by Chris Ritter
My work over the past few months has been focused on seeking a solution to the divisions in The United Methodist Church by reinventing our system of jurisdictions. I have developed what I feel are three complete and very viable ways to restructure our jurisdictional conferences to achieve amicable unity. A key throughout has been doing so in a way that would not force any clergy or congregation to violate their conscience.
The Two-Jurisdiction and Six-Jurisdiction solutions have been available in full legislative form for several months. I am now pleased to offer the legislation for the third: The Organic Jurisdictional Solution. A PDF of the legislation and its accompanying descriptive material can be found by clicking: Organic Solution Legislation 3.0.
This plan is unique in that uses our current jurisdictions and conferences as the starting point for a gradual and organic reordering of the United Methodist Church in America. The legislative language nowhere mentions homosexuality.
Some key features:
- Jurisdictions are granted the same liberties currently offered to central conferences to adapt some parts of the Discipline.
- Global standards on human sexuality are retained but individual jurisdictions are specifically empowered to adapt these standards.
- The ability for conferences to join a new jurisdiction and congregations/clergy to join a new conference should provide a solution to our divisions without perpetuating debate or causing violations of conscience.
- Annual conferences are given greater incentive to maintain high-quality clergy pools and add value to their congregations.
- The plan refocuses our connectional structure on the needs of local congregations: “The local church provides the most significant arena through which disciple-making occurs.” (¶201)
- Guaranteed appointments are retained but conferences that are losing congregations would be forced to deal with excess ineffective clergy by established means.
- New connectional relationships are forged which are more likely to encourage collaboration and innovation.
- Same sex weddings and ordinations of practicing homosexuals could legally begin as early at summer of 2017 in progressive jurisdictions that vote to preemptively authorize this at their 2016 jurisdictional conference. However, local churches and clergy who do not agree with the position of their jurisdiction could be received into other conferences equipped to stretch their boundaries and do ministry in new places.
With this completion of this third concept, I feel I might be done writing new legislation for a while. I am honored to represent the Illinois Great Rivers Conference at General Conference 2016 and look forward to collaborating with other delegates on the future of the UMC. As always, questions and dialog are always welcome. Please share your thoughts on this proposal with your General Conference delegations.