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After-Words


The results of General Conference have been all over the major newspapers. The Atlantic Magazine’s headline said, ‘Conservative Christians Just Retook the United Methodist Church’. whether we had lost it and whether we have regained, is a question to ponder. Two days after

returning to Virginia from General Conference’s closing has given me some time to let the

smoke clear. Amid shock and a variety of emotions, we are trying to make sense of what just

happened at General Conference. Reflect with me on the following.


What is certain? The One Church Plan (OCP) was defeated (449-374) – every time, and more

than once. It was defeated in the Legislative Committee. It was brought back to the plenary

session by means of a minority report by Rev. Tom Berlin. It was defeated again. GC took

special pains to give LGBTQIA proponents an opportunity to be heard by letting the Simple Plan

come forward. Everyone knew the Simple Plan, which would delete all negative language

regarding homosexuality, would not pass. It did not by a vote of 60.47% to 39.53 %.


The Traditional Plan (TP), going through necessary parliamentary procedures, passed on every vote by adequate margins. On Sunday Feb 24 when all the petitions submitted to GC were ranked by GC in priority according to which they preferred, the Traditional Plan was only second to the Wespath pension petitions. The OCP finished fifth – behind two of the disaffiliation petitions!


The Traditional Plan, with a few friendly amendments, in plenary session on Tuesday passed

438 (53.28%) - 384 (46.72). Warts and all! It will become law January 1, 2020. Indeed, there

are parts of the Traditional Plan that have been pronounced unconstitutional by the Judicial

Council. GC passed it anyway! Flaws and all! The heart of the Plan is still constitutional and

becomes law January 1, 2020.


Primarily, the legislative parts of the TP that dealt with the accountability of bishops was

determined unconstitutional. The legislation that called on Bishops and annual conferences

within a year to declare they would uphold the Book of Discipline or be forced to join another denomination was judged unconstitutional. The Petition intended to fix the TP’s

unconstitutional bugs, the Modified Traditional Plan, was never allowed to see the light of day.


Because the Modified Traditional Plan had implications for the international central conferences, it had to be review by the GC Standing Committee of Central Conferences. The liberal bent of the committee made sure it died in the committee and never was allowed to come to the floor. Nevertheless, the proposed fixes to the TP will be back to GC in 2020.


The fact the Traditional Plan passed is noteworthy. The full-court press of the corporate,

establishment church exerted massive efforts against it. If you remember, the Council of

Bishops was not even going to include the TP in the Commission’s final report as one of the

plans put forward. The Judicial Council ruled it was the Commission not the Council who was

to bring the report to GC and the Commission included the TP in their report. Besides the

Council of Bishops, our UM association of colleges, universities and seminaries, the general

agencies, and activists groups like ‘Mainstream’ and ‘Uniting Methodists’ fronted by Tom

Berlin, Adam Hamilton and Mike Slaughter all ganged up against it.


Nevertheless, after every obstructionist, parliamentary procedure in Robert’s Rules of order was used – and abused - from a gazillion ‘points of order’ (many that weren’t), to ‘hostile

amendments’ to subvert the intent of the plan, and to declaring oneself a speech ‘for’ when really one was a speech ‘against’, the Traditional Plan weathered the storm and passed! GC voted to send the whole Traditional Plan that passed to the Judicial Council for a third ruling.


WHAT WE KNOW


We know:

  • The Book of Discipline statement regarding homosexuality in ¶ 161 remains and continues to be in effect: ‘The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.’ Bans on same-gender unions remain in force and are reinforced. Clergy cannot officiate and churches cannot host same-sex ceremonies.


  • Also, the following parts of the TP have already been passed by the Judicial Council(Tuesday February 26) and will be implemented in January 2020.

  • A stricter definition of ‘self, avowed practicing homosexual’. If one is in a partnered or ‘married’ same-sex relationship, or states publicly they are a practicing homosexual one will be counted a ‘self, avowed practicing homosexual’. This will aid in keeping clergy and Boards of Ordained Ministry accountable.

  • Bans on same-gender unions are reinforced. Clergy cannot officiate and churches cannot host same-sex ceremonies. Clergy who violate this receive a minimum penalty of one year’s suspension without pay after conviction by a trial court. A second violation is termination of credentials.

  • Persons nominated by the bishop to serve on the Board of Ordained Ministry (which oversees ordination matters) must certify they will uphold and enforce the Book of Discipline standards. The constitutionality of this one is uncertain.

  • Persons who are ‘self, avowed practicing homosexuals’ may not be recommended or consecrated by bishop for commissioning, ordination or for the episcopacy.