Through a Glass Darkly

By Rob Renfroe –

What will happen at the special General Conference this February? Right now, it’s anyone’s guess. We see through a glass darkly, not able to predict with confidence what the delegates will do and knowing that God can always surprise us and provide a solution to our problems that none of us imagined. Frankly, that’s what I’m praying for.

However, there are a few options that, at this point, seem most likely.  Two that we can take off the board are the Simple Plan and the Connectional Conference Plan.

The Simple Plan goes too far. It redefines marriage as two adults, condones sex outside of marriage, prevents conservative annual conferences from refusing to ordain practicing gay persons, and allows pastors throughout the connection to marry gay couples. Whenever similar proposals have come before General Conference in the past, they have been defeated by a wide margin. The majority of the UM Church has not yet moved this far in a progressive direction.

The Connectional Conference Plan (CCP) creates three jurisdictions, each one with a different sexual ethic. No coalition has formed to support it and no group is doing the hard work of promoting it to the rest of the church. The CCP requires numerous constitutional amendments and there is little likelihood that a super majority of both General Conference delegates and then later of annual conference delegates around the globe will support it.

The plan with the greatest likelihood of passing is the Traditional Plan (TP). It maintains our present position of affirming the worth of and welcoming all persons to the ministries of the church without allowing for practicing gay persons to be ordained or for our pastors to marry gay couples. The Traditional Plan has several provisions that would allow the church to enforce the Book of Discipline more effectively when pastors and bishops violate our policies. Each of these provisions will need to be approved individually.

Why is the TP most likely to pass? Because it is most in line with what delegates have supported at every General Conference since 1972. It was the plan that the majority of the delegates supported less than three years ago in Portland – most of whom will be voting again in St. Louis. Whether all of the enhanced accountability measures can be passed remains to be seen. But it is most likely that a Traditional Plan of sorts will prevail. And a Traditional Plan provides the most hopeful path to a faithful future for The United Methodist Church.

It is also possible that no plan will be approved. If General Conference begins to approve a Traditional Plan, it is very likely that some progressives will move to keep the conference from passing a plan. Some will do so surreptitiously. There will be countless “points of order,” amendments, and substitute resolutions coming from the floor, bringing work on a Traditional Plan to a standstill. Others will be more blatant. In the past, scores of pro-LGBTQ supporters have entered the bar of the conference without permission and have brought deliberations to a halt with their chanting and protests. The bishops have been reticent to remove the demonstrators and the better part of a day has been lost before the protesters have been convinced to leave the conference floor.

At past General Conferences when the delegates met for nearly two weeks, the protests were a temporary disruption to the work of the conference. But in St. Louis, the delegates will have only three days to select, perfect, and pass a plan. It’s very possible, unless the bishops are willing to remove the protesters forcibly and quickly, that their demonstrations will not allow sufficient time for the conference to complete its work. 

If nothing is passed, we will return to our churches with the same position – and the same divisions – that presently characterize the denomination. So, will we be stuck with the status quo?

No. It is highly probable that we will enter a time of chaos and crisis. Progressives will be angry that nothing has changed. Their liberal bishops will have failed them. Their “centrist” partners who assured them that they could change the church democratically will have proven themselves, once again, ineffective and out of touch with the majority of United Methodists. The progressives will see no other method of change left open to them but wide-scale disobedience. It would not be surprising for large numbers of progressive UM pastors to co-officiate high-profile gay weddings. In 1999 the “Sacramento 68” – ordained UM pastors, actually numbering over 100 – jointly conducted such a service without any enforcement of the church’s position. We could see the same in the coming months should no plan pass – only on a much larger scale. More Boards of Ordained Ministry are likely to announce publicly, as many have already, that they will ignore our policy of not ordaining practicing gay persons. And there is little reason to believe progressive bishops would enforce the Book of Discipline in any meaningful way. If a Traditional Plan passes, there would at least be some ways for the church to counteract such disobedience. But if no plan passes, chaos would be the order of the day.

What would conservative churches do? Many would stop paying apportionments, either in total or, at least, the part that supports our national boards and agencies, including the episcopal fund that pays the bishops’ salaries. Some will leave the denomination. And some, before they go, would attempt to lead their annual conference out of the UM Church.

Is it possible that General Conference will pass the One Church Plan (OCP) – allowing every pastor, every congregation, and every annual conference to determine its own sexual ethic? It is not likely; but yes, it is possible. If it does, we know what will happen. Exactly what has happened in every other mainline denomination that has liberalized its sexual ethics. Traditionalists will leave – lay people, pastors, and congregations. But only after lengthy, litigious, and costly battles have been fought. That’s not a threat. It’s reality. It’s what we learn from other denominations – all the other denominations – who have gone this way before. The only way around this dire scenario is for General Conference to provide an equitable exit path for congregations to leave with their property.

I do not know what will happen in St. Louis, but the glass I am looking through is dark. And my heart is heavy. We Wesleyans have a most marvelous gift to give the world. It’s a gift of grace and hope and power that comes from God himself.

Instead, the bishops we asked and empowered to think creatively to end our division, are offering the world a church that will continue to be embattled, self-absorbed, and dysfunctional. My heart breaks because it did not have to be this way.

Is there any hope? Yes, God is good and God is sovereign. I believe he still has plans for the people called Methodist. Maybe it will take a period of crisis and chaos for progressive and centrist leaders to realize that the time has come to stop denying reality and embroiling the church in a destructive battle that ruins our witness and harms our churches. Maybe the months after St. Louis will be the dark that comes before the dawn. Or maybe, even before St. Louis, we can come to our senses and work for a future where there are no winners or losers, no victims or villains – just people who see things differently and who are willing to set each other free.

Surprise us, Lord God. Surprise us.

Comments

  1. David Miller says:

    I am experiencing this crisis today. My Bishop (Bickerton) has come out as a resister to Traditional values. My pastor will not speak clearly in support of Biblical truth. I am totally deflated. My heart is broken.

    • David,
      It looks more and more that many of these progressive leaders in our denomination do not know Jesus. It looks like the Jesus they know is a designer Jesus that conforms to their personal views, their personal agendas, and to their worldly idols. It looks as if they never experienced salvation and transformed lives themselves. They seem to be unable to witness. Perhaps they thought they didn’t need salvation personally, and certainly not to be pastors and church leaders. They can’t seem to relate to or comprehend the Gospel, therefore they can’t preach it. They certainly don’t seem to understand Wesleyan prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying grace, thus unable to teach or preach that either. They seem to see themselves more like CEOs than preachers. They administer, they pose and prance, they attend endless meetings, they chair committees, they write books, they dress in their robes and tassels, they fund raise, they teach “good” lessons, they give motivational talks, they NEVER offend by mentioning sin and salvation, they are forever in a public relations mode, and they play politics with great skill. They must have faked their way through the ranks and to the top — which, in itself, casts a dark cloud over the denomination’s ordination process, at least in certain places. They certainly seem to fit the warning that Jesus gave about wolves in sheep’s clothing.

      • In addition to all the activities you have listed, they also are paid nice salaries with benefits and since they refuse to hold each other accountable they are in their positions for life. Sad situation.

        • Michael A Peters says:

          P. Perry said, in few words, all that need be said. The time has come to reorganize on behalf of Biblical teaching. Simply said, are not a United Church.

        • James Wilson says:

          Well said. We are at the mercy of bishops and clergy who have become unaccountable for their actions. Sitting up there smug and drawing salaries for not doing their job. We have two sets of rules. The Book of Discipline for guidance and the Holy Bible for th final word. The Bible should override any other rules. There should be no problem. The solution is simple. If you don’t want to follow our rules, then don’t try to change them. Go somewhere else that’s more in line with your thinking, bishops included. Our system has become a pyramid scheme.

      • I don’t disagree with that summation, but will add that conservative leaders do much of the same thing, except the part about not mentioning sin or the Gospel. Well, let’s just say their definition of the Gospel is based on Luke 4:18 in which the good news is living your neighbor, as you well know. There is and always has been a way to bridge the divide for Christ provides the theological answer in Mark 10 and Matthew 19, but neither the most brilliant theologians on the right or the left have a desire to bridge that gap. They have ears but they do not hear, eyes but they do not see. Christ has already provided. Hear. See.

        • Keith Newell says:

          I’m not real sure what you are getting at Sandra, when you say that conservative leaders do much the same thing as Progressive Bishops?? And I read in both Mark 10 and Matthew 19 that Jesus taught marriage as between a man and a woman who become one in a mysterious, powerful work of God. Maybe I’m missing your point. However, the passages you mention help us see that Jesus taught that marriage is defined one way: “a man shall leave his father and mother and united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”

      • Joan Watson says:

        I agree with your assessment that pastors are now functioning more as CEO’s working to keep things running smoothly and less as spiritual guides. And when it comes to our local Bishop, he sat on stage with Adam Hamilton who characterized the traditional plan as “regressive” and going backwards. So even if the traditional plan passes I question how effectively it would be implemented. After all, we are in this mess because Bishops have not been completely forthcoming in carrying out the will of General Conference re sexuality since the question first arose in 1972. Prior to GC2016, a progressive gathering was held in our conference and the previous Bishop put in an appearance and told them he hoped they got what they wanted. And what they wanted was to force the church to bend to their will.

        If the One Church plan passes I will hang around and see how things play out. But as far as I am concerned, all the one Church plan accomplishes is hanging the sexuality question over every conference and local church like a bomb waiting for somebody to light its fuse–the only question is how soon somebody will light it.

        When it come to Jesus, here is an excellent big picture assessment of the difference in understanding that divide us:
        “There is a profound difference, then, in the attitude assumed by modern liberalism and by Christianity toward Jesus the Lord. Liberalism regards Him as an Example and Guide; Christianity, as a Savior: liberalism makes Him an example for faith; Christianity, the object of faith…If Jesus was only what the liberal historians suppose that He was, then trust in Him would be out of place…liberalism regards Jesus as the fairest flower of humanity; Christianity regards Him as a supernatural Person.” (p. 82) https://juicyecumenism.com/2019/01/09/will-lgbtq-progressive-agenda-capture-umc-february-2019/

      • I agree. In the big picture, this issue is not about non traditional marriage, it is about people in the pews being tired of getting one minister after another who does not seem to believe in god- and views the church as more of a lion’s club than a body of people who seek to feel god’s touch and surrender themselves to him, and to make him known in the world through being his witnesses. It is tiring.

        Let’s get serious. We got serious problems, folks. And it isn’t just about homosexuality. Where does this church go with leaders who do not believe that god is in control and is not personally inovolved in our lives?

    • Rev. Dr. Lee D Cary says:

      The era of a protestant denomination dependent on (1) hierarchies (district superintendents & bishops), (2) bureaucracies (boards and agencies largely unaccountable to those who pay their salaries), (3) a judiciary that either ignores violations of the BOD or postpones enforcements for years, (4) laity uninvolved in the appointment of their clergy leadership, unless their amount of apportionment their church pays entitles them to select their clergy, and (5) denominational-affiliated seminaries that are unaccountable to UMC doctrine – all that is coming to an end. And needs to.

      We’re witnessing its final stages of life. And that is not inherently a bad thing. It is the cycle of life for people and organizations.

  2. Thomas Thies says:

    I am 66 years old, a retired Elder, saved in the UMC in High School, served a church in New England, endorsed as a Navy Chaplain and have been involved in this battle when serving the church during Annual Conf.! I pray a resolution for this Feb – either revival or gracious exit for either group. The UMC is historically and an evangelical, biblically led and Christ centered church. LORD, lead us this or lead us some other way!

  3. Should the OCP prevail, I don’t think there will be a large mass of people instantly leaving at one time. Many will wait to see the overall fallout of the local church. Pastors that have hid their real feelings will come out slowly. Incrementally over a few years, the UMC will become weaker and weaker, having no power for conversion through professions of faith and the loss of a lot of membership.

    • EXACTLY! How could a pastor who either practices sexual immorality or condones it possibly preach believable Justifying Grace — repentance, forgiveness, conversion, salvation, and a new transformed life in Jesus Christ? He/she certainly could not witness. And who in his/her right mind seeking Justifying Grace would ever enter such a church?

      • Robert A Combes says:

        It is my experience that the Pastor of my former congregation ( who flies the rainbow flag on certain occasions) preaches love and tolerance of everyone w/ no emphasis on the need to change as a result of the Gospel, as long as you love and tolerate all is fine. Once I was confronted w/ my sin and the price that was paid I no longer could remain the same, I was brought to my knees and am no longer the man I once was.

  4. David ROMINGER says:

    I was an atheist for 40 years before recognizing Christ as lord and in total control of my life. I remained atheist because some Christians would tell me things I could not in my heart believe. Some said only some are saved, meaning God had damned others before they were born. Some said that homosexuals go to hell for all eternity. How can the sins of this temporary existence carry eternal punishment with a just and righteous God? I saw Christians that were contemptuous of other religions and even other Christian denominations. How can you worship a God that says love everyone as long as they believe exactly what you believe? I had heard many spout scripture out of context and even removing lines to prove a point. If the word of God is perfect, how can man change it? After all this, I found a loving family of Methodists. They knew I was an atheist and they loved me anyway. I started reading the teachings of John Wesley. Everytime I read an article or heard something on TV that didn’t seem right to me, I looked it up on the UMC’s website and sure enough 100% of the time it wasn’t right with Methodists either. I’m now active in my church. I try my best to show the love so many have shown me. I teach a Sunday school class, although I’m definitely not a good teacher. I like to say that I share what I have learned the past week to a group of friends at church. I’ve just been nominated as our lay leader and will be attending our annual conference this summer. It seems to me that the Traditional Plan is the only plan the follows the rules set forth in the Book of Discipline. I pray that God and the Holy Spirit will be active in the hearts of our bishops and give them the wisdom required to lead us together into a bright future.

  5. This is distressing indeed. It’s a real shame too. There are so many people out there who need to hear the good news of Jesus Christ who forgives and cleanses us of our sins. I’m sure the devil is having a hay day will all this.

  6. Robert A Combes says:

    you might find this article illuminating on the subject –

    https://www.crisismagazine.com/2019/the-desecration-of-gods-temple

  7. UMC Woman says:

    The “One” Church Plan is hypocrisy divided into three. All Christian denominations must submit to the authority of God’s righteous Word no matter what and cannot righteously serve two masters via the OCP. Genesis, Romans, Isaiah, etc., are clear about God’s position in this matter. It’s simply a matter of whether all denominations will follow scripture or try to please everyone and lose their obedience and blessings and incur judgment from God in the process. The Wesleyan expression of faith says: “Am I living the Weslyean expression of the Christian faith?” Will we continue to live that Christian faith as defined by scripture? No, not if we comprise via the OCP.

  8. Phil Brewster says:

    The most recent Gallup Poll on most trusted American institutions reflects the continuing decline of trust in the church and organized religion. The US military is now the most trusted institution and the church, which was equal in trust not long ago, is now only half as trusted as the military. I hope those attending the Methodist World Conference on behalf of the largest Protestant denomination, take note of the tragic irony that at this same pivotal moment in the history of Christianity, the Catholic Church, the world’s largest Christian denomination, is simultaneously collapsing over the issue of sexual sin. Alas Babylon.

    • Is there any way we can remain together and work together as a denomination if we are not honest with each other?
      Is it OK to use dishonest means to achieve what you believe is a worthy goal or a “greater good”?
      Is it OK when clergy and bishops are ordained and consecrated by saying they believe and will defend doctrinal positions which they do not believe and will not enforce so they can be in a position where they can work toward what they believe to be a “greater good” i.e. the full acceptance of homosexuality and homosexual “marriage” by the United Methodist Church?
      Does the end justify the means?

  9. Steve Babcock says:

    I live in Montana and Karen is my Bishop. My church has been directly effected, we have lost good members from our church, that will probably never come back.
    I was Lay Delegate for our Annual Conference in 2000, after the 2000 General Conference. That year one of our DS was arrested for bad conduct at the Conference and our Bishop was nearly arrested.
    This was the first Annual Conference I ever attended. I was shocked at how much hatred and vicious comments directed at the Africans and the Southern Conferences. The delegates to the GC were so full of hate it bordered on irrational behavior.
    I heard pastors and lay people say that they didn’t think the Africans should have an equal vote. Their reasoning was that the Africans didn’t contribute enough money to have an equal say at GC. They were clearly being racist.
    I never attended another Annual Conference. I couldn’t stand being around such hatred and racism. My friends tell me the hatred was worse in the following years.
    The only reason there is a special 2019 GC is because the Western Jurisdiction decided to act on their racism. They decided to bulldoze over the Africans.
    When the WJ elected Karen as Bishop they did it out of hatred and racism to those who had voted against them in the past. Our delegates were voting on sexual orientation not credentials.

    • The progressive wing of the UMC is denying or is egregiously distorting the Word of God in embracing the secular LGBT agenda. They seem so caught up in this that it has essentially become a form of idol worship for them. And yes, the foundation of this idol certainly looks to be hatred and vengeance. The election of Oliveto was rigged throughout just to get the first gay person elected as bishop in the denomination. She was actually used in order for those in the Western Jurisdiction to make their point. The comment out of that election went something like this — “this should certainly stand the United Methodist Church on its ear”.

  10. Andy Wilson says:

    Why would any sane person think there is a way forward? The UMC is dead. They just don’t realize it, yet. It is sad, but Christ centered Christianity will survive and thrive, just not in the UMC.

    • Rev. L_Pessimist says:

      I am a retired UMC pastor. There will be no winners after this highly divisive and contentious conference. Whatever the result, UMC members of one camp or the other will leave the church in droves. But the biggest loser will be effective Gospel witness. A group of secular veterans once told me that they have no interest in Jesus or the church precisely because of our divisive bickering!

  11. thanks for the content

  12. Gary Bebop says:

    There is a lot of bitter frustration being expressed in this comment thread. But none of it visualizes a “way forward.” Traditionalist leaders must cope with a thoroughly demoralized conservative core. While legislative attempts to rally and reunify the church around reinforced stipulations are “necessary” and courageous, they will likely lead to political stalemate. Progressives will contravene new rules by a thousand evasions, all the while insisting on their scruples in doing so. “Calling them out” does not work. Traditionalists must avoid drifting into stalemate (a church without unity and without discipline). A costly, painful repentance is required. Traditionalists must say NO to the interlocking networks of support that prop up the Progressive agenda. Stop feeding the Beast.

  13. Christine says:

    I am afraid to type this, but I want to assure you that I am not here to attack anyone. I honestly want to try to understand your perspective. I am confused on why Methodists who call themselves traditionalists are so vehemently opposed to same sex relationships, but do not have difficulty with other prohibitions in the Bible. For example, Paul clearly states that women are supposed to remain silent in church. But, the UMC allows women pastors. Jesus talked about how if someone divorces and marries someone else, they are committing adultery. However, I have also had UMC pastors that were divorced and remarried. The Bible talks about slavery, but we all know that slavery is wrong. I’ve heard people talk about how one needs to understand the “context of the time” the Bible was written. However, why can’t that apply to homosexuality? Why is this such a sticking point when other things that were prohibited are now acceptable? Please don’t reply with vitriol, or say my eyes are being clouded by Satan. I am looking for a reasoned argument. Thank you and blessings as we go through this difficult time.

    • Christine,
      It’s about individual sin and how that can separate one from God, and it’s about God’s created order for marriage. The Scriptures are 100% consistent regarding the practice of sexual immorality as a sin, as a sin against one’s own body. Paul repeatedly warned that those practicing sexual immorality cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. The Scriptures are 100% consistent on marriage as that between a man and a woman, clearly pointed out by Jesus as he unequivocally stated God’s created order for it. Progressives are demanding that the UMC declare the practice of sexual immorality as non-sinful and accept it, even celebrate it. Progressives are demanding that the UMC reject God’s created order for marriage and refute Jesus in his reiteration and uncompromising defense of it.

    • Elizabeth Dutton says:

      My understanding of the marriage of a man and woman in Scripture is an analogy of the relationship between Christ, the Bridegroom and the Bride, the Church. It was meant to show us purity in that relationship. Compromise in God’s relationship with people has led to many divisions. Compromise in human marriage, fornication, adultery, and homosexuality also lead to divisions. The inspired Word of God was meant, I believe, to help us maintain purity in our relationship with the Church and with Christ.

  14. Fred D. Richmond says:

    There must be a more accurate word for those on “the other side” than “Progressive”, as they are clearly anything but.

  15. Jim Wolfgang says:

    Reply to Christine: Two reliable means of understanding scripture is to interpret scripture with scripture, and to employ the plain reading of scripture. Doing this has led the U.M.Church to oppose slavery and injustice, endorse women as fully called ministers, and accept repentance as the model by which marriages can go forward. There are clearly defined sexual BEHAVIORS that scripture never endorse: fornication,adultery,and homosexual practices. The movement to allow the practice of homosexuality has no validity with the above two reliable means and that is my problem with the movement to change our Social Principals as I believe they are very biblically sound. We are dealing with the authority of scripture, how we determine what holiness of life and practice is.

    • Heaventree says:

      In other words, you’re willing to change based on what seems politically correct to you at the time and will just make up as much as necessary to justify it. Divorce + remarriage is “adultery” according to Jesus’ own crystal-clear words (. Please point out where “repentance” provides a whitewash. What would that even mean, other than repenting of a so-called “re-marriage” and returning to one’s God-given only spouse?

  16. Norman Dunlap says:

    Andy Wilson said it perfectly.

  17. We need to follow God’s Word!!

    17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

    Matthew 5:17-18

    We have to get back to what Scripture teaches and not the foolish teaching of men and women who do not abide by scripture. Honestly, I do not think the Traditional Plan goes far enough. United Methodist lost their way long before 1972. In 1956, the Methodist Church turned from God’s Word the first time.

    11 A woman[a] should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man;[b] she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15 But women[c] will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

    1 Timothy 2:11-15

    This move toward a genderless society is turning all people from God. Paul knew God, loved God, and taught us God’s will for all times and for all people. We turned from the original design of God when we allowed women to preach in 1956; In 2019, we are once again turning from the original design of God by letting same-sex marriage permeate the church.

    Let us make sure we follow Jesus, and not let one iota of God’s Word be distorted for the preservation of power, property, or pensions. Let’s get back to the world God designed, in the beginning!!

  18. Tre Everson says:

    This is all about money. The liberal Bishops and Clergy sent out by liberal seminaries want their paychecks and retirement. The one church plan is a sham of the devil. While I totally disagree with the liberal plan, I could at least understand the logic behind it’s support while it being wrong. Very few UMC members in the pews want anything like the Bishops and others are pushing for. Pray that we follow Gods word and live by scripture. Not only on this issue, but all others.

    • Pass the so called one church plan and this UMC member (former that is) will not be contributing to their salary and pension. No choice with taxes — big choice here.

  19. thanks for the content

  20. david mancilla says:

    When I a see a bible scholar Filipino Bishop deconstruct apostle Paul through a youtube lecture and directly stating that apostle paul is not timeless with regards to Romans chapter one… my heart was broken to the core. That means that all those years of faithful exegesis on the Holy Scriptures is but a facade, a sham, a perfect cover. When relativism and ultra-liberalism becomes the primary lenses we used in interpreting the scriptures…then apostasy is lurking behind.

  21. Linda Branch says:

    I think the real question is do we believe that God’s Word about who He is and how we are to live our lives. You are either for Him ( The Word) or against Him.

  22. Rev. Dr. Lee D Cary (ret. UM clergy) says:

    The era of a protestant denomination dependent on (1) hierarchies (district superintendents & bishops), (2) bureaucracies (boards and agencies largely unaccountable to those who pay their salaries), (3) a judiciary that either ignores violations of the BOD or postpones enforcements for years, (4) laity uninvolved in the appointment of their clergy leadership, unless their amount of apportionment their church pays entitles them to select their clergy, and (5) denominational-affiliated seminaries that are unaccountable to UMC doctrine – all that is coming to an end. And needs to.

    We’re witnessing its final stages of life. And that is not inherently a bad thing. It is the cycle of life for people and organizations.

  23. Steve Zinser says:

    I expect the status quo out of the conference. I see both the “Modified Traditional Plan” and the “Pick Your Own Poison Plan” as different forms of the Modified Status Quo Plan. So, whether we get straight status quo or an updated status quo, we’ll be stuck in the same mire as the last 4 decades. I believe my assessment to be realistic and not defeatist. The one gift that could come out of the conference would be a pathway for a church to depart the denomination with their property. That gift might actually pave the way for future progress.

    In fact, it’s possible if amicable departure were passed at the outset of the conference, the entire conference would take on a different tone.

  24. I left the denomination, with a great sense of grief, after a lifelong relationship as a Methodist, holding various positions on Administrative Boards and Committees, teaching Sunday School, and becoming Lay Leader, due to the bickering and feuding over control-type issues within the local congregation, just about 4 years ago. I landed at the local Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), after an exhaustive search for a local church whose pastor had the skills and leadership to overcome the strife and preach the gospel from the Bible. I quickly found, though that the Presbyterians had gone through what the UMC is finally facing now. I left after two years once the pastor began preaching about his personal political views and becoming a secular activist in the name of Christianity. I admit I was vulnerable when I chose to join that congregation. I learned a lot about how issues like sexuality has been used to “water-down” the gospel and how “inclusiveness” has lead to no accountability. We are all sinners and we need to constantly strive for spiritual healing, repentance and forgiveness. I recently re-aligned myself with a UMC local congregation. This issue of misinterpretation of scripture, “cherry-picking” what is morally right or wrong, and the “watering down” of the Word, is precisely why my wife and I, after visiting for about 3 months, are now, as of this morning’s worship service, have decided to move away from this congregation. We are looking for a congregation that embraces the doctrine that was so clearly explained by Rob Renfroe’s editorial. We are United Methodist at Heart, but feel that our church has been “hi-jacked” in the name of appeasing the culture, in lieu of standing up for the unabridged Word of God. Fool me once….. Praying for a miracle.

  25. Robert Hulse says:

    You know exactly what will happen – precisely because the WCA and Good News have advocated for one, and only one, “plan”. Hiding behind questionable exegesis (as affirmed by the Committee to Study Homosexuality in 1992), American conservatives have carefully cobbled together a coalition of global conferences that send delegates from countries where same sex relationships are criminalized. And, armed with these votes, WCA and Good News have become entrenched in combative and decidedly unholy tactics designed simply to push out anyone else that dares to disagree with the those currently in the majority – while retaining control of as many assets of the church as possible. All in the name of some Pharisaic, law-based notion of “holiness”.

    So yes, we know exactly what will happen.

    And the modern Pharisees will rejoice.

    While Jesus weeps.

  26. Keith Wolf says:

    A PARODOXICAL WAY FORWARD
    March 8, 2019

    I don’t know exactly what I think about the future of the United Methodist Church. I am a Licensed Local Pastor and I was disappointed in the 2019 Special GC decisions. What is the solution to this fracture that has existed since the denomination was founded and which has now been formally ratified?

    Here are my thoughts which are constantly open to evolution:
    The Council of Bishops should meet with the leaders of the various stakeholder groups within the UMC as soon as possible to develop an amicable, grace-filled, and constitutional plan for the dissolution of the United Methodist Church.

    The dissolution plan should specify that assets, pensions, agency resources, etc. shall be transferred and distributed fairly and in accordance with the decisions of Annual Conferences, Central Conferences, Local Churches, clergy, lay employees and retirees, etc. regarding the disposition of their share of the assets, so long as the distributions are in keeping with IRS and other applicable rules, laws and regulations.

    I realize that the idea of dissolving the United Methodist Church is anathema to many. I share your feelings and shudder at the thought of it. Yet, given the lack of progress on a united way forward, it appears that the Holy Spirit is leading us to paradoxically unite around the need for dissolution at this time in the story of the Methodist movement within the story of the larger universal church. (Sometimes the bones need to broken before they can be healed. Jesus had to die in order to be raised up.)

    This does not mean the Methodist movement and its Wesleyan theology have died or are lost. The way I see it, the paradoxical way forward will provide an opportunity to expand the movement and theology in new directions, to new people, and in new corners of our communities and the world. We have stayed together despite our irreconcilable differences because we value the unique contribution of John Wesley and the role of the Methodist movement within the Body of Christ.

    Regardless of where we go or how we reconstitute ourselves, we will take our Methodist heritage and the movement with us even though we will no longer be called United Methodists. John Wesley is reported to have said, “I should rejoice (so little ambitious am I to be at the head of any sect or party) if the very name [Methodist] might never be mentioned more, but be buried in eternal oblivion.”

    The paradoxical way forward through dissolution will allow us to be respectful of one another’s theological differences, and lead to new ways of connectionalism and communion between former UMC members who will have formed new Methodist denominations.

    The paradoxical way forward through dissolution will allow former UMC members who join with other denominations to introduce and share their Wesleyan heritage and theology in order to contribute to a holistic understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    The dissolution plan should seek to preserve and maximize the ability of departing members, whether individually or as new denominations or as members of other Christian denominations, to achieve global ministries to the fullest extent possible, but not to the extent that it sabotages the dissolution of the UMC which shall be the plan’s primary and ultimate outcome; a paradoxical way forward.

    Please do not disparage me personally or otherwise attack me personally in response to this post. Please respond in a respectful manner, without sarcasm, cynicism, or unrelated side-conversations. Let’s stick to the task of finding and achieving a real, viable way forward. I ask you to share this post not in order to advance the ideas herein, but to further productive conversation that will lead to a solution that will care for all.

    Your brother in Christ,
    Keith Wolf, Wisconsin Annual Conference LLP

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