Methodist departure

October 17, 2019

With Eye to United Methodist Departure, Liberal Bishop Forms “Guiding Coalition”

More liberal United Methodists in the Western Jurisdiction are inching closer to separation from the denomination after a bishop announced the formation of a guiding coalition to “shape and lead a new movement of Methodism in the Northwest that fully includes LGBTQIA+ persons.”

Bishop Elaine Stanovsky of the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area made the October 8 announcement that the coalition would be tasked to “develop proposals for United Methodists across the Greater Northwest to move into a future of vital, inclusive, innovative, multiplying, engaged Christian ministry in the Wesleyan Tradition.”

“We are forming this Guiding Coalition in response to many conversations since last February, and to legislation passed at the annual conference sessions earlier this year,” Stanovsky shared, obliquely referencing the 2019 specially called General Conference that adopted a modified version of the Traditional Plan. The plan made no fundamental changes to United Methodist ordination requirements or moral standards, but strengthened accountability requirements for clergy who operate in conflict with the United Methodist Church’s existing Book of Discipline. These new accountability measures take effect beginning January 1.

The move comes as some annual conferences in the Western Jurisdiction have pulled back their level of apportionment giving. At least eleven progressive congregations across the United States have taken initial steps toward disaffiliation from the United Methodist Church. Officials in the Mountain Sky Area, led by contested Bishop Karen Oliveto, have already stated their intention to depart the denomination if the 2020 General Conference does not produce a result favorable to them. Preparations for such a departure are already underway.

“The coming months may require us to move quickly and rely on our collective strength,” Stanovsky wrote.

The Guiding Coalition will include representatives from the three annual conferences that comprise the episcopal area Stanovsky serves: the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho, and Pacific-Northwest Conferences.

According to the press release, the coalition will invite work groups of laity and clergy “to examine areas where the conferences can shape or define a way forward.”

Working groups will study different paths. These include continued resistance to the Traditional Plan and efforts to “reform the Church through legislative action” in 2020 when the regularly scheduled General Conference convenes in May. Another working group will examine finances, including apportionments, “seeking to align them with the values and concerns of United Methodists in the Northwest.” This may be an oblique reference to suggestions by some liberal United Methodists to bring collective punishment against those in Africa and Eastern Europe, withholding U.S. wealth against ministries in less affluent parts of the world.

All Western Jurisdiction bishops have supported the One Church Plan (OCP). Since the close of the 2019 General Conference, Western Jurisdiction officials have spoken openly about acting within their jurisdiction as if the OCP had passed and set up a web site to promote those policies. The jurisdiction is actively seeking to hire staff, paid for with offering plate money from congregations, to coordinate such efforts. A “Fresh United Methodism Summit” hosted by the Western Jurisdiction Mission Cabinet is scheduled for November 14-16 and will “go through a process of envisioning and innovation around the next steps for the Western Jurisdiction and The United Methodist Church.”


27 Responses to With Eye to United Methodist Departure, Liberal Bishop Forms “Guiding Coalition”

  1. senecagriggs says:

    Funding this will, over the long haul, become a bigger and bigger problem.

  2. Rev. Dr. Lee D Cary (ret.) says:

    On inching closer to separation from the denomination: (See the Book of Discipline ¶ 304. Qualifications for Ordination, Section 1.j. and Section 2.) http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/para-304-qualifications-for-ordination

    The highest ordained office in the UMC is that of a Bishop. The laity rely on bishops to exercise governing oversight of the clergy under their immediate jurisdictions.

    The integrity and consistency of the connection requires fidelity by the episcopacy to the Book of Discipline (BoD). The oft-heralded “connection” of the UMC depends on the maintenance of integrity and consistency.

    Bishop Elaine Stanovsky is one of the active UMC Bishops who have decided to break that connection by failing to enforce the provisions of BoD, particularly Section 304.

    Because she, and other bishops in the Western Jurisdiction did not prevail with the One Church Plan at the 2019GC, they are “inching closer to separation”. Their implied threat is transparent: If we don’t get our way, we’re leaving and taking our conferences (not theirs to begin with) with us.

    Bishop Stanovsky’s salary is paid by the General Church with monies that originate in donations from UM laity representing the spectrum of this debate. It is the connectional constituency of the entire church that she is obligated to serve, not just her area.

    But that is not her understanding. She now serves a geographical fiefdom and has, effectively, already separated from the denomination.

    Meanwhile, because there is no effective means to hold her, nor other separatist bishops, accountable, the notion of a “connection” has been deleted by the senior clerical leadership of the UMC. In short, the UM episcopacy has collectively taken a wrecking ball to the connection.

    The notion that a unified missional connection can be maintained in a world where pieces of the current UMC are split off into individual worshiping communities – by one of the host of plans offered post-2019GC – with varying beliefs and polities, is, metaphorically, a pipe dream.

    Literally, it’s nonsense.

  3. Scott says:

    As I read what is going on I really don’t think that the Indy Plan or any other seperation plan will pass. I don’t think the progressives believe that they will be able to change the BOD. I think the first legislation that should be passed at GC2020 should be a provision allowing Annual Conferences to leave the UMC with the property they own and churches that disagree with the action of their AC can transfer to another AC without financial or property penalty. This will provide a release valve that will prevent many lawsuits. These two actions may solve everything. If the traditional plan is not overturned then the progressive AC’s are clearly preparing to leave and probably will and will form their own denomination. If the traditional plan is overturned then traditionalists already have a structure to leave to in the WCA. Either way the split will happen without complicated legislation being passed. Passing legislation that allows AC’s to leave the UMC and churches to switch AC’s before any action will take the penalty of being on the losing side off the table and may prevent many votes in individual churches from being taken.

    • Rev. Dr. Lee D Cary (ret.) says:

      “…the first legislation that should be passed at GC2020 should be a provision allowing Annual Conferences to leave the UMC with the property they own and churches that disagree with the action of their AC can transfer to another AC without financial or property penalty.”

      What you propose amounts to an unnecessary surrender to petulance. Plus, it’s unworkable.

      The easiest resolution would be to suggest that laity, who cannot abide by the decision of the 2019GC, withdraw from the denomination, and clergy, of a like mind, find another church organization with which to align. Or, perhaps, together they start their own non-denominational congregation in a leased space until ultimately building their own facility.

      Correspondingly, bishops who refuse to support the BoD should be honor-bound to retire, or become part of the regularly appointed itinerant clergy.

      If I am, say, a commercial airline pilot and can no longer accept the conditions of my employment, I don’t get to quit and take the plane I fly with me.

      • Pat says:

        Thank you. Those refusing to abide by the 2019 vote can leave the UMC and form their own denomination. They are no longer Methodists, not entitled to property of the current Methodist church and those in leadership who refuse to abide by the Book of Discipline should leave period. The reason for the ongoing battle is no one in leadership has the courage to say enough is enough. Those folks are not the Methodist church. They folks who have turned their backs on John Wesley’s Methodist church. Some one in leadership have the guts to say this.

        • Jim says:

          Actually, and of greater consequence, they turned their backs on the authority of scripture.

          • Lee D. Cary says:

            “The reason for the ongoing battle is no one in leadership has the courage to say enough is enough.”

            Jim, you could well have ended the sentence with “…no one in leadership.”

            The UMC is run by a rotating committee of, generally, religious politicians. And a camel is a horse designed by a committee.

  4. MJ says:

    “The coming months may require us to move quickly and rely on our collective strength,” Stanovsky wrote.

    This is a smart move on her part. When traditional churches have departed revisionist denominations, more often than not, they have splintered into multiple new smaller denominations without much coordination. Their effectiveness and longterm prospects have thus been compromised.

  5. William says:

    It’s down to two clear and distinct choices. There’s no such thing as a “centrist” denomination in that the “centrists” are clearly aligned with the progressives on the essentials. (Who are these people trying to fool?)

    So, every Methodist needs to come to a decision as to which of the two diametrically opposite denominations to belong.

    ————————————————

    TO WHICH METHODIST CHURCH DO I
    WANT TO BELONG?

    PLEASE CHECK ✔️ ONE.

    _______ Progressive-Centrist Methodist Church

    (A) Traditional-orthodox Biblical authority, interpretation, and theology revised by a contemporary, liberal, new revelation, and contextual understanding especially with relation to human sexuality and marriage.

    (B) Christ’s love in his death, resurrection, and repentance preached for the forgiveness of sins in his name revised to include a new revelation love understanding of full-inclusiveness consensual, committed, repentance exempt LGBT+ sexual practices.

    (C). Acceptance of a new understanding of marriage to include same-sex marriage equally with the traditional Biblical understanding of marriage.

    (D) The Book of Discipline on marriage changed from a man and a woman to two people for inclusiveness of same-sex marriage, and updated to liberalize sexual ethics by deleting references disapproving the practice of homosexuality and other LGBT+ sexual practices.

    (E) Candidates for licensing, commissioning, and ordination into ministry who practice sexual relations outside that of a man and woman in marriage accepted.

    (F) The mission of the Progressive-Centrist Methodist Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world including it’s understanding of a grace that highly prioritizes a new revelation social justice embracing full inclusion of LGBT+ sexual ethics and lifestyles.

    _______ Traditional – Historic Wesleyan Methodist Church

    (A) Obedience to traditional-orthodox Biblical authority, interpretation, and theology especially with relation to human sexuality.

    (B) Full inclusiveness and diversity for sharing Christ’s love — his death, resurrection, and preaching repentance for the forgiveness of sins in his name. — the Good News.

    (C) Obedience to Biblically defined sexual ethics prohibiting practices of sexual relations, including homosexuality and other LGBT+ sexual practices, outside that of a man and a woman in marriage.

    (D) Obedience to Biblical marriage of one man and one woman as defined by Jesus, and obedience to and the uniform enforcement of the Book of Discipline on Biblical marriage and sexual ethics

    (E) Acceptance of candidates for licensing, commissioning, and ordination into ministry who are obedient to fidelity in Christian marriage and celibacy in singleness.

    (F) The mission of the Traditional – Historic Wesleyan Methodist Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world by welcoming all, healing the broken, saving the sinner, and living together united into holiness and service.

  6. Lawrence Kreh says:

    No matter what decisions prevail at the 2020GC, let the people who want to go, go with their property. In most cases, they have funded their own local church buildings and ministries. We must not make the mistakes of the Episcopal Church and many presbyteries of the PCUSA and involve ourselves in endless property litigation, whether the complainants are orthodox or progressive.

  7. Dalice Yost says:

    I am a Historis Traditional Weslyn United Methodist. Cradle Methodist baptized in 1944. Served in the church almost 60 years. Graduate of the Brooklyn Methodist Hospital School of Nursing 75 th class in 1
    964. Served with United Methodist Marriage Encounter for almost 40 years

  8. Bob says:

    “Let the people who want to go, go with their property. In most cases, they have funded their own local church buildings and ministries.” The UMC church we helped build (and have reluctantly and painfully, left) and the ministries it supported, were basically paid for by the conservative portion of the membership – at one time, the vast majority. We expanded the physical property (and paid it off – again, primarily from the pocketbooks of the conservatives). Over the past few years, as the liberal-progressive bishopric carried out a well-designed plan of assigning liberal-progressive pastors to change the course of the church, the conservatives have largely fled, and the remaining liberal congregation is under water financially. Letting them go away (with or without the UMC name) and take this property is a poke in the eye with a sharp stick!

    • Lee D. Cary says:

      Bob, you are absolutely spot-on, sir.

      While under appointment, I served in two conferences. Today they are both under the supervision of liberal progressive bishops who use their influence over appointed clergy to push the LGBTQ agenda.

      It is a form of soft tyranny unbecoming the office of bishop, and testifies to the truth in the old adage that “a fish dies from the head”.

  9. MikeS says:

    Progressives forming their own group and being self supporting, instead of being parasitic of the resources accumulated by the orthodox? I’ll believe it when I see it.

  10. Lee D. Cary says:

    Mike S., you may “see it” happen with regard to the projected future decline in college enrollment. (See https://tinyurl.com/y7y23ske )

    The initial introduction of determined progressive liberalism surfaced when, beginning in the late 19th Century, newly-minted PhD’s returned from what was then the elite environment for post-graduate education: the prominent universities in Bismarck’s Germany.

    Over the next few decades, roughly 8,000, overwhelmingly male, German-educated professors set the liberal direction of post-graduate studies in America.

    Today, America’s university professors are the biggest, most hardcore cadre of progressivism in the nation.

    The Hechinger Report (a national nonprofit news outlet that reports solely on education linked above) is not the only source predicting difficult times ahead for more than a few universities.

  11. Char says:

    Did not read this entirely. So my thoughts, “bye bye” go ahead and start a cult that is far from Biblical teaching. Don’t taint the fence sitters on your way out

  12. Harold Gielow says:

    Why have there been so few complaints filed against bishops who are breaking their ordination vows? I have read countless articles and commentary speaking of and detailing how active bishops are resisting the discernments of the GC. There is ample evidence of many instances of bishops in clear violation of the discipline. What I rather see are people writing about it instead of trying to take concrete action to hold them accountable.

    • William says:

      The church structure is not designed to actually enforce the BOD. That’s what makes this thing that much more egregious — these people are taking full and complete advantage of what is mostly an honor system. People with no honor and integrity certainly do not abide by the purpose and intent of an honor system. They see it as merely a system for the ends justify the means, as long as it is their means.

      • William says:

        .. that is, as long as it is THEIR ENDS.

        • Harold Gielow says:

          It is is certainly not an honor system with no means of accountability. There is a complaint process. Very few lay people have used this complaint process. What is leadership to assume but that the church body is ok with their behavior? Were the conservative constituency of the Methodist church to collectively become active in demanding adherence to the discipline by the church leaders, those leaders would be compelled to respond. What rather happens is inaction and blissful ignorance across much of the church as to what is happening to the church. The vast majority of church members are really only vaguely aware of what is happening in Methodism. Frankly, I don’t understand it. I suppose most are counting on others to take action. Some just don’t have the time, or choose not to make the time. Others don’t want to make waves, blissfully thinking that this great debate will not effect their congregation. Still others have not come to grips with what they believe. Whatever the reason, there has not been a massive recourse to the complaint process against a leadership rebellion fighting the established church polity. It is not because mechanisms are not in place, they are simply not used. That said, we will see if my complaint is actually dealt with. Perhaps others have tried and found that the system is simply unresponsive, willfully and purposefully ignoring leadership rebellion against church authority. Whatever the underlying reasons, thee is still time for conservatives to demand accountability through the complaint process.

  13. Bob says:

    Harold, you are no doubt correct that there is a complaint process. However, when there is little to no transparency from the “hierarchy” to the folks in the pews, there is certainly no information about a complaint process being made available.
    And how far would such a complaint get, given the political leaning of that hierarchy. As far as any accountability for their responsibilities as members of the bishopric are concerned, the people now “in charge” have chosen a course that can be equated, in secular terms, to civil disobedience. And, as we have seen, over and over, any opposition to their views are met with claims of discrimination (victim-hood at its finest), and even worse, accusations that WE are the ones following an unholy path. You may well see our leaving the denomination as a cop-out. We agonized over the decision for a long time, and ultimately decided we must leave the “nest of vipers” and seek a community of believers who stand on the Word of God. We are old enough that we want to spend the remainder of our days in communion with those who recognize that a relationship with God is not one-way, nor is it built on relativism. His grace, mercy, and salvation are gifts to us. We, in return, are to be obedient and to submit to His authority.

    • John Smith says:

      The only accountability between the hierarchy and the pew is the offering plate that connects them. Notice its not until apportionments dry up, bills go unpaid, salaries and expenses don’t rise do we hear from the DS and Bishops on the importance of the members and the need to get them “on-board”.

  14. John Smith says:

    This line “All Western Jurisdiction bishops have supported the One Church Plan (OCP)” raised a question in my mind. How many bishops did not support the OCP? (perhaps some non-US ones?) I thought it was universally approved by the bishops, especially as it seem like an increase in the power and authority of the bishops.

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