For the past two weeks, I’ve meant to write a calming, pastoral letter about the upcoming called General Conference meeting in a few weeks, but I just haven’t gotten around to it. Then, today, I received the following in the mail from Mainstream UMC. I’ve decided to share it instead of writing one of my own.
The One Church Plan is a strong, calm oasis among the clanging gongs and noisy cymbals of the other options at General Conference. This well thought out One Church Plan was created by the Commission on the Way Forward, endorsed by the Council of Bishops, and upheld by the Judicial Council. It is not radical. It does not force anyone out of the church or segregate us by belief. The One Church Plan maintains the Unity of the Church to Make Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World.
This rational plan stands in stark contrast to the chaos and crisis being ginned up by those who seek to divide the church. The Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA) posted another alarmist essay with made-up numbers guessing that “hundreds of congregations in every conference could lose twenty, thirty or forty percent of their membership” with the One Church Plan. Chris Ritter posted a guest blog that predicts, without evidence, “several hundred thousand US members will depart the existing denomination within 18 months” of the OCP passing. Tom Lambrecht has said plainly on video, “It is not possible for us to be in one denomination together.”
Schism is only possible if there is chaos and crisis. So those who seek to divide must create both.
The best thing we can do ahead of General Conference 2019 is take a collective deep breath. The 2016 General Conference asked the Bishops to lead. The Commission on the Way Forward represented all of us. They worked prayerfully for two years and came up with the One Church Plan as a genuine solution. Nearly 2/3 of the Council of Bishops prayerfully endorsed the One Church Plan. The Judicial Council prayerfully evaluated the One Church Plan and unanimously agreed that the United Methodist Constitution, “permits contextualization and differentiation on account of geographical, social, and cultural variations and makes room for diversity of beliefs and theological perspectives but does not require uniformity of moral-ethical standards regarding ordination, marriage, and human sexuality.”
The leaders of our church have prayerfully, calmly, and decisively spoken.
While some splinter groups are banging a drum of chaos and crisis, the leaders of our church have positioned us for mission and ministry in our diverse settings for the years ahead. Our leaders have reminded us, the only issue that should define our life together is faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Please pray that the Delegates of the 2019 General Conference can tune out the noise and follow the graceful way forward our leaders have prepared.
I would also add that the One Church plan will not change anything in our local church without the approval of this local church itself (by a vote of either the Church Council or a Charge/Church Conference).