Photo by Paul Jeffrey, UMNS
by Chris Ritter
Posted 11:49 on February 26, 2019
United Methodism is born again as a global church. Like most births, the process was fraught with anxiety, excruciatingly painful, messy. The tears will dry and healing will happen, but this can never be undone. We are not sure what we are right now. But we know a bit better who we are.
It is always true of General Conference that delegates go home not knowing exactly what they did. This is probably even more true of General Conference 2019. We passed the Modified Traditional Plan 438 to 384 (53% to 47%) without all the desired perfections that were intended. The One Church Plan took its final gasp today in a failed attempt at substitution, 449 to 374. This was to the pain and dismay of Progressives and the never-ending consternation of American Centrists and bishops. Many annual conferences loaded their GC2019 delegations with LGBTQ clergy and laity, so the emotion in the room was raw. This was personal.
The plan we voted to approve has constitutional issues, but the plan will hold. The Traditional Plan was never a single idea but a menu of accountability measures aimed to enforce the simple idea that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. These will go individually to Judicial Council but we already know the court’s opinion on most of them due to two previous rulings. The heart of the plan, a sorting mechanism for conferences to move into a self-governing status, was never acted upon. To the best of my knowledge, these are measures we passed that are also constitutional: (This summary is adapted from a source I deem reliable.)
- The definition of self-avowed practicing homosexual now includes people living in a same-sex marriage, domestic partnership or civil union, or is a person who publicly states she or he is a practicing homosexual. (Petition 1, 90032, Calendar Item 18)
- Bishops are prohibited from consecrating bishops who are self-avowed homosexuals even if they have been elected. Bishops are prohibited from commissioning or ordaining those on the deacon or elder track if the BOOM has determined the individual is a self-avowed practicing homosexual. (Petition 5, 90036, Calendar Item 4)
- Board of ordained ministry members must certify to the bishop that they will uphold the Book of Discipline in its entirety including but not limited to all qualifications for ordination (Par. 304, 330, 335, 336) (Petition 6, 90037, Calendar Item 6)
- The minimum penalty if someone is convicted of conducting ceremonies or same-sex weddings is one-year suspension without pay (first offense), and termination (second offense) (Petition 11, 90042, Calendar Item 11)
- The district committees on ordained ministry and conference boards of ordained ministry shall not approve or recommend persons who does not meet the qualifications of Par. 304.1-3after full examination and the bishop shall rule any unqualified candidate so recommended out or order (Petition 12, 90043, Calendar Item 12)
- Bishops can only dismiss complaints against a clergy if the complaint has no basis in law or fact and the reason for dismissal must be shared with the complaintant (Petition 13, 90044, Calendar Item 13)
- Just Resolutions must state all identified harms and how they will be addressed by the respondent. The second sentence that was found unconstitutional required that “if the respondent acknowledges action(s) that are a clear violation of the provisions of the Discipline” to commit “not to repeat the action(s).” (Petition 14, 90045, Calendar Item 14)
- A new requirement is added that the complainant(s) to be a party to the just resolution process and that every effort shall be made to have the complainant(s) agree to the resolution (Petition 15, 90046, Calendar Item 15)
- The Church can appeal a case against a clergy based on egregious errors of law to the committee on appeals and then to the Judicial Council. If there is jury nullification, the church has recourse to prosecute. (Petition 16, 90047, Calendar Item 17)
It was a tough day for exit provisions. The following information is based on my best understanding and has not been verified: A provision was successfully added to the Wespath pensions petitions that allows annual conferences to assess amounts in addition to a fair share of the pension liability. This could be used punitively in some cases to make the price tag for exit much higher. Also, Judicial Council Ruling 1377 applies constitutional paragraph 41 to churches seeking disaffiliation. That means a 2/3 majority vote would be required at a charge conference, a congregational meeting, AND at the annual conference session. This is an extremely unwieldy process for churches seeking to exit the denomination. The Taylor Disaffiliation petition was approved as a minority report and I am trying to obtain the final language.
What happens now?
The Global Council of the Wesleyan Covenant Association convenes tomorrow in St. Louis to talk about what happened and what happens next. African delegates will go home and share the news that they successfully defending the church’s teachings on marriage. Representatives from the Western Jurisdiction made an announcement today that is open to interpretation. (They either said they are rejecting the actions of General Conference and invite others to join them, or they said they are starting a new connection and inviting others to join them.) Adam Hamilton announced his intention to call a meeting of bishops and other key leaders at the Church of the Resurrection after Easter “to discuss where Methodism goes from here.”
Bad things happened today with respect to what we said and did to one another. Holy conferencing gave way to bare-knuckle politics. I sat at table with friends as we cast votes that hurt one another deeply. This is a night of mourning for many who came to St. Louis with hopes of a much different outcome. We all have folks at home that tuned in and watched organized religion at its most dysfunctional. They cannot unsee what they saw. I spoke with pastors already receiving messages from church members saying that they are leaving the church. Others are receiving messages of congratulations.
Love it or hate it, this is the first page of a whole new volume of Methodist history. My guess is that it will include more than two new groups moving to capture some of the good in United Methodism. I see a very Progressive form of Methodism growing out of a base in the Western Jurisdiction. Another flavor may develop under leading lights like Adam Hamilton, Matt Miofsky, and Tom Berlin as a moderately progressive/evangelical heir to Mainline Methodism. The mechanisms for new groups to form are not in place, so we have navigated off the map.
Most difficult to predict is the future of evangelical Methodism. What does a dog do when he finally catches the car he has been chasing? We evangelicals never really wanted to inherit the institution, we were just contending for the faith. The UMC is a house past due for a major remodel. I expect the crisis of the next couple years won’t be wasted and a very different wineskin will form. One little-known fact is that WCA has received many overtures from autonomous Methodist churches seeking a reconnection of the scattered heirs of Wesley throughout the Americas and beyond. There is the possibility of an orthodox Methodist global convergence that would be be both exciting and challenging to help foster.
I expect the first questions that will need to be answered are: (1) Who plans to come to General Conference 2020 and (2) for what purpose? The next few weeks will tell that story.
Thank you for this post Chris.
Thank you for this ray of hope that Christianity of the Wesleyan/Methodist persuasion has a future even in America!
Chris, what are you going to do about your compendium? I realize the way forward is done with, but it was the best recourse out there and my go to for information from all sides. How about coming out with something like the UM Compendium or such. Rumors are already flying around about AC’s pulling out, etc. We all need someplace with the straight info from all reasonable sources, although right now I could live without Christy Thomas’s vitriol.
I have a lot of catching up to do. Maybe it is time to start a new list. Please suggest a title.
How about “A Compendium of All Things United Methodist”
Wow. Thank you for this summary and analysis of what may be on the horizon. Could you clarify the following: “The heart of the plan, a sorting mechanism for conferences to move into a self-governing status, was never acted upon.”?
I missed that part in my attempts at GC-watching. Why was that part of the plan not acted upon? Were there known constitutionality issues
It was referred to the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters where it was not approved. If time allowed we were going to bring it as a minority report. But, alas.
At least we made an attempt to get back to the Bible. Why didnt we go futhur and tell the 384 votes to lock the doors of the church when they leave as a new mini ster will be forth coming.? I don’t understand why we Methodist were even subjected to this mess anyway, if you believe the word of God, very clear.
Thank you for your diligence in this and throughout this process. The future of an orthodox Methodist global connection sounds both promising and prophetic. It will be a fascinating journey no doubt.
Reblogged this on A Still More Excellent Way.
Chris, you have written an outstanding summary of the Special Conference . God has given you great skill as a writer & we appreciate your sharp analysis. Thanks so much for putting your thoughts to the keyboard. I thank the Lord for your writing ministry!
Thank you for your faithfulness and hard work.
Thank you so much for the report. May God continue to bless your work.
I enjoyed meeting you at Rock Island several months ago. I have appreciated your blog and your gift in explaining the difficult.
Another exceptional post for the record. The Traditional Plan serves as a boundary marker. Scripture declares the importance of boundaries (warning those who move the markers). But there’s one other detail of note: every careless word, every calumny, every unholy expectoration, every defiant declaration is on the record. (Technology preserves it like never before.) Scripture is replete with warnings about that witness. The masks came off at this conference. But such masquerades will be revealed for their true nature.
“The Taylor Disaffiliation petition was approved as a minority report and I am trying to obtain the final language.” HERE YOU GO….
Disaffiliation Taylor NEW Par. 2553 (90066TC ¶2500G)
Last Vote Action:
Vote on Main Motion
This motion was Adopted, with 420 votes for and 390 votes against.
Plenary Motions: 2/26/2019 6:04 PM
Amend the Main Motion by Substitution ADOPTED 402-400
Instructions: Amend main motion with substitution of Minority report as follows:
Amend the main motion by substitution of the minority report as follows:
(point of editorial change in point 1 of minority report. The editorial change is section 2553.3 and not 2553.5 as printed in DCA. Section 2 edit “Board” and not “Boart”)
Adopt Petition #90066 (ADCA, p. 205) with the following changes:
1. Delete what is printed as section 2553.3 in its entirety
2. In the section listed as section2553.5, first sentence, replace “the resident bishop” with “the board of trustees”
3. Delete the first sentence section 2553.5g
4. Change the final sentence section 2553.5g, by replacing it with the following: “Payment shall occur prior to the effective date of departure.”
5. Delete the entirety of what is printed as sub-section 2553.5c, and re-number the rest accordingly.
2/26/2019 6:19 PM
Vote on Main Motion ADOPTED 420-390
Main motion to adopt the minority report as substituted and edited.
AFTER PLENARY MOTION- AFTER PETITION 90066- MINORITY REPORT- Amending of the main motion by substitution. SUBSTITUTED AND EDITED
Amend, effective as of the close of the 2019 General Conference, Chapter Six, Church Property, by adding a new Section VIII. Disaffiliation of Local Churches Over Issues Related to Human Sexuality, then by adding a new ¶ 2553 as follows:
¶ 2553. Disaffiliation of a Local Church over Issues Related to Human Sexuality.
1. Basis–Because of the current deep conflict within The United Methodist Church around issues of human sexuality, a local church shall have a limited right, under the provisions of this paragraph, to disaffiliate from the denomination for reasons of conscience regarding a change in the requirements and provisions of the Book of Discipline related to the practice of homosexuality or the ordination or marriage of self-avowed practicing homosexuals as resolved and adopted by the 2019 General Conference, or the actions or inactions of its annual conference related to these issues which follow.
2. Time Limits–The choice by a local church to disaffiliate with The United Methodist Church under this paragraph shall be made in sufficient time for the process for exiting the denomination to be complete prior to December 31, 2023. The provisions of ¶ 2553 expire on December 31, 2023 and shall not be used after that date.
2553.3 removed- per plenary motion 1 in petition 90066.
4. Decision Making Process–The church conference shall be conducted in accordance with ¶ 248 and shall be held within one hundred twenty (120) days after the district superintendent calls for the church conference. In addition to the provisions of ¶ 246.8, special attention shall be made to give broad notice to the full professing membership of the local church regarding the time and place of a church conference called for this purpose and to use all means necessary, including electronic communication where possible, to communicate. The decision to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church must be approved by a two-thirds (2/3) majority vote of the professing members of the local church present at the church conference.
5. Process following decision to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church–If the church conference votes to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church, the terms and conditions for that disaffiliation shall be established by the board of trustees of the applicable annual conference, with the advice of the cabinet, the annual conference treasurer, the annual conference benefits officer, the director of connectional ministries, and the annual conference chancellor. The terms and conditions, including the effective date of disaffiliation, shall be memorialized in a binding Disaffiliation Agreement between the annual conference and the trustees of the local church, acting on behalf of the members. That agreement must be consistent with the following provisions:
a) Standard Terms of the Disaffiliation Agreement. The General Council on Finance and Administration shall develop a standard form for Disaffiliation Agreements under this paragraph to protect The United Methodist Church as set forth in ¶ 807.9. The agreement shall include a recognition of the validity and applicability of ¶ 2501, notwithstanding the release of property therefrom. Annual conferences may develop additional standard terms that are not inconsistent with the standard form of this paragraph.
b) Apportionments. The local church shall pay any unpaid apportionments for the 12 months prior to disaffiliation, as well as an additional 12 months of apportionments.
2553.5c removed- per plenary motion 5 in petition 90066. (re-numbered the rest accordingly)
c) Property. A disaffiliating local church shall have the right to retain its real and personal, tangible and intangible property. All transfers of property shall be made prior to disaffiliation. All costs for transfer of title or other legal work shall be borne by the disaffiliating local church.
d) Pension Liabilities. The local church shall contribute withdrawal liability in an amount equal to its pro rata share of any aggregate unfunded pension obligations to the annual conference. The General Board of Pension and Health Benefits shall determine the aggregate funding obligations of the annual conference using market factors similar to a commercial annuity provider, from which the annual conference will determine the local church’s share.
e) Other Liabilities. The local church shall satisfy all other debts, loans, and liabilities, or assign and transfer them to its new entity, prior to disaffiliation.
f) Payment Terms. The agreement shall specify the terms and conditions of the payment to the annual conference for any sums related to ¶ 2553.5. b, c, and e. Payment shall occur prior to the effective date of departure.
g) Disaffiliating Churches Continuing as Plan Sponsors of the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits Plans. The United Methodist Church believes that a local church disaffiliating under ¶ 2553 shall continue to share common religious bonds and convictions with The United Methodist Church based on shared Wesleyan theology and tradition and Methodist roots, unless the local church expressly resolves to the contrary. As such, a local church disaffiliating under ¶ 2553 shall continue to be eligible to sponsor voluntary employee benefit plans through the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits under ¶ 1504.2, subject to the applicable terms and conditions of the plans.
h) Once the disaffiliating local church has reimbursed the applicable annual conference for all funds due under the agreement, and provided that there are no other outstanding liabilities or claims against The United Methodist Church as a result of the disaffiliation, in consideration of the provisions of this paragraph, the applicable annual conference shall release any claims that it may have under ¶ 2501 and other paragraphs of The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church commonly referred to as the trust clause, or under the agreement.
Point of Discussion:
In the Taylor Disaffiliation as edited and approved…. 1) it is for “matters of conscience” that a local church would choose to disaffiliate. But, here is where it gets interesting. These matters can be for either a progressive response to not being allowed to perform homosexual unions, or for a more traditional response to annual conference “actions or inactions”, for not enforcing what the discipline as amended now states…. Take a look, there are two key OR statements which allow for quite a bit of latitude, in my reading of this, for disaffiliation…. Consider The Basis discussed in Point #1. “1. Basis–Because of the current deep conflict within The United Methodist Church around issues of human sexuality, a local church shall have a limited right, under the provisions of this paragraph, to disaffiliate from the denomination for reasons of conscience regarding a change in the requirements and provisions of the Book of Discipline related to the practice of homosexuality OR the ordination or marriage of self-avowed practicing homosexuals as resolved and adopted by the 2019 General Conference, OR the actions or inactions of its annual conference related to these issues which follow.”
…and so, if the actions or inactions of an annual conference fail to regulate or keep those who are defiant and, in fact, are plainly disregarding the stipulations of the discipline as amended, then, as a matter of conscience, it would seem, there are grounds for local church disaffiliation as defined in the Taylor Disaffiliation Petition as amended by minority report and approved by the 2019 GC 2/26/19 majority vote.
Thank you! I have enjoyed reading your view of the meetings. This is a tough time to be a traditionalist as there is so much hate being thrown our way by it seems every one. I watched both days — and I was broken by what happened. I am a pastor’s wife and I am honestly very concerned about what happens next for our church and for my family, but I cling to the phrase “God’s got this” and try to live every day with joy. You are a blessing to many of us. Again Thank You!
As always, Chris, I greatly appreciate your insights and leadership. You are one of the few voices aligned with the Renewal and Reform segment of the Church that I am able to read with joy rather than pain. You seek to clarify and heal rather than rub salt in open wounds and for that I am most grateful. I now return to a centrist local church that feels betrayed and abandoned because what it believed was the mainstream of United Methodism now appears to be a minority, albeit a large one. The ministry here is to move foward in the spirit and attitude Paul models, “We do not lose heart.” (2 Cor. 4:1). Thanks again!
I think you give Adam Hamilton too much credit. He likes to portray himself as a centrist, but as the debate has reached a fever pitch over the past several years, his mask is slipping.
Thank you, Chris. Not that I had a vote, but I was in favor of the One Church Plan, given the options on the table (the OCP was certainly not ideal, either). But I have enjoyed reading your reflections from the traditionalist side of the aisle. Although I am sure we disagree on many aspects of the issue at hand, from Biblical interpretation to our understanding of Wesleyan theology, I thank you for your clear dedication to the Methodist Church and your passion for following Christ the best you know how.
Please feel free to delete…my message doubled up upon signing in! My apologies
Thank you Chris. Not that I had a vote, but I was in favor of the One Church Plan, at least given the options on the table. I imagine we disagree on many aspects of this particular issue, from Biblical interpretation to Wesleyan theology, but I have learned much from reading your updates; I appreciate your clear dedication to the Methodist Church and your passionate commitment to following Christ the best you know how. Thank you again, and God bless.
I love Adam Hamilton’s programming materials. I was a little surprised at his speech for saving the One Church plan, but what do I know, I’m just a naive Sunday School teacher that got a few days dose of hardcore politics. He talked about the pensions having a higher priority, and I would have respected that comment more if it came from someone that doesn’t have multiple book and tape deals to help ease the pain. Unless of course he does those for FREE. Also I notice he did have a nice tan. Does the Church of the Resurrection have sun beds for it’s members? Thank you Craig for your post and helping me understand more of what was going on.
Chris – In your “Not Toothless” section, I believe that item #3 is in error, in that Petition 90037 is among the 9 “Traditional Plan” petitions found to be unconstitutional by the Judicial Council. You’ll find that list here: http://www.umc.org/decisions/79321
I thought that was the one we successfully amended to make constitutional.
Confirmed that 90037 was repaired by an amendment.
Understood, and thanks for double-checking. I watched much of the live stream, but I think I missed that transaction.
The amendment has not be reviewed by the Judicial Council yet, I should point out.