the General Commission on Religion and Race. They both are run entirely as adjuncts of the political far left, and in no meaningful way represent the denomination that enables their political activism.

    • Lee D. Cary says:

      Sadly, some of the boards/agencies professional bureaucrats don’t understand that the party is over.

      New employment elsewhere is on their horizon.

  7. Roger says:

    In Acts 8: beginning at verse 13, a man name Simon, believed, was baptized, watched miracles and signs which were done. But the Holy Spirit had not fallen on any of them. Peter came and laid hands on them and baptized people in the name of the Lord Jesus. These received the Holy Spirit except Simon. LGBT people are similiar to Simon in this story. They think God has changed his mind about vile affections and unnatural desires. Their hearts need to be forgiven as they remain in their gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity. The know the judgement of God but they applaud when others turn to this lifestyle.

  8. William says:

    This blitz by the left in an attempt to have traditional Christians abandon God and join them in idol worship (LGBT Movement) will not succeed, reminiscent of Baal worship and Elijah. Using the guilt trip tactic, trying to tie contemporary traditional Christians to past atrocities committed in the name of Christianity, and the egregious name calling will not change God and His Word. What is being grossly ignored and seemingly outright rejected by the left is Jesus on the cross and his atoning death for our sins, including the sins of sexual immorality. Tragically, the pain being described now by the left as a result of General Conference will not even be a footnote compared to that pain to come by the rejection of the saving grace of Jesus Christ in the turning to this idol worship.
    .

  9. Jen says:

    When does this stop? Gender is the next thing up for debate. There is already UMC “Pastors” trying to twist Bible verses to claim Jesus had an open gay polygamist relationship with his disciples. That the bread of life was a sexual act.

    Mayor Pete is not an example of the next savior. Sure is he a softer personality compared to Trump but his ideas are not biblically based. Abortion up to the last minute before birth is not love. Taking from others is not charity. Lying about men to push a false agenda isn’t winning. Being gay isn’t a character trait. Defining yourself simply by your sexuality is lacking a focus on God’s generous gifts. What is Mayor Pete besides gay?

    • Mark West says:

      “What is Mayor Pete besides gay?” A multilingual Rhodes scholar and a decorated veteran, among other things. You’re welcome to draw a comparison to the ignorant draft dodger in the White House.

  10. Mel says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with “td” and “Palamas”. It’s time for the liberals to go spew their vitriol somewhere else.

  11. Cbyrd says:

    No surprises here in this article and this is the very reason that my family no longer gives unrestrictedly to our local congregation. Our gifts are designated and may only be used by the local congregation for its local operation and the local congregation’s approved missions/ministries….no UMC agency apportionments, no UMC approved seminaries, no episcopacy salaries, etc. And our family is not the only one doing this. Done with this mess. If not resolved after this year’s round of annual conferences and see some resolutions emerging from the continued defiance of the polity as put forth in Discipline, many of us will be exiting to non-denoms and smaller congregationalist denominations where such costly and inane political controversies seem to be less pronounced.

  12. Michael Snow says:

    Many using Biblical language to affirm un-Biblical positions. We really need a back to basics movement. https://textsincontext.wordpress.com/2014/03/16/love-basics-heresies-divorce-homosexuality-church/

  13. John Smith says:

    If a split comes most of the agencies will wish to go to the liberal section but wish to maintain both historic trust funds and the conservative funding. Has anyone looked at this? In addition, assuming the UMC continues there needs to be a serious discussion of the agencies; are they really needed? If so how can greater control be exercised over their staffing?

    • Richard says:

      John, I would second that discussion of the need for UMC agencies. The UMC has become like so many organizations in terms of structure and decision making. Top heavy.

      • William says:

        These agencies and boards mean NOTHING to those funding them. It’s like paying taxes to another government that has absolutely no allegiance to the tax payers, in fact, actually has contempt for them. Disband, eliminate, and reorganize the general church making it actually relevant to its members and true to its mission.

  14. Lee D. Cary says:

    Several cases catalogued above of the tail (church bureaucrats) wagging the dog (delegates representing The Church Lay & Clergy members).

    I once sat in a meeting where a conference level bureaucrat said, and I quote, “The purpose of the local church is to support the Annual Conference and the General Church.” Hmmm.

    • John Smith says:

      I remember talking to one candidate for ordained ministry and they were marked down for not knowing that is was apportionments that bound the UMC together.

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