Traditional Plan

Methodist Court Affirms Traditional Plan

on April 26, 2019

Rebuffing appeals by the Council of Bishops and church dissidents, the United Methodist Judicial Council on April 25 reaffirmed that key parts of the Traditional Plan approved at the February 2019 Special General Conference are constitutional. It also reversed its earlier ruling, and declared that congregations who disagree with the church’s teaching on sexuality may leave the denomination with a two thirds congregational vote. This reversal could facilitate creation of new liberal Methodist denominations by congregations that cannot abide the Traditional Plan’s stricter enforcement of the church’s affirmation of sex only between husband and wife.

The Traditional Plan adds mandatory penalties for pastors who violate church teachings on sexuality, including the ban on same-sex rites. These new policies will go into effect in 2020. Permission for local churches to quit the denomination begins immediately. United Methodist properties are owned by the denomination through their local conferences. Under this new policy, congregations could leave with their property, with approval from their local conference (Methodist version of diocese or presbytery).

Reaffirmation of most of the Traditional Plan was not surprising, since the Judicial Council has already reviewed it in October 2018 and during General Conference in February.  But bishops and church dissidents hoped they had one more chance to kill the Traditional Plan, whose passage ignited shock and outrage by many church liberals in the U.S., while supported by traditionalists in America and around the world.  It was so startling that many liberals since General Conference have publicly discussed possibly leaving United Methodism in favor of creating new denominations with more permissive sexual standards.

The biggest news from the Judicial Council meeting was the affirmation of exits for dissenting congregations.  Many liberals had initially assumed that traditionalists backed this legislation to facilitate their own departure. Only later did many realize it was actually aimed at dissident congregations. Almost certainly this ruling will enhance liberal calls for quitting United Methodism as the growing global denomination becomes increasingly conservative mostly thanks to its fast expanding churches in Africa.

IRD’s United Methodist director John Lomperis, who was a General Conference delegate, submitted extensive briefs to this meeting of the Judicial Council that were cited in the rulings.

  1. Comment by Jens paulsen on April 26, 2019 at 5:15 pm

    We are very pleased that they stood firm to uphold the rules as spelled out in the book of Discipline.

  2. Comment by Chris on April 26, 2019 at 5:42 pm

    Now maybe our Progressives Brothers and Sisters will stop fighting and support the birth of 2 (or 3) new Methodist Expressions. I’ve been ready.

  3. Comment by td on April 26, 2019 at 5:53 pm

    Thank God that the exit petitions survived! Let’s hope dissenting congregations will now have the integrity to leave.

  4. Comment by Tom on April 26, 2019 at 6:23 pm

    I wouldn’t hold my breath. They aren’t interested in doing the work of the church. They want to “win,” at all costs.

  5. Comment by td on April 26, 2019 at 7:38 pm

    Yeah, i agree. Sadly, i think you’re right.

  6. Comment by John Smith on April 29, 2019 at 5:44 am

    It is unlikely they will leave; the money and prestige is in the denomination. Most likely they will retreat to their strongholds in the seminaries, boards and agencies, regroup and start again.

  7. Comment by Terry on April 26, 2019 at 6:55 pm

    Now that the Judicial Council had affirmed the Traditional Plan’s provisions, and in light of the fact that I, and possibly others, are confused as to where the UMC stands at this point, would someone please explain what still needs to be done on the issue at GC 2020? Thanks!

  8. Comment by William on April 26, 2019 at 8:21 pm

    The very best thing that could happen at 2020 General Conference would be for progressives and their allies to present petitions of separation from the UMC so as to take advantage of the just approved exit plan and depart the denomination.

  9. Comment by William on April 27, 2019 at 4:22 pm

    In addition, for a number of the UMC buildings now occupied by two-thirds majority progressive congregations and their clergy, some of which are on multi-million dollar historic properties, it would be most wise of them to literally cash in on this generous exit offer. After all, these properties were paid for by the donations of past generations of traditional minded Methodists, and they’re now on the block for FREE. Not many offers come by like this often.

  10. Comment by Andrew Hughes on April 26, 2019 at 8:51 pm

    I don’t believe the matter of homosexuality is the root of the problem. I believe the struggle is a matter of sovereignty; God’s sovereignty. The bottom line; for myself as a pastor; “I must preach the whole council of God, in love, according to the Holy Spirit inspired Word Of God.” All people, no matter their sexual preferences, addictions or, the sin that so easily besets them, or myself, should be welcome in any of our churches, (Hebrews 12:1) After all; we all need help with our temptations. But, we must realize, teach and preach; there is a better way than the way of the world and sin. (2 Corinthians 6:17). We must encourage, admonish, and honor God. He created us, to love us and walk daily with us. But, that includes allowing His sanctifying grace to remake us a new creature from within to without. (2 Corinthians 5:16-21). I could name a number of other scriptures that support my beliefs, but so could the apposing side. But I believe contextually, historically and reasonably my preaching and the majority of The United Methodist Church that voted in February of this year agree on this matter. We should be in prayer for everyone involved in this controversy.
    The catholic or universal church is facing pressures from political, social, and so-called theological sources to modernize and progress to a new day, a new revelation on many issues. You will hear misinformation and conjecture, but pray for God to reveal the truth and hold to it. None of us has perfect revelation but God can and will reveal to us what we need for the time we live in. If you tell people the truth, even in love, you will be branded a hater, bigot, hypocrite and worse. I want to encourage all those who believe God is sovereign and still in charge to hold on to Him and His word with all your strength and faith. You will be rewarded with a crown of life. Jesus said, “I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.” (Revelation 3:11). Read also; (James 1), (2 Timothy 4), (1 Peter 5)

  11. Comment by Tom on April 27, 2019 at 9:56 am

    Absolutely correct. The people who try to frame it as simply a matter of the church trying to dictate whom someone else can love are either ignorant or malicious. The homosexualty issue is the visible tip of a much larger iceberg – is God’s word authoritative or not?

  12. Comment by K.G. Goodwright on April 29, 2019 at 11:52 am

    Andrew. That was beautiful. Thank you.

  13. Comment by Bruce on April 29, 2019 at 5:15 pm

    Well said! AMEN!

  14. Comment by Charlie van Becelaere on April 29, 2019 at 5:39 pm

    Well said, sir. I wish my brothers and sisters in my congregation would hear what you’ve said, rather than assume that “evil conservatives” are attacking gays.

  15. Comment by Patsy Keltner on April 29, 2019 at 8:03 pm

    The UMC hasn’t said all sinners are not welcome in our church.The Bible tells us that if sinners lead us all will fall in the ditch.. What is wrong with our council of Bishops. They all should be replaced

  16. Comment by Phyllis Carmack on April 30, 2019 at 7:54 am

    Very well said. This has been my way of thinking how God’s word teaches us. I pray for all concerned.

  17. Comment by Moss Luy on May 1, 2019 at 12:25 pm

    Hear, Hear! You have presented a cogent, biblical response to what the Traditional Plan represents. Does the UMC want to be a biblical, Christian church or another new age community that is the real question? The progressives want to make it an issue about homosexuality because this represents an easier question to argue than God’s sovereignty. We are called to bring light into the world not reflect the world.

  18. Comment by Denver on May 2, 2019 at 2:24 am

    A new day has already arrived. The issue of unity does not start between people but between God and His creation. So the question for those on the side of the traditional plan and that includes me is to what extent has God made possible unity between Himself and His creation us? We have one year to allow Him to answer this question for all of us as Methodist before there is no turning back for us as a church. So the question for us is are we prepared to ask that He might speak. Please visit the site www. Also at this website is a copy of a book inspire by the Holy Spirit titled Written On Stone.

  19. Comment by Bob Johnson on April 26, 2019 at 9:22 pm

    Thank you Mr. Tooley for all that you do. God bless you!

  20. Comment by Richard on April 26, 2019 at 10:48 pm

    Yes, thank you and all those at IRD.

  21. Comment by Lee D. Cary on April 28, 2019 at 1:30 pm

    And, well done John Lomperis.

  22. Comment by Tracy on April 26, 2019 at 10:28 pm

    Many still do not get it, including some pastors, financial contributors, some bishops and others who hold themselves above the rest of of us, Methodists. Every sinner is welcome and needs to be in fellowship with believers of Jesus Christ and the Holy Scriptures. To tell people believers that a sin is not a sin to make them feel better and that it is ok to continue in sin, better yet, rejoice in it and led others to the same sin as a way of life, is so far from God’s Love that I will leave that to others more studied in scripture to comment. I just wish to speak for the majority, and yes even though the very liberal media and eloquently speaking far left contextual speakers think they speak the only truth and are going to liberalize the rest of us to “see that society and the world’s view is correct” and that scripture, God’s inspired Word is no longer accurate because they are enlightened and know better, we still are the majority and try to conduct ourselves in love, peace, and with God’s grace even though we will not lie to ourselves or others even if it would make life easier and more financially prosperous on earth, not in Heaven. Please, people, this lie, will not will not be accepted ever to traditional believers of the scripture. It will be better for EVERYONE on both sides to separate ASAP to avoid the hurt. We truly believe the scripture and Jesus Christ and can only continue to follow Him. I am so saddened by the way many in our UMC have chosen the ways of the world and several for financial gain. It is over, the end has come, time to end the insanity of thinking it will change.

  23. Comment by Rocky Lane on April 27, 2019 at 11:44 am

    Amen and Amen. Holy Lord help us to be grounded in your word and always remember it’s your will and not mine that’s important…

  24. Comment by Gary Bebop on April 27, 2019 at 12:56 pm

    Thank you, Mark Tooley, for your courage and tenacity in speaking the truth. These are corrupted times. What lies ahead is a fearsome battle for doctrinal integrity and message clarity. Please continue to address error and apostasy with all the resolve and strength that comes from serving Jesus Christ faithfully.

  25. Comment by Terry on April 27, 2019 at 4:07 pm

    When I look at the way I can be at times, I realize that I can become as egotistical as any radical liberal when my personal convictions are agreed with (or disagreed with for that matter). In the Wesleyan way, I believe perfect, holy love is a result of an entirely sanctified life, and I believe such a life is attainable now—not something we must wait for until heaven; however, I am still tempted to selfishly assert myself on occasions to make sure my opinion prevails. There is no sense of conscious blessing to “win” when it is at the expense of compromising the grace God has given to keep me from feeling I must win, no matter what. When We have strong feelings about a controversial issue, it’s not unusual to try to find people who agree with us. Each person who agrees with us is another “scalp on our belt” to bolster our certainty of being right. (Have you ever noticed how easy it is to manipulate a discussion in such a manner that most everyone will say they agree with you just to keep you from getting upset with them?)
    That is what feeds a lot of controversy in the church—the driving compulsion that I have to be right, no matter what. That attitude accounts for much of the impassioned disagreement within our denomination. That ego-driven passion is found among both conservatives and liberals. If the scriptural and Methodist teachings of holiness and perfect holy love are true, then it’s high time we Methodists start letting God crucify our selfish egos and and fill us with Himself to the extent that we can “perfectly love Him and worthily magnify His holy Name.” Then we will be able to love sinners as Jesus loves them and relate to them as He does.

  26. Comment by Donald on April 28, 2019 at 7:24 am

    To my Methodist colleagues: if you are lucky, the Progressives will leave with their property. However, I suspect that they will continue to fight a rear-guard action which means those of Traditional faith will have to enforce the discipline. Only as the Progressives see that your discipline is enforced will they begin to consider actually leaving.

  27. Comment by William on April 28, 2019 at 10:45 am

    Or, they could respond to God’s prevenient grace, repent and experience God’s justifying grace, and live into God’s sanctifying grace. Obviously, there’s little or no evidence of this happening —- just the diametric opposite at present. But, all things are possible with God.

  28. Comment by Lee D. Cary on April 28, 2019 at 1:34 pm

    “Only as the Progressives see that your discipline is enforced will they begin to consider actually leaving.”

    Absolutely, Donald. Thank you.

    BUT, is the current cadre of Episcopal leadership up to that task? remains the key, unanswered question.

  29. Comment by Rev. Dr. Lee D Cary (ret.) on April 28, 2019 at 5:25 pm

    Gary North’s book, “Crossed Fingers: How the Liberals Captured the Presbyterian Church,” copyright 1996, is a detailed analysis, 1096 pages, of what happened to the Presbyterian Church (PC).

    The PC parallels to the UMC’s decline are frequent and clear. This ruling by the Judicial Council is a beacon of hope to those who believe the traditional UMC should be sustained, and reinforced anew.

    Thorough his tome, North frequently mentions the word “sanctions” in the context of placing much of the blame for the decline of the PC on its seminaries and the bureaucracy’s unwillingness to enforce in-place sanctions.

    While many of us welcome the Judicial Council’s endorsement of the Traditional Plan, it’s impact will rapidly erode over the months ahead if the re-affirmed sanctions on clergy behavior continue to be ignored by those in positions of responsibility for enforcing them.

    It won’t take a long time to get a reading on the status of that outcome.

  30. Comment by William on April 28, 2019 at 7:12 pm

    If the progressives adopt the strategy of continued church lawbreaking as their plan and the accompanying farce enforcements going forward — will traditionalists finally give up and withdraw, as Adam Hamilton envisions? Or, will traditionalists consolidate and grow their control culminating in a plan to be taken before General Conference to finally expel the lawbreakers and those unwilling to enforce the BOD? Reasonable people are calling for a negotiated separation. If liberals are unwilling to depart, will they finally see reality and join in on a negotiated separation plan? They are already being treated with a most undeserving generosity offer with the approved exit plan.

  31. Comment by John Smith on April 29, 2019 at 6:07 am

    The sad part is, if the previous BOD had been enforced it never would have come to this. But with the disdain of theology (our doctrine is the doctrine of LUUUUV!), the emphasis on numbers, money and social crusading the progressives correctly assumed they had a chance to completely capture the UMC. It will take a brutal 10-20 years of enforcing the BOD, enduring a decline in numbers and money, a rise in and endurance of “I told you gay bashing would reduce the UMC!” attacks to begin to consolidate. IF enforcement does take place then it is time to look at the COB, seminaries, boards and societies or they will simply continue to supply elders who work at undermining traditional christian beliefs like the sufficiency and authority of scriptures, deity of Jesus, etc and try again later.

    There are 3 problems facing the UMC.
    1) The progressives successfully framed this as an LGBTQAI debate. That was and still is a big win that can be built on.
    2) Enforcement-the down and dirty work and those who do it will be viewed as miserly, uncharitable, haters.
    3) Let down- We WON!! Now we can relax because we fixed the problem.

  32. Comment by td on April 29, 2019 at 8:07 pm

    Some traditionalist congregations in the US may get tired and try to withdraw- especially in progressive AC, but they won’t in Africa- so, no, the Church will not be changing directions anytime soon.

  33. Comment by Pat on April 28, 2019 at 5:29 pm

    I am thrilled the Judicial Council held firm in the biblical stance on sexuality. The issue is God’s sovereignty and the truth given to us by our creator and is son Jesus. Leadership will have to have the courage to enforce the Book of Discipline on those in upper leadership that have openly ignored and defied the book of discipline rules on sexuality. With enforcement will come real decisions by the liberal churches to vote to separate. With no enforcement, nothing will change.

  34. Comment by Virginia Berger on April 29, 2019 at 7:24 am

    The church will need to resolve to stand firm in the face of continued vitriol and tantrums of liberals. Enforcement will be hard but necessary. Unfortunately, all of this will take money, time, and energy that could be better used elsewhere.

  35. Comment by Diane on April 29, 2019 at 1:42 pm

    Media attention today is on nearly one hundred young people in a single congregation refusing confirmation in the UMC, entirely due to the passing of the Traditional Plan. Across the country from that church, my family members, all senior citizens, have vowed to never step into a United Methodist church again.

    Congratulations! Your Traditional Plan is a sure-fire way to create more “Nones”. I assume that was always your goal.

  36. Comment by JR on April 29, 2019 at 4:18 pm

    Diane, the “media attention” is on a confirmation class of 8 junior high school kids, not 100 (or even remotely close to it), whose signatures appear on a letter in which the syntax, vocabulary, etc., suggest was composed by an adult. Please excuse the cynicism that causes me to think those kids didn’t initiate the “protest.”

  37. Comment by Susan Peterson on April 29, 2019 at 10:23 pm

    Whether they are young or senior citizens, it is not their opinion which matters but what God teaches in Scripture and has always taught through the church. We are to submit our opinions to Christian truth. We do not get to decide what truth is by our own feelings and ideas, which are highly influenced by the popular ideas of our times, and often deliberately shaped by the media. God is still judge and He is not our creation; we are His. If people become “nones” it is their own souls they are harming, by turning from the truth. A Christian church cannot follow them, but must always teach the truth and call them back to it.

  38. Comment by John Smith on April 30, 2019 at 6:26 am

    And???? Your anecdote is irrelevant except it shows the core of the problem. Bending to the will of the people being the goal instead of the will of God. Also the simple false conclusion. Just because people leave the UMC does not mean they are suddenly unchurched. I know the UMC likes to think of itself as THE church but its not so. Also, if people are deserting God and the church because of the internal politics of a single denomination then I would assume they were not with God in the first place but members of a social club and are leaving that club because it wouldn’t change its rules to suit them.

  39. Comment by td on May 1, 2019 at 8:50 pm

    It is not our job to create believers- that is God’s job. God is in control. Our job is to proclaim and live the gospel that was given to us by Christ.

  40. Comment by John Smith on May 2, 2019 at 6:17 am

    Careful, you’re sounding more like a Presbyterian than a Methodist.

  41. Comment by td on May 2, 2019 at 11:45 am

    Ha. Yeah, my point was that we don’t have any control over the working of God in a person’s heart. We may be God’s workers, but our work does not substitute for God’s work. Our role is to attest in words and deeds to the Gospel that has been handed down to us. We do not have the authority to change that gospel or the implications that it has for our personal lives.

  42. Comment by td on May 2, 2019 at 5:42 pm

    but I should clarify a bit more. We personally do control our own believing by inviting Christ into our hearts- and we can influence others by our actions and by praying that their hearts are also touched by Christ.

  43. Comment by DeWayne on April 29, 2019 at 3:12 pm

    I see absolutely no reason why I, or my traditional church, should leave. As far as I am concerned, nothing has changed. If there are those that cannot agree with the church’s stance on particular issues, then they should be the ones to leave. Why should everyone have to be burdened with starting over? Traditionalists didn’t create this mess. Let the ones dissatisfied bear the burden of separating and stop with the attitude of, “If we can’t have our way, then we will make everyone miserable until we do.”

  44. Comment by Dotty Riley on April 29, 2019 at 3:27 pm

    2nd Timothy 4:3-6 says “For a time will come when people will no longer listen to sound doctrine, but after their lists shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.
    The church is the last bastion of defense. If they can make us seem antiquated and out of touch, they think they win. It is the same question Satan asked Eve. “Did God really say”. Yes He did.

  45. Comment by John H on April 29, 2019 at 3:46 pm

    I don’t see why anyone thinks this means a thing. In 2016 we entered into a time when the rules don’t matter. So now failing to sanction a pastor who performs a same sex marriage is as illegal as consecrating a bishop in a same sex relationship! To what practical effect! Our bishops have decided that collegiality is more important than accountability and preservation of their imperial fiefdoms is more important than a connectional church. They have sown the wind and will, deservedly, reap the whirlwind. The tragedy is that so many faithful church members will suffer because of their faithless and inept “leadership.” May God have mercy on their souls and on our souls and preserve a faithful remnant.
    P.S. In this environment, it would be far better to abandon General Conference, burn the Discipline ( a “scrap of paper” in the words of imperial Germany), and spend the money saved on missions. It is a waste of time and effort to refine rules that will not be enforced.

  46. Comment by MichaelUSA on April 29, 2019 at 5:25 pm

    There is no doubt that we will lose members whether or not the Traditional Plan remains in place. If we want unity one side will have to say, “OK, I can live with what I oppose.” In my view the logical way to do that would be to keep the Traditional Plan, leaving proponents of gay marriage to proclaim their allegiance to gay marriage and turn to other denominations or civil marriages outside the church. Gay marriage proponents have tried hard to dismiss Scriptures commonly read to support man-woman marriages but do not have anything of scriptural authority addressing and approving gay marriage.

  47. Comment by Jean on April 29, 2019 at 6:53 pm

    While I am so relieved things seem to be finally moving in the right direction I still have a big concern with our Methodist colleges and Seminaries. How will the “theology” being taught in these institutions be returned to Biblical truth?
    The liberal seminaries completely out number the few conservative ones. As far as Methodist colleges you would never know by what is being taught and preached there that it is a Christian college. We have chaplains and professors that don’t believe Jesus is/was the Son of God and His birth was by immaculate conception.
    It would seem that would also have to be addressed if we truly are going to settle this issue once and for all.

  48. Comment by Joe on April 29, 2019 at 6:55 pm

    A great issue to me is what will be done about bishops who have been progressive in every way, have voiced support for those who disobey their commitment to abide by the discipline, and have even written and spoken things that reveal their doubt of the scripture? I am waiting to hear that there is some real leadership from them as they remove themselves from the position or leave with the progressive churches that they attend. Until this happens, I will be suspicious about whether any real change is happening.

  49. Comment by Bruce on April 30, 2019 at 8:32 am

    I’ll be most surprised if those unwilling to abide by the decisions leave quietly without causing undue pain, hurt and suffering — like teenagers unwilling to accept the consequences of their actions, who fight to the bitter end, taking down anyone in “their” path to get what they want! It was / is the case in the ELCA — that even after winning their fight their — those who were not / are not onboard, even though supposedly granted latitude to hold to their traditional / conservative understanding of scripture and doctrine for centuries are still being KICKED OUT, even if in retirement WHEN they are discovered helping a non-ELCA congregation!!! Very, very sad — know of 90+ old pastors who were suddenly without a church, with one who was literally welcomed by a NALC church pastor and provided a document of membership during his final hours of life into a former ELCA church. I can only hope that the UMC’s “win” does not end up being an ongoing battle of human/earthly will — that not only congregations, but ALL bishops and pastors who do not support the vote, will indeed exit peacefully…. Not holding my breath… but certainly praying that it might be so.

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

Receive expert analysis in your inbox.