Good News Statement on the Council of Bishops Decision

May 4, 2018 –

This afternoon, the United Methodist Council of Bishops announced that it will submit a report to the special 2019 General Conference that contains all three plans for a way forward considered by the bishops and the Commission on a Way Forward. This will include the Traditionalist Plan, the One Church Plan, and the Connectional Conference Plan.

The Rev. Rob Renfroe

Good News applauds the Council’s decision to include a Traditionalist Plan in their report. “We are glad the bishops will submit an option that represents the mainstream majority of the church,” said the Rev. Rob Renfroe, president of Good News. “This puts the Traditionalist Plan rightfully on an equal footing to be considered by the delegates to the special session along with the bishops’ preferred plan, the One Church Plan, which has been repeatedly rejected by the General Conference in the past. We believe the Traditionalist Plan holds the most hope for a fruitful future for The United Methodist Church.”

While the Council press release declared that a “majority of the Council of Bishops recommends the One Church Plan as the best way forward for The United Methodist Church,” it acknowledged “there is support for each of the three plans within the Council.” According to the release: “While the bishops recommended the One Church Plan they affirmed that the Connectional Conference Plan and the Traditionalist Plan held values that are important to the life and work of the church.”

The most disappointing news coming out of the meeting is that the full details of the plans and accompanying legislative proposals will be released “no later than July 8.” This is the deadline for submitting petitions to the special General Conference. The delay is purportedly due to the need for final editing and translation into the official languages of the General Conference.

“Waiting until July 8 to find out the details of the plans is simply unacceptable,” said the Rev. Thomas Lambrecht, vice president of Good News. “We call upon the Council of Bishops to release at least a summary of the details of the plans before annual conferences begin meeting later this month, so that members of the annual conferences can begin to familiarize themselves with the options available to guide their delegates in making an informed and prayerful decision about our church’s future direction.”

Good News will continue to analyze and publicize information about the three plans as it becomes available.

Council of Bishop’s Press Release HERE.

Comments

  1. Could it be that the large number of large, evangelical UM churches that were saying that option 2 and 3 would force them to exit the church had something to do with it?

  2. There is no mention in the Bishop’s press release, nor in Bishop Ough’s video of a plan for amicable separation by those pastors and churches who will be unable to serve in good conscience under the plan approved by GC 2019. No matter which plan is approved, there will be many who will disagree with it – either progressive incompatibilists or traditional incompatibilists (as Tom Lambrecht defined them in another article here).

    I suspect the bishops don’t want to talk too much about amicable separation at this point – understandably – but it IS inevitable.

    When Bishop Carter talks about the strength of our diversity, he totally misunderstands that many of us don’t see diversity, we see lack of faithfulness to the biblical witness, even heresy. We (incompatibilists from both sides) will not be able to serve in a church where that is the definition of “diversity”.

  3. William says:

    Will Good News, WCA, and/or other orthodox Methodists be permitted to petition the upcoming Judicial Council special called session of May 22-24 as to what petitions can be submitted to the 2019 General Conference? Can the Judicial Council be called upon at this session to act on having the final report of the bishops released long before July 8 so that 2018 Annual Conferences can respond this summer?

    Seems like much is hanging on this Judicial Council session with relation of how to proceed towards St Louis.

    If the Judicial Council should rule that only petitions from the bishops can be submitted and voted on, what then?

    • Even if the bishops limit what is brought to the 2019 GC and it is not acceptable to the majority the delegates can simply vote down all of the plans. A year later will be a regular GC and in 2020 good news, WCA, and other groups can propose plans that reflect the will of the majority. With the changes in demographics the traditionalist position will only become stronger. In a few years the growth in Africa will give us a total majority over the GC’s. Do not give up, even if next year does not solve the problem we have 2020 and beyond. Have faith and remain strong.

  4. I am heartbroken that the council endorsed a plan that basically has been rejected for years. These guys are clueless and out of touch with regular bible loving Methodists. It is as if they are TRYING to get rid of anyone with a scriptural world view.

    • My impression is that many Traditionalists are content to let the UMC schism, so why stand in the way of change that some are bound and determined to implement?

      • Why should the majority of the church allow it to be taken over by a minority and especially why should the majority of the church allow it to officially endorse sin. This is truly not about homosexuality but about whether the bible is the inspired word of God and whether or not we are going to live by God’s rules.

        • You misunderstand me… It’s clear that many Traditionalists are prepared to exit the denomination. So they have stopped trying to fight the inevitable and will be ready to leave.

  5. Mary Meier says:

    These people of conviction (i.e. Bishops) should be taking a stand, even if they take the wrong one. I can respect people who stand for their convictions but can work together to come to an agreement (which is non-binding at the General Conference). I cannot respect those who do not – as in forwarding all three plans. Kicking the can down the road hasn’t worked too well so far, in government or religious matters, but that’s what they did.

  6. Helen Foulk says:

    I guess I need more information.

  7. Confused Reader says:

    I’m confused! What is actually being presented to the 2019 GC? According to Bishop Schol, the One Church plan is the only plan being presented. So many press releases that vary across the connection. This announcement seems to be more clear, but is it accurate? For more info see https://www.gnjumc.org/news/message-from-bishop-schol-council-of-bishops-recommendation/

  8. Licensed Local pastor says:

    The Council of Bishop’s will drag this out as long as they can, because they know a split is coming due to their 40 plus years of not showing any type of real leadership. The Bishop’s do not want to lose financial resources.

  9. Don’t get too excited until you see the plan details. I have some trust issues with our bishops. If the traditionalists plan passes will the bishops support it? I wouldn’t bet the farm on that. There might even be a conscience clause in the Bishops’ traditionalist plan that provides an escape.

  10. My initial observations & thoughts.
    No discussion or acknowledgment of the authority of Scripture and by extension, Jesus Christ, our God, our Savior. Hebrews 12:2
    I believe this to be more about whether or not Scripture is authoritative, true and trustworthy in our lives. Homosexuality is the lightning rod issue of our age as to the Scripture’s place in our lives. Abandoning that position on Scripture, which was inherent in the Discipline, undermines the Gospel itself. 2 Timothy 3:16
    Being tempted is not a sin. Having same sex attraction, feeling jealous, envious, being attracted to someone other than our spouse, and on and on, is the nature of what is the battle of the flesh in Scripture. Acting on those temptations, giving into those temptations is sin. Romans 6-8 and Galatians 5 talk about this.

    • Christopher says:

      You’re putting on LGBT people a burden you yourself are not able to bear: lifelong celibacy. There’s something in scripture about that (Acts 15). Which scriptures do we then follow?

      • In Acts 15, the Jerusalem council says that Gentiles are welcome in to the New Covenant but must be taught to abstain from certain things associated with Gentile pagan living . . . pagan worship, rituals, and sexual immorality. The term “sexual immorality” would include sexual acts between people of the same sex!

        Why in the world would you cite Acts 15 as a reason to not tell people that homosexual acts are wrong . . . when the apostolic leadership in Jerusalem does just that? You’re logic is mind-blowing. I don’t get it.

        • Scotto says:

          Excellent point! It’s hard to find anything resembling an argument for why we should ignore what has been clear and consistent teaching throughout church history.

        • Christopher says:

          Why? Because our understanding of sexuality has VASTLY evolved since then. There is no biblical understanding of homosexuality that isn’t conflated with other issues. There is no biblical recognition that same-sex marriage is about A LOT more than sex. I cannot ignore what we know now that they didn’t know then. I ADD the new knowledge to the equation and recalculate. In doing so, it’s clear to me that they get homosexuality wrong.

          • God has known about it since the beginning and he made the rules. We all have desires that go against the scriptures and the word of God, that’s what sin is and we are all sinners.

        • Daniel Wagle says:

          Homosexuality is never called porneia as porneia is forbidden in Acts 15. Incest is called porneia in 1 Corinthians 5:1. Many scholars believe Acts 15 had incestuous marriages in mind.

          • Homosexual acts would be understood to be under the umbrella of “sexual immorality” (porneia). James and the leaders in Jerusalem were devoted Jews and even Jews who were not that serious about their religion believed that sex between people of the same sex was not God’s will. It went against the way the way that God created us in Genesis: “he created male/female” and told them to “multiply” and fill the earth with little “images” of God.

            To suggest that homosexual acts was not included under the broad term porneia is not tenable or sensible. It wouldn’t hold up in any academic setting.

          • Daniel Wagle says:

            Even Jews don’t have the same expectations of Gentiles that they might have of themselves. There were 613 laws binding on Jews, but only 7 on Gentiles. So we can’t assume that what might have been prohibited for Jews would have been prohibited for Gentiles, that is, according to Jewish Law. Acts 15 would be very similar to what Jews expected of Gentiles. Jews, for instance, don’t expect Gentiles not to eat pork. Pork IS an abomination (toevah) in Deuteronomy 14:3- the same word used for abomination in Leviticus 20:13. They would only require Gentiles not to eat flesh off of a living animal. Gentiles have to keep to Genesis 9:3-4 which would permit pork, since anything that moves would be permitted for food. But this passage prohibits blood, which is also prohibited in Acts 15. Personally, I don’t eat Pork or shellfish, or beef, chicken or fish, but I wouldn’t claim that Christians are required to abstain from these foods. But I do base it on the Creation story in Genesis 1:29-30, where both humans and animals were only to eat plants. This creation basis is NOT Law, but perhaps ideal. Lesbianism in Jewish law was prohibited for Jews, but not for Gentiles. Leviticus nevers mentions Lesbianism at all. The prohibition on Lesbianism really involved adding to the Law. I had an Orthodox Rabbi as a Counselor and this is what he said. And only one kind of sex might be prohibited for males- he said this, I didn’t make it up. In the Creation story in Genesis 2:24, a man is to cleave (dabaq) to his wife. However, this was never understood to mean that one could only cleave to someone of the opposite sex, for Ruth cleaved (dabaq) to Naomi in Ruth 1:14.

      • I am married 25 years but cannot admit that celibacy would have been impossible, so your supposition is spurious.

  11. William says:

    This report, especially the accountability amendment for bishops, indicates that this way forward plan (the “one” church plan) that they’re recommending is just another example of their detachment from the UMC body and their growing isolation from that body. Our bishops are headed west while our church is headed east. Something has to give.

    https://juicyecumenism.com/2018/05/07/five-cheers-conservative-victories-united-methodist-constitutional-amendments/

  12. We know that a church must ultimately be built upon scripture. People expect that. Jesus called Simon a Rock when he called him Peter. The early disciples knew they had to build their sect of Jewish Christ Followers upon the scriptures. They all knew the scriptures and they all personally knew Jesus. The church cannot exist as an entity without the Scriptures as the foundation of the faith. A church that forgets the word of the Lord will soon be forgotten. The people are the church and the people will decide. A church that wants to endure must be faithful to scripture and cannot be led by the world. It is the church that should be the light in the world for the church is the body of Christ. In a letter to the Corinthians St. Paul emphasizes the need to keep ones body pure and how certain sins are especially harmful to the body. Certain people who do certain things cannot inherit the kingdom of God according to the New Testament. Who’s word should we believe? The Bishops or The Bible? Joshua said “as for me and my house, we will serve the lord”. Sins are forgiven and forgivable, but one who is in Christ is a new creation and the Methodist movement was about Holiness and many of us value that because Holy living is evidence of that new creation. By the fruits of our lives we will be separated from the worldly. Even the worldly notice a changed life, the worldly of today may become the Christ follower of tomorrow. St. Paul was once Saul. Christ can transform men and women if we allow him to be our king.

    • Christopher says:

      It’s interesting you say that: because Peter ultimately ditched a key scriptural matter-circumcision–in favor of welcoming gentiles into the church. See Acts 15. He and Paul&Barnabas ultimately favor their experience (seeing the Holy Spirit at work in the gentiles) over scripture.

      • Again you are incorrect. They didn’t ditch scripture, they simply realized that salvation for Gentiles didn’t require observance of Jewish law.

        • Christopher says:

          Simply? No circumcision was the foremost emblem of the covenant. It preceded the Law by several generations. Forgoing circumcision was a radical break.

          • Jesus established a New Covenant. It was prophesied in Isaiah that the Messiah would be a “light” to the Gentiles. The prophecy was coming to pass and the question was “Do we allow Gentiles full membership into the New Covenant without circumcision?”

            It was NOT as big a deal as you make it to be. There was already a long tradition in the Old Testament about the need for “circumcision of the heart” rather than just outward circumcision.

            Anyways, I don’t see what that has to do with homosexual behavior. The council in Jerusalem were focused on the question of where Gentiles stood in the New Covenant and what requirements were needed. They simply looked to the Scriptures and the leading of the Holy Spirit (our “teacher”) to show them that all that was needed was evidence of a circumcised heart. But . . . but, but, but . . . they were to totally repent of things associated with the pagan world, eating meat with blood in it, worshiping idols, and sexual immorality – which, by the way – would include sex intercourse between people of the SAME sex.

          • Christopher says:

            It has to do with the church discarding a portion of scripture in favor of a revelation from the Holy Spirit. I’m not sure why they would gather the known world’s Christian leaders if ditching circumcision wasn’t a big deal.

            Also about the sexual immorality bit…ever wonder how all those gentiles (who didn’t have the Torah) defined what was immoral sexually?

          • Christopher circumcision was a sign of inclusion in the old covenant. We are not part of the old covenant we are part of the new covenant. the sign of inclusion in the new covenant is baptism. This is basic Christianity 101. By the way if it wasn’t the true meaning then, it isn’t the true meaning now, you just can’t take a scripture and remove two thousand years of understanding to justify your life style.

  13. Okie preacher says:

    Most “Good News” writers maintain that they have Scripture “on their side”, but actually demonstrate a fundamentalist hermeneutic which is anachronistic and irrelevant in this century. The “homosexuality” condemned in the Old Testament (the “clobber verses”) usually refers to exploitive behavior visited on vulnerable , non-consenting people. That is 180 degrees from the committed loving couples addressed in the marriage equality ruled on by the U.S. Supreme Court in recent years. Those who claim “clear biblical teaching” have not done their Biblical homework and are blindly and self-righteously leading our connection into schism.

    • You say a lot . . . but nothing substantial.

      Methodist hermeneutics draws from Anglican/historical methodologies, exegesis of Scripture, experience (of the Holy Spirit; not general human experience), reason (using your mind; thinking through things), and tradition (what orthodox Christians have said, as a whole, in the past).

      What do Christians throughout time (and most Christians throughout the word for that matter) say about sex between people of the same sex? If you say that this consensus doesn’t matter . . . don’t call yourself a Methodist.

    • You might be right that traditional scriptural interpretations are incorrect regarding homosexual acts, but your argument is weakened by the reference to a ruling from a secular court, which should have no place in this discussion.

    • William says:

      Seems the Bible is replete with “clobber verses” with relation sin, with sexual immorality sins often set apart and emphasized. On the other hand, it offsets that with all the justification verses with relation to repentance and salvation. That’s the GOOD NEWS, and, thank God, is not irrelevant to this century.

  14. Confused Reader #2 says:

    Like “Confused Reader”, Bishop Easterling of the BWC wrote in her letter to pastors the same thing Bishop Schol told his Conference. Only the 1 plan that the COB recommends is going to be presented. According to Bishop Easterling, the other plans were only added to give delegates some context of the work of the Commission. Who is correct here? Good News and others (I pray and hope!) – or our Bishops?

  15. ‘Then Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and built there an altar unto the LORD’ (Genesis 13:18)
    “It is often argued that we should stay in the midst of churches and bodies whose sins and follies we deplore, in the hope of saving them for God and mankind. Such reasoning has a good deal of force in the first stages of decline. A strong protest may arrest error and stop the gangrene.

    “But as time advances, and the whole body becomes diseased; when the protests have been disregarded, and the arguments trampled underfoot; when the majorityhave clearly taken up their position against the truth–we have no alternative but to come out and be separate.

    “The place from which we can exert the strongest influence for good is not from within, but from without.

    “Lot lost all influence of his life in Sodom; but Abraham, from the heights of Mamre, was able to exert a mighty influence on its history.”
    F.B. Meyer (1847-1929)

  16. I’m a Christian who is attracted to the same-sex, referred to as (SSA-same-sex attracted). I remain celibate because I do believe sex between two of the same-sex is a sin. I did not believe that for a very long time, but The Bible is pretty clear on the topic. It took a lot of falling and failing for me to finally come to an understanding that scripture is right about homosexuality, God is right about homosexuality.

    I don’t know why we are this way, but I do know that my life actually feels infinitely more free and hopeful when I began to abstain from that behavior. It may seem to those caught up in the sin that the opposite would be true, but I promise you that the peace and love you feel is overwhelming. I believe this is likely true of straight people too who choose God.

    All of that being said, I would really appreciate if the UMC with the help of Good News and WCA would develop more programs, groups, and general help for those with same-sex attraction. There are already sex addiction groups and things like that, but the Methodist church for decades has been so quiet on this issue that it’s done more harm than good. There needs to be the words spelled out and the life spelled out for what celibacy means and why it is NOT a negative life decision. When you allow those who promote homosexuality to set the agenda by appearing to be the most compassionate, the church loses on this issue.

    I’m working toward this at my small church, but I would like to see some more clear guidance from those at conference and more clarity in the BoD.

    • There is actually quite a ministry in the UMC dedicated to this issue.

      It’s http://transformingcongregations.org/

      Check them out. Great people

      • Thank you, Josh. That was exactly what I was looking for. I had never heard of this ministry.

        • Daniel,

          Thank you for being so candid about your experience with same-sex attraction, and your decision to honor God with your abstinence and the freedom that has given you.

          Another resource, if you’re not aware of it, is a book by Sam Allberry, “Is God anti-gay? (Questions Christians Ask)”. Sam also struggles with same-sex attraction, and had come to the same conclusion you have, that biblically, homosexual behavior is wrong in God’s eyes. If you haven’t read it, it could be a very encouraging book for you.

          Another I am reading recently is by Andrew Walker, “God and the Transgender Debate: What does the Bible actually say about gender identity?” While this one deals with the broader issue of gender, it gives helpful biblical thinking about God’s creation of us as male and female, which could be a good resource for you or for others you may be in ministry with.

          Thank you for being so transparent and honest about your struggle – your story and your experience of God’s grace can be very hopeful for others.

  17. After decades and years and months of church political intrigue, it comes down to this for me: if the UMC permits, engenders or facilitates denominational disobedience to scripture, I will shake the dust from my feet and flee the UMC. God wants His people to gather together with like-minded believers; God gave us His Word to guide our steps, not to step on each other; God needs a clear and faithful witness, which celebrates the clarity and power of His changeless Word.

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