A Way Forward

Rev. shane Page's Response to general conference

(Posted February 27, 2019)

When we posted our response to the events at General Conference yesterday, the voting body was still in the thicket of making amendments to the Traditional Plan and disputing points of order. A final vote on the Plan had yet to occur. A decision did finally occur. The following is an update based on what we know so far.

Before reading on, though, let me stress an important point. Most people, unfamiliar with Methodist polity, have little idea that there truly is a whole legislative process still ahead. The actions taken yesterday, although historic and newsworthy, still have to withstand legislative scrutiny. Things can, and presumably will, change.

Did the Traditional Plan pass?

 Yes. The Traditional Plan passed by a majority vote of 439 to 384, a difference of 54 votes. The Traditional Plan retains the current language of the Book of Disciple regarding human sexuality, including its previous language defining homosexual practice as "incompatible with the teaching of Scripture." It also sustains the current United Methodist definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman and prohibits the ordination of clergy in same-sex relationships. The Traditional Plan also incorporates greater accountability measures in keeping with the provisions of the Book of Discipline.

Is it now the official policy of the United Methodist Church?

In many ways, the Traditional Plan preserves what has been official United Methodist polity. The main difference between the Traditional Plan and the current Book of Discipline concerns the language of accountability and enforcement.

Nevertheless, even if all the provisions of the Traditional Plan pass the vetting of the Judicial Council - see the next question - all signs indicate it would only go into effect next year. 

What happens next?

The General Conference body voted to have the Traditional Plan reviewed by the Judicial Council, the Supreme Court of the United Methodist Church. Unbeknownst to many, the United Methodist Church has a Constitution. All legislation must be in keeping with it.

Up to 9 provisions in the Traditional Plan were ruled unconstitutional during the parliamentary debate yesterday. The Judicial Council will now review the entire legislation as passed by the end of April, 2019 and will render its ruling soon thereafter.

What if the Judicial Council rules the Traditional Plan unconstitutional?

The Traditional Plan's legislation would effectively die. The Book of Discipline would simply revert to its current language and provisions.

What if the Traditional Plan is constitutional?

It appears it will go into effect January, 2020.

When is the next General Conference?

There will be another General Conference, the official voice of the denomination, in 2020. General Conference, and its global delegation, meets every four years. This week's General Conference was a special called session convened to vote on proposals drafted by the Commission on the Way Forward.

Annual conferences will elect delegates to the 2020 General Conference during their conventions this year. The Western North Carolina Annual Conference, the Conference of DUMC and its clergy, meets in June.

Is it possible delegates to the 2020 General Conference could overturn the ruling of this year's called General Conference?

Perhaps, by a majority vote. There would still be a long list of policy procedures to follow beforehand.  

Anything else?

Articles published in syndicated newspapers have little if any knowledge of United Methodist policy and polity. A few headlines yesterday and this morning - especially those reporting that the United Methodist Church voted to split yesterday - were in error.

There is one other thing. For those passionate either in support or in opposition of the General Conference vote yesterday, let the events of this week at least demonstrate the importance of participating in the life of the local congregation. The local church elects delegates to Annual Conference, who elect delegates to General Conference, who can effect change in United Methodist polity.

Remember, no matter what unfolds over the next few weeks, DUMC will continue to be the church it always has been, a church where all are welcome. The work of ministry continues.

With love for all of you, 
Shane



(Posted February 26, 2019)

Friends,

No doubt many of you have followed the General Conference proceedings in Saint Louis, or have heard or read reports concerning the deliberations. Over the last 24 hours, many have shared their reactions to certain decisions determined by the voting body yesterday.

As a reminder, below is an overview of the three plans that were on the table:

  • Traditional Plan
    Retains the current prohibitions of the Book of Discipline regarding same-sex marriage and the ordination of what the Discipline calls "self-avowed, practicing homosexuals."

  • One Church Plan
    Would remove the restrictive language of the Book of Discipline regarding homosexuality and would allow local churches to contextualize its ministry to LGBTQ persons. Each local parish could establish its own policy regarding same-sex weddings. Each Annual Conference could establish its own policy regarding the ordination of LGBTQ United Methodists.

  • Connectional Conference Plan
    Each annual conference would vote to affiliate with a new jurisdiction based on its theology of human sexuality.

The Traditional Plan, which retains the church's current prohibitions against the practice of homosexuality, and forbids UMC pastors from conducting same-sex weddings, passed through the second round yesterday of a three-round process. As of now (4:30 p.m.), the Traditional Plan is still on the conference floor, undergoing a series of legislative actions (amendments, etc.) by the voting body. 

The One Church Plan, which the majority of bishops endorsed, and which was the signature proposal drafted by the Commission on the Way Forward, failed to make it through the legislative committee (or Round 2) yesterday, defeated by majority vote.

The General Conference makes its decisions through a parliamentary/democratic process. As a result, there will be those pleased with the outcomes, and those devastated by them. There will be winners, and there will be losers. In the body of Christ, there should be neither. How should we think about the situation of this week with the mind of Christ?

For those who voted for a resolution that prevailed, there should be only the deepest expressions of humility. Those who rejoice in victory do well to remember those left behind to weep.

For those who voted for a resolution that lost, believing they too followed the dictates of their consciences, there should be only expressions of compassion and tenderness, along with the desire to mend their broken hearts.

No pastor ever hopes a call into ministry will result in one day seeing the church create the appearance of winners and losers. Nor does any pastor ever anticipate ministering to those who love their Lord and yet who feel utterly crushed by the church formed in his name. Yet, that is our present reality. I ache.

I, and all the pastors of DUMC, have only one desire: to be everyone's pastor, pointing everyone to the grace of Jesus Christ. My mentor, James Howell, often says, "General Conference is not the local church." He's right. DUMC will continue to be the same church it has always been: welcoming to all, charitable to all, hospitable to all. All persons are of sacred worth. Nothing will change that conviction. Even as I type this message, the DUMC staff is hard at work fulfilling their responsibilities on behalf of this church's mission. Our ministry continues. The worship of God continues. We need you, all of you.

Allow me to clear up at least some confusion about the (still ongoing) General Conference.

Some of today's headlines reported that the United Methodist church voted to split. Is this true?

No. There has never been a single vote cast to divide the denomination. Could the outcome cause some parishes to break off from the denomination? Yes. Nevertheless, an actual vote to divide the church is altogether different from the potential effects of a vote.  

Is the Traditional Plan now official policy?

As of this writing, no. It is still on the conference floor, undergoing a series of legislative actions.

What's next?

Lots of legislation. The Judicial Council - the United Methodist equivalent of the Supreme Court - will also have to review the final piece of legislation and rule it constitutional. By no means have things settled.

On Monday, March 4 at 7:00 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall, the pastors of DUMC and I plan to host a gathering in which we can offer our thoughts while addressing some of your questions about this week's General Conference. Please submit your questions to .

With love and grace for you, all of you,
Shane

NOTE: Updates, if necessary, will be posted as soon as we learn more.



What you should know

The Commission on a Way Forward was proposed by the Council of Bishops and approved by the 2016 General Conference to do a complete examination and possible revision of every paragraph of the Book of Discipline concerning human sexuality and explore options that help to maintain and strengthen the unity of the church. 

Following are several resources that you may find helpful:

A great list of resources compiled by the Western NC Conference

Report from the Commission on A Way Forward to the General Conference

The Commission on A Way Forward

A Way Forward: A Presentation Presented to DUMC Church Leaders

Resources on Healthy Dialogue 

Small Group Study: Finding Our Way

Adam Hamilton and Bishop Robert Schnase Discuss 

The "Homosexuality" Debate: Two Streams of Biblical Interpretation

Debating Biblical Verses on Homosexuality


If you would like clarification on A Way Forward, contact one of our pastors