WHAT DO WE DO NOW?
The Special Called General Conference is over. As the dust settles, we are trying to make sense of the results. The One Church Plan, the Connectional Conference Plan and the Simple Plan were all defeated.
The Traditional Plan, which retains the language regarding LGBTQ+ persons in the Church and adding punitive measures for clergy and bishops who violate the Discipline, has passed. At the same time, plans for disposition of clergy pension funds in the event of dissolution and two plans for dissolution were approved.
The first action taken was to ask the delegates to place the petitions in order of priority in which they should be considered. The highest priority item, identified by receipt of the highest number of votes,
will be considered first, the second highest is considered second and so on. In this case, petitions concerning the pension plan was first, Traditional plan second, plans for dissolution were third and fourth and the One Church Plan was fifth. A quick look at the priorities set indicated to me the direction the Conference would take. It was roughly estimated from informal sources that 2/3 of the church in America favored the One Church Plan while the remaining 1/3 aligned with the African and Russian conferences to pass the Traditional Plan.
The Judicial Council has been asked to review the approved petitions. They have already reviewed the original plan and found it to be largely unconstitutional. Several amending petitions were approved
which will require a second look at the entire plan. A number of the proposed curative amendments were not approved, so it is quite possible
the entire plan will not pass muster. The Judicial Council will meet
in April to consider the legislation.
The Church took an opportunity to voice our desire for radical, inclusive hospitality and threw it away, claiming we must adhere to the Bible. Were we not called to love God and one another more than anything else? How do we justify this result when so many other principles are regularly and systematically ignored? Was it not scripturally sound to say, “We affirm that all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God” without the need to add a statement of condemnation? Why not condemn other conduct? Perhaps it is because it is “their” sin, not mine. For just as much as this conference will be known for what it did, I think it will also be known for what it did not do. It did not solve anything it was intended to solve. It did not heal the divide in the church. It did not make the church more holy.
It did not create a way forward. I don’t think it pleased God, either. As a result, we are worse off than before the conference. Our LGBTQ+ members were deeply hurt by the conference. They now face a church that has “doubled-down” on the issue and definitively affirmed a notion of their diminished worth. All of our members, LGBTQ+ and straight alike, must now wrestle with the question of whether they can remain in the church.
The supporters of the Traditional Plan say retention of the traditional language in the Discipline was necessary for Biblical integrity. I cannot say the language was very “traditional” as it wasn’t added to the Discipline until the 1970’s. Miracle of miracles, the walls of the church stood and no human sacrifices happened in the 190 years before the words were added. The Discipline does not resolve spiritual matters, that is what the Bible and prayer are for. Where do we go now? At present, do nothing. Take some
time to be angry and take time to pray. Then remember that God is still God and we are still the church. In spite of the General Conference, we must find a way to reassure our LGBTQ+ members they are still welcomed, loved and accepted. We must also find a way to reach out to the LGBTQ+ outside of our congregations to somehow make sure they know we don’t hate them. Please don’t forget we must overcome the negative impressions we have made with non-LGBTQ+ people who will not now consider the UM church because of the actions of the conference.
Stay faithful. Be patient. Trust God. The matter is not completely finished.