Category Archives: United Methodist Connection

Judicial Council on the One Church Plan

Below is a statement posted on facebook yesterday [Friday, October 26, 2018] by Mainstream UMC. Information and elaborations contained in [brackets] are my additions for clarification.

The Judicial Council just released Decision 1366. It is very good news for the One Church Plan [the moderate plan] and devastating news for the Traditional Plan. Since the Connectional Conference Plan acknowledged the need up front for 8 constitutional amendments, the Judicial Council did not review it.

In short, the JC [Judicial Council] ruled only 3 minor provisions of the One Church Plan to be unconstitutional. But it ruled 7 of the 17 petitions of the Traditional Plan unconstitutional as well as 4 other provisions. It will take further review to see if the Traditional Plan can be revived by its supporters.

You can read the full decision on our website here (pro tip, you get the gist in the first 4 pages): https://mainstreamumc.com/…/10/JCD-1366-Docket-No1018-12.pdf [1]

An official, Great Plains Conference explanation of the three plans can be found here, or feel free to contact Jenny and me (John) with questions.

Here is the report from United Methodist news service, which includes the detail that the decision was unanimous.


[1] Mainstream UMC. Facebook post, October 26, 2018, 11:37 a.m., https://bit.ly/2RoWIFR.

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A Follow Up on the Way Forward

In response to the last post, I was asked: “Is this direction good or will be more division?” My answer is twofold, I think that in the long run, this will be a good direction, but in the short run, there will be more division. There is already a great deal of division, and we are already losing people on both sides of this debate. In my experience, those who want to uphold the traditional interpretation of the Bible tend to leave loudly in anger, while those who want to be more affirming of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters tend to leave quietly with sadness. For this reason, to merely continue to hold onto the status quo is not really feasible. Something needs to be done, and the way forward that the bishops have chosen maintains the vital unity of the church (something for which King Jesus himself prayed).

We have been through this before. In 1844, the church split over the issue of slavery and was then reunited when, after the civil war, all the biblical citations that could be mustered in slavery’s defense become moot points. More recently, we argued about how closely we would adhere to Jesus’s strict teachings on divorce—I have a colleague who was encouraged to surrender custody of his child so that the churches he might be appointed to would not guess that he was divorced—but that is no longer a live issue. We all seem to have arrived at the understanding that regardless of Matthew 19:3-12 and Mark 10:2-12, divorce does not disqualify someone from full participation in the church. Until 1956, we disagreed over the ordination of women, with many citing 1 Timothy 2:12 to support their opposition to the practice, but, at present, I know of only one United Methodist who even questions it.

I give the examples above because they are reminders that we have had fierce arguments over divisive issues in the past, but a new consensus always eventually emerged. I think the same is true of the issue of homosexuality. This proposed way forward makes space for a new consensus to emerge.

A Way Forward: The One Church Plan

The Council of Bishops has met and endorsed “The One Church Plan.” According to the summary on umc.org:

To find a way forward on the denomination’s homosexuality debate, bishops are recommending the church allow more freedom at the conference and local church levels.

Under what the Council of Bishops calls the One Church Plan, decisions about whether to ordain LGBTQ clergy or to officiate at same-gender unions would be made closer to the congregational level.

The plan would remove the restrictive language against the practice of homosexuality in the Book Discipline, the denomination’s policy book. The plan also adds assurances to pastors and conferences who in good conscience cannot perform same-sex weddings or ordain “self-avowed practicing” gay clergy that they don’t have to do so. [1]

Our understanding (Jenny’s and mine) is that if this plan is approved by General Conference (a big if) it would leave individual annual conferences to decide whether or not to ordain LGBT folk and individual congregations and pastors to decide whether or not marriages between same-sex couples would be performed in a local church. Bishop Saenz has a pastoral letter here: http://bit.ly/2jtP3qw.


[1] United Methodist Communications, “Bishops Propose Plan for Way Forward,” The United Methodist Church, May 04, 2018, accessed May 04, 2018, http://www.umc.org/news-and-media/bishops-propose-plan-for-way-forward.

 

Judicial Council Rules on Gay Bishop

The Judicial Council (the United Methodist version of the Supreme Court) has ruled that the consecration of self-avowed practicing homosexual is contrary to church law. The ruling was long and complicated, but you can learn more about it here. You can also read the response of Great Plains Bishop Saenz here. I’m still processing, so I don’t yet have that much to add except that I’m disappointed, but not surprised.

Links: www.umc.org/news-and-media/consecration-of-gay-bishop-against-church-law and
www.greatplainsumc.org/newsdetail/bishop-saenz-issues-statement-on-judicial-council-ruling-8112539

The Council of Bishops on the Recent Shooting Deaths

One of the reasons, I’m thankful that the United Methodist Church has held onto the episcopal office of Bishop is for their ability to speak both to the church and on behalf of the church in times of crisis. Bishop Bruce R. Ough, president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, issued the following statement on behalf of the Council in the wake of shootings in the U.S. this week:

In the aftermath of violent deaths this week in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; St. Paul, Minnesota; and Dallas, Texas, we speak to a nation that is overwhelmed with anger, grief, frustration, and despair. These deaths have left our hearts and voices crying for justice. The preliminary evidence and the shocking video images are a convincing reminder that we have work to do. The deaths of young black males in encounters with white police officers call for the need of a bi-partisan political and legal response, beyond (but including) the statements and prayers of the church. The subsequent deaths of police officers remind us of the honorable service of the great majority of these public servants and the destructive cycle of violence and retribution.  We pray for each family in their  profound loss and grief.

We call upon the people of the United Methodist Church to enter into the challenge and complexity of this present moment.  We affirm that every person is created in the image of God.  We acknowledge our complicity in the sin of institutional racism, which denies the inherently sacred nature of every person.  We confess that we have often allowed our ideological differences to become more important than our unity in the One Body.  We repent of our temptation to live in fear of one another and to seek security apart from God.  We claim the essential need for all Christians of privilege to listen and seek deeper understanding when our brothers and sisters cry out for justice.  We commit ourselves to speak on behalf of those who are denied justice.  We support the difficult work of those in law enforcement and at the same time seek ways of moving toward better community engagement.  We pledge to address the problem of mass incarceration of young black males in our society. We recognize the temptation to become numb in the face of persistent mass violence, and we hear the call as disciples of Jesus to move beyond lovers of peace to become peacemakers.

Let us together pray that God will work through us to bear witness to Christ’s call to bring healing to a fractured community and a broken world.  When we cannot find the strength within ourselves,  may we turn to you, for we know you call us to love our neighbor.  Remind us O God that love casts out all fear.  Make us a people of transformational change, of reconciliation, of justice and instruments of your peace.  Even now and especially now – for we offer this prayer in the face of struggle, pain, tragedy and unrest, and yet with confidence in the power of your love – our God, our Redeemer, Healer, the prince of peace!  We pray in our own time for the fulfillment of the prophecy given to Zechariah on the first Advent, even as we pray, “Come, Lord Jesus” and claim the promise of the gospel:

By the tender mercy of our God
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.
(Luke 1:78-79)

Bishop Bruce R. Ough, President
Council of Bishops
Issued on behalf of the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church

Bishop Jones on the Tragedy in Orlando

Bishop Scott J. Jones of the Great Plains Conference issued the following statement Monday morning in response to the attack on people at a nightclub early Sunday morning in Orlando, Florida.

As many of you know, a tragedy has befallen the community of Orlando, Florida, and, indeed, our entire country.

A gunman opened fire early Sunday morning inside a nightclub frequented by people in the LGBTQ community there. According to news reports, at least 49 people were killed and at least 53 people were wounded.

We are learning more details about the shooter, who himself was killed when he tried to engage police responding to the shootings. We are still learning more details about whether he had leanings toward terrorist organizations and why he targeted this particular establishment. But these things we do know for certain: Such violence can never be condoned, and all life is precious. And in this case, it appears people were targeted because of their sexual orientation.

News reports say that the people killed ranged in age from 20 to 50. These people were sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, spouses, college students, professionals – people from all walks of life. They were gunned down in this latest example of senseless violence in our country.

As my colleague Bishop Ken Carter of Florida said, may we “announce God’s unconditional love for all people and God’s desire for nonviolence through Jesus Christ who is our peace.”

Please join me in prayer for the victims and their families. Pray for the recovery of those who were wounded both physically and emotionally. Pray for our nation that such violence would be prevented and that we never again have to face such tragedy.