Because of recent happenings in the United Methodist Church, I would like to bring you up-to-date concerning the Traditionalist Plan passed by the Special General Conference held in St. Louis at the end of February just a few short weeks ago. I had planned to bring you the third pondering on our Holy Bible this month yet feel it necessary to postpone it until possibly our next newsletter.
Following the merger of the Methodist Episcopal Church and the United Brethren Evangelical Church in 1968 at the General Conference in 1972, our Book of Discipline was changed with the addition of language that did not allow for gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual persons to be placed in leadership roles of the church as pastors or bishops. The Book of Discipline also had a number of other additions to it including the affirmation that only heterosexual persons could be married in the church by clergy. Every four years since this language was included in the Book of Discipline legislation and efforts have been brought to the General Conferences to delete or modify this language to be more inclusive of the gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual community in acceptance and leadership within the United Methodist Church.
At the General Conference in 2016 the Council Bishops proposed and was accepted that a commission on a way forward would convene a special General Conference to be held in 2019, which would address the issue of inclusivity of gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual persons. It has always been the position within the United Methodist Church that all of God’s children are equally loved by God and we as followers of Jesus Christ are to reflect that same love to everyone.
At this special session four proposals were made. The simple Plan, The Connectional Conference Plan, The One Church Plan and The Traditionalist Plan or if no acceptance could be made we would continue as a denomination with no change to the Book of Worship. The first day of the special session was the day of prayer, worship, meditation and inviting the Holy Spirit to become evident as a plan would be chosen to go forward. This Special General Session along with all other previous General Sessions, include representatives from our world of United Methodist. This includes not only those from the United States but all parts of the world where United Methodist live and have established churches under the leadership of conferences and bishops.
After some proposed amendments to each one of the four proposals were accepted voting began. The Traditionalist Plan was the only plan that passed the Special Session with an approval of 56% of the voting delegates. These voting delegates were made up of 864 representatives from laity and clergy throughout the world where Methodist Churches have been established. The Traditionalist Plan affirms the Book of Discipline as it written and keeps the current language in regards to the acceptance of gay, lesbian, transgender and queer persons since 1972. It does amend the legal ramifications for churches and clergy who knowingly and willingly violate the Book of Worship. It also provides for the exit of churches that are unwilling to accept the Book of Worship as it is currently written.
Over the past few years it has been accepted that not all within the United Methodist Church and the outside world be completely accepting of any of the plans proposed. No matter which plan would have come forward we know that some of God’s children would be hurt. Although we prayed over this difficulty within our denomination not all prayers were answered because of the differences we had and the different prayers offered to God.
What will happen in the immediate or long term is yet to be completely decided. For like the government of the United States when changes occur to the operating documents, a legal challenge can and has been put forward through our legal entity of the United Methodist Church. Should the Traditionalist Planned be approved by the judicial system of the United Methodist Church the Traditionalist Plan would be put into effect as of January 1, 2020.
Recently I held an information session for the Claybanks United Methodist Church on the Way Forward at which many of our members did attend. It is my plan to keep you informed as to where we are in this process of implementation as we go forward in 2019. I see many possibilities and recognize at our Annual Conference in Traverse City during the first few days of June being a time of further discussion and clarification as being one of the steps to our way forward. Please continue to hold the United Methodist Church and our leadership in your prayers.