A Way Forward

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“Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do. But not the wicked! They are like worthless chaff, scattered by the wind. They will be condemned at the time of judgment. Sinners will have no place among the godly. For the Lord watches over the path of the godly, but the path of the wicked leads to destruction.” - Psalm 1

THE ONE CHURCH PLAN

The intention of the One Church Plan is for The United Methodist Church to remain together as one denomination while allowing different practices in different Annual Conferences and in different local congregations regarding the ordination of gay clergy and the performing of gay weddings.

The One Church Plan allows Boards of Ordained Ministry and Clergy Sessions of each Annual Conference to decide if they will or will not ordain homosexual clergy. Local United Methodist congregations will be authorized to decide if they will or will not allow gay weddings to be conducted in their church. In order to achieve this goal, the current statements in the Discipline prohibiting the ordination of gay clergy and the performing of gay weddings on church property would be removed. Provisions are made for clergy and congregations who do not agree with the decision of their Board of Ordained Ministry and Clergy Session to transfer to other conferences and congregations with whom they do agree. The United Methodist Judicial Council ruled on October 26, 2018 that the One Church Plan was largely constitutional, with the exception of three sentences that would need to be removed or revised for the plan to be considered at General Conference.

THE TRADITIONAL PLAN

The Traditional Plan retains the current language in the Discipline that values all persons as equally “of sacred worth, created in the image of God.” It also retains the current statement, “The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.” It would continue the prohibition on ordaining gay clergy or performing gay weddings.

The Traditional Plan would require that every Bishop would sign a statement to fully uphold and enforce the standards of the church around same sex marriage and the ordination of practicing homosexuals or be subject to a disciplinary process administered by the Council of Bishops. Each Annual Conference would be required to make a commitment to uphold the standards of the church regarding the ordination of practicing homosexuals and same sex marriage or be encouraged to withdraw from The United Methodist Church to form their own self-governing body. Clergy who are found guilty of performing a same-sex wedding would have a mandatory minimum penalty of one year’s suspension without pay for the first offence and removal of clergy credentials for a second offence. Annual Conferences that do not agree with these standards can withdraw from The United Methodist Church with their assets and liabilities but would be responsible for their Annual Conference pension liabilities. Any group of 50 or more local congregations that do not support these standards could vote to withdraw from The United Methodist Church to form a self-governing United Methodist Church upon payment of each local church’s share of their Annual Conference’s unfunded pension liability.

Bishops and clergy who are unable to live within the boundaries of conduct established by the Discipline would be encouraged to transfer to a self-governing United Methodist Church that affirms their beliefs. The Judicial Council recently ruled that several of the proposals in the Traditional Plan are unconstitutional and would need to be removed or revised for this plan to be considered at General Conference.

THE CONNECTIONAL PLAN

The Connectional Plan would create three new Connectional Conferences in place of the current five geographical jurisdictional in the United States. Each Connectional Conference would cover the entire United States.

There would be a Traditional Conference which maintains the current Discipline’s prohibition of same sex marriage and the ordination of self-avowed practicing homosexuals. There would be a Unity Conference that would neither forbid nor require same-sex marriage and the ordination of self-avowed practicing homosexuals. There would be a Progressive Conference which would require and expect all pastors to perform same sex weddings and all its annual conferences to ordain and appoint practicing homosexual clergy.

Current Annual Conferences would decide which of the three Connectional Conferences they would join, and congregations that disagreed with their annual conference decision could join a different connectional conference. Bishops and Clergy would also choose which Connectional Conference they wanted to join.

All three Connectional Conferences would still be part of The United Methodist Church and participate in General Conference, but each would have the autonomy to operate in harmony with their own theological perspectives.

Enactment of this plan would require eight constitutional amendments, which require a two-thirds majority at General Conference and a two-thirds majority of all members of all Annual Conferences. This process would require at least a four-year implementation period. The Judicial Council said they had no jurisdiction over this proposal, since the constitutional amendments first would have to be passed before they could rule on these constitutional issues. This proposal will probably not be considered at the special General Conference.

Prayer: 
Psalm Prayer: Truly happy is the person who loves you, Lord. Give us the wisdom, willingness of heart, and clarity of conscience to depend on you for all things – to ask for your help when we are in need, to seek you that we might find, to love your instruction and dwell in it day and night. Amen.
Date: 
Nov 13 2018