“Uniting Methodists” Leader Misrepresents Traditional Plan, Calls for Splitting United Methodist Church

on April 18, 2019

The Rev. Dr. James Howell, pastor of Myers Park United Methodist Church in Charlotte, NC, recently put out a misleading video on the significance of the Traditional Plan recently adopted by the special 2019 General Conference of the United Methodist Church. Howell served as a delegate from the Western North Carolina Annual Conference at the Special General Conference and was a leader of the Uniting Methodists caucus. That caucus pursued an odd combination: pushing hard to liberalize church teachings and standards on homosexuality (to an even greater extent than the liberal policies that split apart the Episcopal Church) while at the same time framing their messaging around a professed desire to maintain the “unity” of the denomination, seemingly at all costs. Unfortunately, we are also seeing divisive rhetoric in response to votes not going his preferred way.

Below we’ve highlighted some of the worst misrepresentations, errors, and mischaracterizations found in the Facebook video, which you can watch here.

The Traditional Plan’s “goal is to stamp out homosexuality from the church, and to stamp out even those who are sympathetic to it. This plan, they wish to be rid of centrists, of moderates, of certainly progressives, even thoughtful conservatives.”

This statement is unhelpful and inaccurate hyperbole. The Traditional Plan makes no attempts to change the UMC’s welcome to all people to attend services, participate in programs, become members of a local congregation, receive sacraments, and more. For example, Paragraph 4 of the Book of Discipline says that all persons are of sacred worth, and Paragraph 214 says all people may become members in any local church in the connection, and these fundamental ideas have never been in question. LGBTQ people are welcome to participate in the life of the church. Nothing in the Traditional Plan excludes or kicks out anyone from participation, membership, ordination, or even denominational leadership solely on the basis of their personal beliefs. The Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA) has repeatedly affirmed its welcome to all people, including the LGBTQ community.

“It occurs to me under this plan, none of our pastors who serve our church could be ordained, because they ask really hard questions about ’Will you accept gays in your church?’ and so on, and if you answer ‘yes’ to this you can’t even be ordained. So none of us would qualify for the ministry any longer.”

This is patently false. No such question or any inquiry like it appears anywhere in the Traditional Plan. As John Lomperis explained, the petitions of the Traditional Plan do not require any clergy to agree fully in belief with the Discipline on matters of sexuality. Rather, they must promise to uphold the standards of the Discipline with their actions, which is not a new mandate. The Traditional Plan simply aims to ensure that candidates will uphold their vows by adding clarity to the process and keeping clergy accountable when they violate the UMC’s standards. The pastors at Myers Park UMC would be barred from ordination if they professed to be practicing homosexuals but not if they merely wished that a future General Conference would liberalize church law.

By contrast, the One Church Plan, heavily promoted by Howell and his caucus, would have effectively prevented many traditionalist pastors from getting ordained in the UMC and purged many from leadership positions. Read more about this from John Lomperis here.

As stated previously, LGBTQ people are fully welcome in the UMC, and no part of the ordination process requires clergy candidates to promise to bar such people from the churches they will lead.

“We have seminaries where we train our clergy, and most of them are associated with universities. Those universities: Southern Methodist University, Emory University, Duke University, are in process right now of severing ties with our denomination if this mean-spirited Traditional Plan… and this is obvious, right?”

This is false. Only five of the thirteen official United Methodist Seminaries in the United States are associated with universities. They are Boston University School of Theology, Candler School of Theology at Emory University, Drew University Theological School, Duke Divinity School, and Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University (SMU). I reached out to Duke University and Duke Divinity, SMU and Perkins, as well as Emory and Candler, the schools Howell specifically names in his video. A Duke University public relations administrator I spoke to would only point me to Duke Divinity’s official General Conference response, authored by its dean, which says nothing on disaffiliation. Dr. Jan Love, Candler’s dean, told me that her seminary is not anticipating disaffiliating from the UMC, although she should could not speak for Emory University. Emory, SMU, and Perkins did not respond to my requests for a comment, and I have seen no other news or announcements that these schools have begun a process of disaffiliation, as Howell claims.

“Our Judicial Council is a little bit like the United States Supreme Court right now, it leans very far to the right. Even that group regarded much of what was passed as unconstitutional. The reason is it’s in the constitution of Methodism to be open, to be welcoming, to be a big tent church. This kind of exclusionary… it’s not in the nature of Methodism.”

Here Howell begins with a rather pejorative-sounding claim and a dubious one. For such a strong assertion, Howell does not provide any examples of recent decisions by the Judicial Council that would prove it to be a “very far to the right” body.

Howell also mischaracterizes the Judicial Council’s past rulings on why parts of the Traditional Plan were unconstitutional. It is not because the plan goes against fundamental Methodist values. The objections of the Judicial Council last fall to parts of the Traditional Plan largely centered around the concern that if accountability is going to be enhanced in the ordination process and over annual conferences upholding the Discipline, new standards of accountability must be applied across all relevant portions of these church laws, not just those parts related to homosexuality. John Lomperis gave a more comprehensive and nuanced review when the rulings came out last year.

“I think it became clear in St. Louis that it’s time for some kind of separation, some kind of amicable divorce. It’s hard to stay together as is now.”

There is nothing inherently wrong with Dr. Howell’s statement here, but it is worth highlighting because it is a major change in direction for an outspoken Uniting Methodists leader like him. As part of the Uniting Methodist caucus’ coordinating team, Howell championed the One Church Plan and frequently wrote about why conservatives and progressives should stay together in the UMC. As traditionalists have argued, the fundamental and unwavering theological differences held within the church make the formation of a new Methodist denomination the most logical choice. The resolve of the delegates in St. Louis to pass the Traditional Plan has made this reality clear to at least some leaders across the aisle like Howell, and they are encouraging those within their spheres of influence to move on with them.

If this video teaches us anything, it is that hurtful hyperbole and misinformation on the status of the UMC is coming from seemingly-credible sources and that progressive leaders are continuing to fight the Traditional Plan. The special General Conference is continuing to stir up the emotions of pastors and lay people alike across the U.S., and all must be wary of accepting any assertion at face value without verifying or cross-checking it. Even if the church is headed for a split, as Howell suggests would be best, bearing false witness and unfairly demeaning those with contrary beliefs hurts the witness of the church. For Christ to be honored in this time of deep vision in the United Methodist Church, cooler heads must prevail and the decisions made by key bodies like General Conference and the Judicial Council must be communicated with care and clarity.

  1. Comment by John Smith on April 18, 2019 at 7:07 am

    While his foundation is clearly prejudiced the goal is correct. It is time to split. That the progressives are finally admitting it is evidence they realize they cannot win a global battle. The terms of the split will be an even more bloody battle since it will be solely about money without any cover.

  2. Comment by Eternity Matters on April 18, 2019 at 7:34 am

    Just another UMC wolf.

    These “progressives” are anti-God and anti-decency at every step: pro-child murder, pro-LGBTQX perversions, anti-divinity of Jesus, anti-exclusivity of Jesus for salvation, anti-biblical authority, etc. They lied at their ordination vows or changed their minds later. Either way, they should leave.

  3. Comment by Diane on April 18, 2019 at 11:31 am

    Are you God?

  4. Comment by Brandon on April 18, 2019 at 6:16 pm

    You should read your Bible someday.

  5. Comment by Diane on April 19, 2019 at 2:15 pm

    Some in this discussion have expressed feeling betrayed and deceived as lgbtq folks come out of the closet – noting they lied during the ordination process. Is there a problem with hiding one’s true identity in the service of God? The revered biblical character, Queen Esther, did just that. Should Esther have been honest about her true identity? Did God bless her for hiding her identity? Would there have been a high cost if she’d revealed her identity? Would God have lost a faithful servant if God demanded Esther to reveal her true self? Given this biblical story, what’s the lesson? Is it sometimes it’s necessary that one who’s likely to be persecuted if their identity is known must conceal their identity to be God’s faithful servant? What’s the purpose when Christians lift up a biblical character who obviously employed deception to serve God? Jesus certainly knew this story, too.

  6. Comment by The Captain on April 20, 2019 at 1:48 pm

    Diane- it’s sin NOT one’s true identity- but you probably don’t believe in the idea of sin.

  7. Comment by Steve on April 21, 2019 at 9:14 am

    So you are ok with people lying on resumes, job applications and when taking oaths? Guess what, nobody else is. Recent example: CONNECTICUT: State Supreme Court Decision said Parish had the right to remove priest at St. Paul’s, Darien. The civil complaint alleges that Kovoor made false representations as to his credentials which induced the parish to engage Kovoor to be its rector in October 2016 and, therefore, his contract as rector never came into existence and is void.

  8. Comment by Steve on April 21, 2019 at 9:19 am

    How does anybody here know that you also aren’t employing deception in order to serve God in your multitudinous posts here? Nobody can. How can we believe a single word you have posted? This is particularly problematical regarding the many personal anecdotes you have posted. Isn’t one of the commandments “thou shalt not bear false witness”?

  9. Comment by Reynolds on April 18, 2019 at 7:38 am

    Unlike the Presbyterians and Episcopalians, the conservative Methodists will show grace and will allow churches to leave and not rob them blind in the process

  10. Comment by Diane on April 18, 2019 at 11:39 am

    How bigly of you.

  11. Comment by Margaret DeMaris on April 18, 2019 at 11:58 am

    It is sad that division seems necessary, however it is apparent that the progressives only supported the Special General conference in expectation of winning. Disappointment is one thing, sour grapes and false attacks are another.

  12. Comment by Bruce Ingwall on April 27, 2019 at 5:18 pm

    You are correct Margaret. Just like the liberals in the United States they are all for free speech as long as you agree with them.

  13. Comment by John Smith on April 19, 2019 at 6:25 am

    It is more likely the conservatives will be robbed blind in an effort to have a “gracious” exit.

  14. Comment by Rebecca Potts Baker on February 10, 2020 at 9:26 am

    Obviously, I am late commenting here, but I ran across this post as I was researching an entirely different subject. At this point in time the announcement about the mediation directed by Kenneth Feingold has taken place and there is a proposal to be considered at the General Conference this year as a result of that mediation process.

    I’ve read the proposal several times and it sounds like any church voting to leave the UMC will own their property and the proposal seems to be fair to the denomination, ministers, and churches. The time frame for the process to be completed is well thought out because it doesn’t put a financial strain on churches leaving or on those remaining in the UMC.

    However, I know of a church in SC that did not fare very well. Shortly after the Special Conference they voted to leave the UMC because the minister and church leaders didn’t want to go through the “ordeal” they anticipated would become at the 2020 General Conference. They did not retain any real property and the minister’s pension was also affected (I don’t know the specifics of that). They had made substantial improvements to the buildings they owned. They did not have a new space that was adequate for all of their programs at the time they disaffiliated with the denomination.

    They’ve lost members (1) some who did not want to leave the UMC and (2) some who participated in regular church activities that were put on hold due to inadequate meeting space.

    The point here: Where was the courage on the minister’s part to lead his congregation and to guide the church’s leaders to be patient for one year to see what would come from the General Conference? Where was the courage on the part of the church leaders to be patient? And the congregation?

    The minister and leaders were so rigid in their own opinion(s) and so negative in their expectation that they did not give God room to work. I’m sure there are other churches that have done the same. Actually, the Traditional Plan that succeeded at the Special Conference was in agreement with their opinion regarding the future of the UMC.

    This is a good example of what rigidity in leadership can do to a congregation. Their anger at the UMC even though the Traditional Plan was in place and their anger at the possibility the plan could change and their anger regarding what was to happen with their property and the other financial issues caused them to make a bad decision in haste just because they thought the General Conference would be messy like the Special Conference.

    Church and democracy both are messy when there is a need for big decisions. The opportunity for growth as a Christian and in one’s personal spirituality usually happens as part of the result of going through difficult times. The denomination has been heading for years in the direction of dealing with the church’s position about LGBTQ ordination, marriage and those members in positions of leadership. It is good that the UMC decided to grapple with this and finally come to an agreement.

    I know Dr. James Howell. Some of the conclusions the author made are not correct. Dr. Howell pastors a church of around 5500 members. He and the other ministers provided open discussions (open to the public as well) for the church with regard to: (1) the UMC’s position at that time [two years and one year prior to the Special Conference] (2) the Book of Discipline’s policies at that time (3) information about the various groups of churches trying to come together to form a viable solution and those group’s websites so attendees could read about each group for themselves and ask questions (4) Biblical teaching and opinions of a variety of theologians (5) information from sociology, psychology, and medical research (6) open Q&A time, no matter how difficult a question and (7) a positive, hopeful, Christ-like look to the future for churches no matter what was decided at the Special Conference. I believe those discussions on are the church’s You Tube stream.

    Dr. Howell has been present for meetings among groups of UMC leaders of a variety of opinions about the issues. He does not reside in an echo chamber of ministers and leaders all with the same opinion. I think leading the church through this period of time has been one of if not the most difficult during his years as a minister. His office door is always open to members, visitors – anyone who comes in as are the doors of the other ministers at MPUMC. Dr. Howell has been totally committed to making sure that everyone feels welcome and cared for and that is no easy feat in a church the size of MPUMC. He has encouraged discussion among members who have varying opinions. He has successfully led the church through this time as evidenced by the membership retained and by the number of people of all ages joining the church, and as I have observed, members with totally opposite opinions loving each other, working side by side in all sorts of church activities and mission work knowing they are free to express their opinion and not be criticized for it.

    Dr. Howell and the other ministers believe deeply in Methodism and the Wesley tradition and they are committed to continue to lead MPUMC forward living and working as Christ taught and lived his life.

    I am curious if the author (Dan) interviewed Dr. Howell prior to writing this post.

  15. Comment by Dr. Todd on April 18, 2019 at 10:11 am

    I am seriously concerned about the point this article raises.
    I am a non-denominational pastor in Virginia and I have to senior saints who attend my weekly study who are members of two different local UMCs. They have both come to me in anguish because their pastors have told them that the TP means that gay people won’t be allowed to hear the Gospel at church anymore. It fell to me, a pastor with no dog in the fight other than a love of my sisters to explain what happened at the UMC GC, what the plans meant, and that the decision was basically not about who could attend church but who would lead it.
    What is disturbing is that folks who claim to represent Jesus are so willing to boldface lie to their sheep to get support for a political argument.
    Both Jesus and Paul tell us that there comes a time to clean house. When are you folks going to start?

  16. Comment by Dr. Todd on April 18, 2019 at 10:12 am

    Sorry, “two senior saints.”

  17. Comment by John Smith on April 19, 2019 at 6:30 am

    The progressives in the UMC have generally adopted the political approach to the problem. Control the message, manipulate the audience, WIN! They run a top down organization, the COB dictates to the elders, the elders to the congregation. This means it is the rare congregation that gets straight information on the problem, if they get any at all. They are on their own and don’t know where to look. The official organizations all parrot the COB.

  18. Comment by Diane on April 19, 2019 at 3:00 pm

    Here’s the problem: the fruit of your particular interpretation of scripture and its application has wrought death. Jesus challenged traditional understandings of scripture when the application of them was not life-giving. Traditionalists in his faith community targeted him for plucking of the grain and healing on the Sabbath. They were aghast at Jesus’ behavior – what he did was a gross misapplication and
    misinterpretation of “remember the
    Sabbath to keep it holy”.

    I don’t know where folks were during the initial years of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. I was a care-partner, in ministry on the outside of the church to those infected and dying. The institutional church generally regarded the infected as untouchables, modern day biblical lepers. I have always felt Jesus call to be out among those cast out.

    William was a young man who told his bible-believing, devout parents and pastor that he was gay. They told him God didn’t love him and so, like God, they rejected him. William was devastated he figured if God and his family had no use for him – and he could not make himself heterosexual for their benefit, he might as well be dead. He intentionally became infected with HIV and died two years later, age 25. I was the only one in his hospital room to hold his dying hand. Most Christians were in their sanctuaries with pretty stained glass windows, soaring organ music, lofty hymns, and refreshments during coffee hour.

    Then there was Billy who tried to butcher himself after his family rejected him. And Donna, who put a gun to her head knowing her family and church said she was eternally damned.

    There was Tom, who sat in his garaged car, the engine turned on and a hose in the driver’s window that was connected to the exhaust pipe. I knew Tom and his heartache of being rejected by his family.

    There was a high school kid, Eric, whose parents told him to live in the family car after he came out to them as gay. He was welcomed back in the house only if he changed. It was August in the south – soaring heat. He walked the mall during the day, spent nights at friends’ homes until he moved to a nearby metro area with a homeless shelter.

    I could write a book of first-hand tales re the murderous application of biblical passages that Christian families, churches and pastors cause. These kids and young people were not heterosexual, yet their close-minded, conservative parents and churches demanded heterosexuality of them. Their pain of rejection made their lives a living hell.

    I have a resurrection faith – one that calls for examining scripture and what kind of interpretive fruit it bears. Jesus blatantly discarded the traditional scriptural interpretations of his faith community in favor of life – providing food to eat on the Sabbath, healing/giving life on the Sabbath. He was persecuted for going against the very clear, literal interpretation of scripture. Luke included those Jesus stories for a reason.

    Please, don’t think progressives just have an intellectual disagreement with conservatives. We have been among the outcasts because that’s where God has called us. We have heard the hurt, seen the destruction of lives caused by Christians.

    I rejoice with an Easter faith that lifts up the outcast, the weak, the poor, the afflicted. I found the living Christ outside the church. I invite you to do the same.

  19. Comment by John Smith on April 22, 2019 at 6:37 am

    The old dodge, personal experience, personal narrative, personal (normally incorrect) conclusions, as an excuse to rewrite scripture, to impose one’s will, no longer works. You merely set yourself up as the mirror image of those you complain about and use portions of the bible the same way.

  20. Comment by Donald on August 7, 2019 at 9:15 am

    Thank you, Diane. How true what you write is. I was one of those kids that was told Jesus only loved me if I changed my orientation, which was impossible. After years of reparative therapy torture, I began to accept my orientation and Jesus’ love for me. I found a faith community that affirmed me as God made me, the ELCA. I am saddened by this extremism in the UMC. They say we are welcome…but we are expected to change which is no more possible than it would be for a black man to change his skin color. Keep up the fight. God is love and Love always wins. Always!

  21. Comment by Diane on April 18, 2019 at 11:23 am

    I say split. The traditional plan says it welcomes lgbtq folks, but expects them to sit in the balcony, if you catch my drift. Not any different from those who prefer to keep women in the kitchen rather the pulpit. All of these attempts to keep certain classes of human beings in “their place” and welcomed as long as they know their place and remain in it have been traditionally backed by biblical interpretation.

    It gets old, folks. Time for a new beginning.

  22. Comment by Reynolds on April 18, 2019 at 11:40 am

    Why do you care? You not even a Christian

  23. Comment by Diane on April 18, 2019 at 12:58 pm

    And according to born-again-Christians of a few centuries ago, the Baptists weren’t either. Who gets to decide?

  24. Comment by Steve on April 21, 2019 at 9:07 am

    I think everybody can see for themselves based on your following comment:
    Diane says:
    April 15, 2019 at 12:58 am
    The No Religion folks will one day define your legacy. Latest surveys indicate they’ll probably take over at some point. Will be a good thing.

  25. Comment by Rev. Margaret DeMaris on April 18, 2019 at 12:05 pm

    Diane, as a woman I stayed in my place, in the pulpit in the UMC for 22 years. Your lack of Christian love and charity is showing. Perhaps you could end your tantrum soon, it is harmful to your soul.

  26. Comment by DIane on April 18, 2019 at 12:55 pm

    Are you that married to the UMC that you’re not aware that women within Christendom have been told and still are being told that the pulpit is not their place? Are you not aware that people on the outside lump all Christian communions together and make generalizations about the faith? The walls of orthodoxy will fall because of the marchers who on the outside. Quite biblical. Learn from them.

  27. Comment by John on April 19, 2019 at 9:13 pm

    Diane, there are many groups within Christendom that do not ordain women. However, Methodist/Wesleyan churches have done so for the past century and a half (although the UMC and some of its predecessor bodies were quite late to get on board). Today’s more orthodox expressions of Wesleyanism (Free Methodists, the Wesleyan Church, Nazarenes, the Salvation Army, AME, AMEZ, to name a few) were ordaining women long before the more liberal Methodist Church began doing so in 1956.

    Thankfully “Christendom” is fast falling into the dustbin of history–its merging of clericalism with the temporal authority of the nation-state seriously compromised the ability of the church to remain singularly focused on faithfulness to God and God’s eternal kingdom. A disestablished church can speak independently of political authority and serves as a stronger check on it with respect to matters of morals and ethics.

  28. Comment by Andrew Hughes on April 18, 2019 at 1:36 pm

    Thank you Dan for your words of wisdom for both sides of the aisle. God bless.

  29. Comment by Terry on April 18, 2019 at 2:31 pm

    I watched Dr. Howell’s video a few days ago, and he seems profoundly arrogant. Like with Diane, it appears that he sees himself as having reached that point beyond which he could ever be wrong. I’ll even guess that he thinks every person in his congregation can hardly wait to hear his thoughts each Sunday. After all, who needs the Word of God when you have a Dr. Howell? Wealthy, “perfect” churches and smart-alec pastors seem to go together. They derive much of their identity from each other, and both seem to see themselves as having “arrived.” Without a new infusion of God’s Spirit, both will end with a “poof,” with “Ichabod” written over them both.

  30. Comment by Diane on April 18, 2019 at 3:15 pm

    Just FYI – I know quite a few people outside of the UMC – among the “nones” – who will return to the congregations that choose to split and create a fully lgbtq welcoming, affirming and non-discriminatory uniting church. Some are young, some are seniors. Plenty of these folks are keeping tabs re the conversations on this site.

  31. Comment by John Smith on April 19, 2019 at 6:36 am

    That line has been sold for decades and has always fallen short. There are denominations (ECLA, TEC, PCUSA, etc) that are wide open, nay rather say, militant about pushing a LGBTQAI agenda and their numbers are crashing.

    But even if it were true it would be the wrong thing to do. To cast aside God for the sake of more people in the pews is prostitution and betrayal.

  32. Comment by James Thompson on April 18, 2019 at 3:22 pm

    Dr. Howell forgot to mention in his video that his pants were on fire.

  33. Comment by Diane on April 18, 2019 at 5:53 pm

    Actually, for non-United Methodists on the outside looking in, Dr Howell did a pretty good job of describing the UMC just as it’s been portrayed to us in the media (non-UMCers). We’re waiting for the split before deciding to join the new Uniting Methodists – but where I’m from, there’s definitely lots of hope and growing impatience from outsiders , gay and straight who want a church with open doors, open hearts, open minds and a full, non-discriminatory lgbtq welcome. All 3 UMC churches in my community were against the Traditional Plan, so if they go with Uniting Methodists, we won’t have any United Methodist congregations. Wow – hopefully that day will come! Guess the conservative United Methodists will need to find a home with the Southern Baptists in my community.

  34. Comment by William on April 18, 2019 at 7:54 pm

    Just curious. This new Uniting Methodist Church that you envision — who will it appoint to write a new bible for it to use? Or, perhaps no bible will be needed with prophets like Howell in charge. Never mind what Jesus said about false prophets. Anyway, please do all that you can to help launch this new denomination ASAP. Hamilton, Howell, and their folks are meeting next month. Please encourage them to get this new denomination underway.

  35. Comment by Diane on April 18, 2019 at 9:33 pm

    Biblical interpretation changes
    with time and new knowledge. Jesus modeled that.

  36. Comment by Mike on April 19, 2019 at 8:37 am

    Biblical interpretation is set in stone. The application of Scripture may change as society changes; Our forefathers (and foremothers) certainly did not have to deal with the scourges of total war, abortion, etc.; but any passage of Scripture can have only one interpretation. We may argue over that interpretation; my own denomination says baptism is by immersion-my Methodist friends believe in sprinkling; but both groups agree upon the necessity of believers being baptized.
    On the subject of homosexuality, Scripture is very clear that God considers it an abomination. Just this morning, my wife and I read the passage in Leviticus that says exactly that. Some today will claim that He was not referring to loving monogamous relationships between two men (although those don’t seem to be prevalent; most same sex marriages are open, which allows each artner to have as many sexual encounters outide the marriage as he wishes), but the original language makes it clear that any sexual encounter of a man with a man is wrong. Literally the passage read: “You shall not lie with a man in a woman’s place”. The place opposite of a man in a sexual encounter is reserved for a woman, not another man.
    As far as dealing with all of these “outsiders , gay and straight who want a church with open doors, open hearts, open minds and a full, non-discriminatory lgbtq welcome”, experience shows that churches which go this route do not flourish over time. The Episcopalians, Presbyterians, American Baptists, and others which tolerate, if not welcome, this sort of thing are all dying. God simply will not bless that which does not follow His commandments.

  37. Comment by Diane on April 18, 2019 at 10:50 pm

    Out of curiosity, how do you understand Luke’s passages of Jesus healing on the sabbath and his plucking of grain on the sabbath?

    These are stories – both a narrative text. Teachers of reading know that comprehension of a given narrative text will naturally result in different understandings, depending on the reader’s life experiences, critical thinking skills (as exploring context, character development, audience, author’s purpose, etc). Young, beginning readers are developmentally very literal in their comprehension skills.

    Now, let’s say these sabbath stories are being discussed in a Sunday School class. Tom gives his interpretation, but Keisha has a different take on them. Does Tom tell Keisha she’s not reading from the same bible? Does Keisha tell Tom that there’s only one way to interpret these stories and Tom is wrong or that Tom is obviously not sticking to the traditional understanding?

    Jesus was well aware of the Hebrew laws and prophecies. . What was the point of his obvious lack of adherence to those law? Given these are a narrative text, there’s bound to be disagreement over their meaning – again, any teacher of reading knows this reality. How offended would you be if another Christian disagreed with you? Would you be receptive or defensive? Likely to be dismissive and belittling? Or willing to accept with an open mind that people of faith do indeed differ in their understanding of sacred texts and with the Spirit if the living God?

  38. Comment by Margaret on April 20, 2019 at 11:22 pm

    On the contrary, Jesus kept the Torah laws to perfection. He was challenging the added laws the Pharisees had added to the Torah. His beef was with the Pharisees disobeying God’s command not to add to or take away anything from the laws He made. The Pharisees added and added laws to laws making life miserable for the followers of God. They sinned and Jesus kept pointing this out to them. He did not challenge the Torah one tiny bit and kept it perfecting. Not one jot or tittle shall vanish from the Torah until all is fulfilled. Remember when he said to the Pharisees that you make the law of God void by your traditions. Jesus knew what scoundrels these Pharisees had become (fortunately not all of them) so He kept challenging them. This made them angry. In fact, angry enough to kill him so they would not lose their offices and ranking from Rome. Even the Gentile Pilate knew they were jealous of him. He challenged the Pharisee’s authority. Sound like today?????

  39. Comment by Leland Collins on May 30, 2019 at 12:35 am

    Simple. God gave the easily understood command “Remember the Sabbath day to Keep it Holy.” and explained that believers should not work on the sabbath. By Jesus’ day the religious had formulated 1521 ways to break the sabbath, many of them quite ridiculous. Guess we shouldn’t be surprised. Mother Eve did the same thing about the forbidden fruit in Eden. Many still do it today

  40. Comment by Sharon Phares on April 18, 2019 at 11:08 pm

    I’ve seen and experienced more accepting points of view from churches of all sizes, especially smaller ones. I was expecting them to be strong conservatives, they are not. Indeed in the tradition of Wesley they remain the social conscience that changed England for the better.

  41. Comment by Diane on April 19, 2019 at 10:51 am

    I agree – while the three UMC congregations in my small town community range in size – and none of their pastors supported the Traditional Plan (it’s pretty obvious on their websites), one of the smaller churches (as opposed to the large downtown First UMC) is growing astronomically & is increasingly the go-to church in the community. They are very visible in the community with a variety of local missions. The congregation is racially diverse – far more so than any other in the community – and having observed their website over the past year, receives almost 10 new members per month – including families with young kids, young people, middle age, seniors, and singles. They are the only church in the community with a visible outreach and affirming welcome to the lgbtq community and they appear to be the fastest growing. Folks recognize this as a good news church – they’re drawn to it. If there’s an eventual split in the UMC, I’m seriously thinking of joining this congregation. And so are several of my friends.

  42. Comment by William on April 19, 2019 at 6:40 pm

    That certainly sounds like the thing to do for you. But, don’t get the cart before the horse. Please move swiftly to launch this new progressive denomination first.

  43. Comment by Steve on April 21, 2019 at 10:05 am

    I’m sure you and your friends will have plenty of other excuses not to join even if there is a split.

  44. Comment by Henry on April 19, 2019 at 8:30 am

    God cannot and will not bless this current “rumble in the chapel”. If “progressives” and “traditionalists” would channel their efforts to make an amicable split rather than argue over whose baby the church is, we wouldn’t have to listen to the snivel and drivel from either side. That is unbecoming and ungodly.
    After 70 years of being a member of the UMC and local pastor, I can no longer be a member or supporter or attender. I hope you focus on honoring each other as you split. God may just bless both sides – only He knows.

  45. Comment by Clif Mefford on April 19, 2019 at 9:03 am

    Why would the official news agency of the UMC give “Dianne” press space. Talk about the positive, encouraging efforts of the UMC and let the renegade believers burn down their own houses.

  46. Comment by Skipper on April 19, 2019 at 10:36 am

    What a change – the “Uniting” group wants to split!

  47. Comment by jeff melcher on April 19, 2019 at 6:44 pm

    Diane on April 18, 2019 at 11:23 am wrote:

    “I say split.”

    Well, as far as I can tell, that is what the “One Church” and “Connectional Conference” proposals offered: Split up in practice and pretend, claim, and say the Methodists are still “united”. It was proposed to allow every church or district decide for itself, but require all to pay into the pension fund. The OC proposal would have, as the Episcopal current practice already does, graciously permitted a traditional cleric and congregation to decline to perform or host a non-traditional wedding — but then permit outside officiants to claim dates and facilities from the (denomination-owned) church to do such a progressive rite, regardless. (Bake the cake, bigots!)

    It seems to me the vote for the Traditional Plan is not so much about sexuality, as hypocrisy. If we can’t agree, yes, let’s split. Don’t force anyone to stay and declare xer-self “united” with centuries of doctrine that have very recently been revealed to be in error.

  48. Comment by td on April 24, 2019 at 9:03 pm

    The one church plan was not a split; it was changing the christian rules for clergy and christian teaching on sexual sins for the whole church.

  49. Comment by jeff melcher on April 19, 2019 at 7:06 pm

    While we are misrepresenting each other, can anyone identify for me what intersection exists between those of the LGB factions and the QTIA factions?

    It seems to me nobody in Christiandom has a problem with ordaining the “A for A-sexual” individuals. Matt 19:12. A pastor with no particular lust in his or her heart (or capacity to do anything about such lust if it existed) is not really at issue, is it? Why then is is the lgbtiA community at all?

    Similarly I wonder about the “I for intersexed” persons. Those whose chomosomes include numerically odd combinations of X and Y and who were born with external “plumbing” that is unusual or ambiguous. These are people who very literally are just the way God made them, who had no choice in the matter. I don’t notice that the UMC or other denominations even have a doctrine about this issue. Inform me about the intersexed individual who has been denied rites of either marriage or ordination and I will better understand how the alliance of lgbtq*I*a holds together.

    Don’t get me started about the “T-for-Trans-sexuals”. Allow me just to set out my prophesy that by 2054 the UMC book of resolutions will have to post the sort of formal apology to the mutilated -for-sexual-politics that
    was offered in 2004 to those mutilated-for-eugenic-politics. The lgb*T*qia intersection … let’s don’t.

    Then there are those who umbrella, perhaps concealing their intentions, under the “Q”. The polyamorous, perhaps? Ephebophiles? Pedophiles? Furries? What does it mean to be “Queer” in the context of marriage and being a pastor, and why should such a group — seemingly identified purely by their choices and not by their characteristics-from-birth — ally with the others? And why not include furries and pedophiles by letter in the intersectional identifier? LGBTIA+PPEF?

    What am I missing?

  50. Comment by William on April 20, 2019 at 10:32 am


  51. Comment by Diane on April 21, 2019 at 2:04 am

    Grace, humility, respect.

  52. Comment by jack on April 20, 2019 at 5:23 pm

    Excellent piece–thank you!
    The arrogance of Howell, Ward, and Willimon needs to be pointed out. (I would say ignorance, but we all know that they know exactly what they are saying.)

  53. Comment by Suzanne Butler on April 21, 2019 at 10:55 pm

    You say that LGBT members will still be welcomed by the UMC under the TP, but in reality, only up to a point.

    I am certain that checks from gay individuals or couples would still be cashed. And I know countless hours of volunteering in various aspects would be appreciated as well. And I imagine a UMC pastor would perform the funeral of a gay member. But a gay member would not be allowed to be married in their UMC church. And entering the clergy would be verboten.

    What about the children of gay members. Will they receive the sacrament of baptism? I suppose they will, but how does the UMC Church model the love Christ has for all his children when that child sees the institutional discrimination against LGTB folks?

    All this said, I do believe each church/denomination has the right to steer their own destiny as far as promoting the values they see as upholding God’s commandments to us. So I must then agree that it is probably the time to go the route of the not so United Methodists and split the denomination.

    And on a practical side, that will leave the remaining conservative faction of the US UMC to shoulder the financial responsibilities for the rapidly expanding conservative African UMC brethren.

  54. Comment by Diane on April 23, 2019 at 4:31 pm

    Agree, Suzanne! I’m actually moving to a small town soon and will be looking for an lgbtq inclusive and affirming church. The one that’s really been doing this ministry of inclusion and affirmation – and doing it openly – is a UMC congregation. I don’t plan on joining until this is resolved, hopefully with a split. Thanks for your comments!

  55. Comment by SC on April 22, 2019 at 9:48 am

    I’m so over this. Even with the weight of the Bishops lobbying for One Church, they still lost a legitimate vote. There were delegates who, if this vote had been left alone by the Bishops, would have voted against One Church and voted traditional, but they felt pressure. The vote would have been more overwhelming than it was in favor of traditional Christian teachings. In the Florida conference, there was a ridiculous, half baked, disinformation campaign led by Bishop Carter to unfairly frame this issue up and despite all that, it still failed.

    If they want to split, let them. Lets be fair and amicable in the process and not succumb to the same dishonest tactics pushed by the liberal caucuses. But if they want a split, then fine.

  56. Comment by Lee D. Cary on April 23, 2019 at 6:06 pm

    Enough. Split the sheets and be done with it already.

  57. Comment by Rev. Rhodes on May 8, 2019 at 2:27 pm

    It’s about time for a split. If you are a progressive, then you speak for the devil, and God knows you not.
    Homosexuals are among the most dangerous people you will ever meet, and the traditional plan doesn’t go far enough; we need to keep the devil’s minions out of our midst.

The work of IRD is made possible by your generous contributions.

Receive expert analysis in your inbox.