What General Conference Accomplished

Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey observes the results from a Feb. 26 vote for the Traditional Plan, which affirms the church’s current bans on ordaining LGBTQ clergy and officiating at or hosting same-sex marriage. The vote came on the last day of the 2019 General Conference in St. Louis. Photo by Paul Jeffrey, UMNS.

By Thomas Lambrecht –

Here is a brief summary of the accomplishments of the special called 2019 General Conference of The United Methodist Church held in St. Louis.

Given the opportunity to support the full court press of the majority of North American bishops in their advocacy of the One Church Plan, a decisive majority of delegates instead chose the Traditional Plan.

  • By a vote of 438 to 384 (53.3 percent), adopted the Traditional Plan, parts of which will not be able to go into effect because they are unconstitutional. Parts that willgo into effect are:
  • Expanded definition of “self-avowed homosexuals” to include persons living in a same-sex marriage or union or who publicly proclaim themselves to be practicing homosexuals
  • Explicitly prohibits bishops from consecrating bishops, ordaining or commissioning clergy who are self-avowed practicing homosexuals
  • Requires all persons nominated to serve on the annual conference board of ordained ministry to certify that they will uphold and enforce the Book of Discipline’sstandards for ordained clergy
  • Establishes a minimum penalty for clergy convicted of performing a same-sex wedding of a one year suspension (first offense) and loss of credentials (second offense)
  • Explicitly prohibits district committee and conference board of ministry from recommending a candidate for ministry who does not meet the standards, and orders the bishop to declare any such unqualified candidate out of order
  • Prohibits a bishop from arbitrarily dismissing a complaint against a clergy person
  • Requires the involvement of the complainant in all stages of the resolution process and that every effort must be made to have the complainant agree to any just resolution
  • Allows the church to appeal the verdict of a trial court in cases of egregious errors of church law or administration
  • Petitions defining how clergy pensions are to be handled when a clergy person or congregation leaves the denomination
  • An exit path for congregations seeking to leave the denomination with their property, in exchange for one (extra) year’s apportionments and payment of pension liabilities. This legislation will not go into effect because it is believed to be unconstitutional.
  • All constitutional defects in the various pieces of legislation could have been fixed with simple amendments. But stalling tactics by proponents of the One Church Plan prevented these important amendments to be enacted. It would be possible to pass them at the 2020 General Conference next year.
  • Defeated the One Church Plan by a vote of 374 to 449 (54.6 percent opposed)
  • The most vitriolic atmosphere ever at an annual conference, with even leading centrists engaging in hateful rhetoric, lies, and character assassination, casting doubt on their claim to want to live together in one church body.

 

Thomas Lambrecht is a United Methodist clergy person, the vice president of Good News, and a member of the Commission On A Way Forward.

Comments

  1. And all the saints in Heaven and on earth shouted AMEN!

  2. wayne scott says

    You said it right, Tom. Such hatefulness from Centrists is so very sad.n They do NOT want unity.

  3. Robert A Combes says

    Good News indeed, for now

  4. Thanks for the summary Tom. Great job in St. Louis, thanks for all your hard work representing us orthodox christians so well. I hope the really radical, progressive church officials and nembers, leave and find their own church. The fighting has to stop so God’s work can again be at the forefront!

    Joe Reed

  5. The other thing the GC accomplished is to show just how split the denomination is. Clearly a well reasoned and equitable split is the only thing that should be on the table for next year. I pray that when the emotion cools off, leaders of both groups will meet and figure how to carve up the UMC. Right now Trump is meeting with Kim of North Korea. A man we have vilified and threatened for years. Yet they are trying to make peace in Hanoi, a place my brother helped bomb into rubble, where they now wave American flags. If former adversaries who fought so viciously can make peace and get along, should not Christians be able to do the same. Perhaps two affiliated denominations which individual churches and conferences can choose to join is the solution. Sadly I don’t believe there is any middle ground. Nor has peace been achieved or anything solved.

  6. Some comments on this divisive issue from a seven-year UMC member (having grown up in another denomination):

    “Anti-gay” passages in the Bible refer only to a certain sex act, without mention of romantic love. They need to be considered in the contexts of male prostitution in the pagan temples and men preying on boys.

    Throughout the Bible, “love” is considered a good thing, so why would a particular kind be considered a sin or evil? (Especially as it applies to only one gender.) There is nothing on homosexuality in the four Gospels—but then, neither is there anything there like Paul’s stricture against women speaking up in church (and THAT isn’t taken literally or always-applicable).

    Here are two references with useful information on this subject:
    https://openandaffirming.org/ona/how/bible/
    http://ecinc.org/clobber-passages/

    Unfortunately, I don’t really think that this post and other comments are going to change anybody’s mind. (That’s why I didn’t rush to write this after discovering the Good News Website on Sunday.) Though some people’s ideas may have started in religion, they may now be rooted more in habit or emotion, without a path to change anyway.

    I’m sure that a lot of people pray about homosexuality, and yet there are fierce disagreements. I’d hate to think it, but one explanation could be that prayer just doesn’t work. Do people get different responses? Do they “hear” what they want to hear?

    • Richard H. – Consider reading the book “Made to Love” by Father Michael Schmitz. I am Methodist, but my husband is RC and we often share reading materials. Despite offering a Catholic perspective I do not believe there is much in this book that all Christians could not benefit from reading. It addresses the concerns in your comment and many more in one of the most loving, compassionate, merciful and yet firm manners I have yet to find anywhere.

      If you choose to pick it up just know that he takes a lot of time laying a strong foundation in this book before he ever heavily addresses same-sex attraction. Stay patient with it because it is an excellent read to supplement understanding of scripture on this.

      I will keep you in my prayers today because it sounds like you are struggling in your own faith if you are finding prayer to be futile either in your own life or that of other believers. The reality is that discerning God’s voice has everything to do with the relationship you have with the Lord. You grow in your relationship with the Lord by praying to Him and being in His Word – NOT the word of the current social breeze. So in essence, you are what you consume.

      If you consume what the world and society tells you is right and good then it will shape you in the ways of the world. If you consume the Word, well…I think you get my point. As we approach Lent I think this is a great time to focus on weeding out the things in our life that pull us away from the Lord and incorporate more of the Heavenly focused things.

      I as well as many other Methodists, and other Christians, my husband included, grieve what has happened at the GC. No matter the outcome people are in pain. It sounds like you are too and I am sorry for that. I believe these are the growing pains we all must go through though to do God’s work in a way that truly glorifies Him.

      Remember, “…the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4

      • Richard H. says

        Our county library system doesn’t have the Schmitz book. Maybe I can try interlibrary loan, though from what I could learn about the book online, it would not be helpful in answering my questions anyway. In particular in my last paragraph about using prayer to understand what the Biblical writers had in mind. Nobody else here has addressed that paragraph either.

    • Richard H. the greek word that Paul used to describe homosexuality has nothing to do with temple prostitutes or men preying on boys. Different greek words were used for these activities. What you stated is a myth pushed by gay promoters. The greek word Paul used is arsenokoites. Paul created this word and it reflects the prohibition in Leviticus. Arseno means “with a man” and koites is the male/female intercourse. Literally he is saying not for men to have intercourse with each other as they would with a woman. Romance has nothing to do with it. As a seven year Methodist I hope your pastor has familiarized you with the Methodist mission statement that says we are making disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world. We are not making disciples to affirm us as we are. We are to become different people who are moving from our sinful natures. Good Luck on your faith journey.

      • @Scott: You are right. Allow me to add that Paul was very familiar with the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament). That is the Bible Jesus quoted. Arsenokoites comes from Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. In the latter text, the 2 words arseno and koites are right next to each other. So Paul no doubt put the 2 words together. It is the act that is forbidden by God. The emotions associated with it have no bearing on the issue. If you read all of Leviticus 18, you can’t miss what God thinks about this. He never changes. It doesn’t matter what you or I think about it. It only matters what God thinks.

    • Richard G Jenkins says

      Richard H
      I disagree with your statement that “There is nothing on homosexuality in the four Gospels. . .” When I read Matthew 19:2-12, I hear Jesus saying that for the promised better life in the Way [see John 10:10], there are two choices: (i) union between a man and a woman or (ii) celibacy.

  7. Thomas E Thies says

    I am curious about your last statement concerning the vitriol within the Conference. Because of this, do you see the Traditional Plan actually being what clergy and members abide by in the future?
    I am a retired Elder of the NE Annual Conference who watched this continue to happen in the Annual Conferences I attended.
    As an evangelical who holds to the truth of Scripture, will the LGBT community continue to push until they have the votes?

    • No one can answer that besides them. At some point they have to wonder, “Maybe we won’t ever have the votes”. My confusion is why it is so important for them to have UMC approval? They can have their own church- the exit rules just became easier.

      At GC, they couldn’t seem to get their minds around the idea that the new disaffiliation provisions could be used by the reconciling churches to leave. It seems that they have little interest in spreading the Gospel, opting instead to live in turmoil and force their will on the rest of the UMC,

      • Why won’t the Progressives quit on this fight? It’s as much about controlling assets as it is about changing church culture. In some jurisdictions (and many annual conferences), Progressives rule the roost. They hold hegemonic positions of power, and only reward their own kind. They will not surrender these redoubts of privilege.

        • ^^^ This!!! And you better sing their songs and dance to
          their music. Or you will discover just how ‘tolerant’ they are.

        • Gary, I believe they want the name, UMC, and it doesn’t matter to them if they have to burn the house down to get it.

          Look how many times the media talks about the mainline Episcopal or Presbyterian Churches approving the homosexual sex act. Adding the UMC name to this media list will provide a lot of positive press. The media never talks about how this acceptance has destroyed those denominations.

          Headlines reading ‘LGBT Group Leaves UMC To Start Their Own Denomination’ does not provide them with the social approval they desperately search for. God has little to do with. Make no bones about it, they need social approval to reinforce in their mind that what they are doing is acceptable.

  8. As Christ said on the Cross It Is Finished. I pray that our church can now move forward. To those that failed to change our church I pray that you will accept the decision of this conf. and form a new org. that will accept your point of view. If you cannot do this please be prepared to face a Methodist Church that will not be changed to meet your desires.

    • Michael Lovett says

      Amen.

    • Amen. We do not need more venom. We need to move forward so we can refocus on doing the Lord’s work. I am very thankful the TP passed but recognize that a lot of our brothers and sisters are in pain. It saddens me, but love requires honesty. I am proud that we did not buckle like so many other denominations have to the current social and political climate. I pray we can all stay loving and merciful through this.

  9. Corvin Weddle says

    I have given much thought and prayer to this situation. the “Progressives” are not going to give up and things are only going to get worse. i think it is time for the Traditionalists to let them have whatever they want, get disaffiliation legislation passed somehow, withdraw from the UMC and join with other Bible believing groups such as Wesleyan Covenant Association. And I thought US Congress was messed up

  10. I thought the “progressives ‘ showed in unquestionable action what ‘love’, ‘inclusiveness’ and ‘unity’ meant to them through their lies, misuse of the for and against debates, and the ongoing me first in everything they did. I did notice that the liar who had been secretary for the legislative session, didn’t actually say which side had been paying for votes! I hope this investigation if any – goes to the other side as well. I also hope that in the next GC there are rules for guests and observers which require ongoing respect for the process with removal as a consequence, and that there is earlier cutoff for disrespect and misuse of floor privileges at the mic. The lack of ‘involvement’ by the Traditional plan supporters in the pettiness was admirable and I appreciate the higher road being taken.

  11. Douglas Barton says

    Thank you Good News for your updates prayers and Dedication to the upholding of Gods Word. God bless

  12. Phil Lavender says

    My attention, now, is focused on our own church, particularly the pastor.

    Can he possibly become a 2nd Timothy chapter four pastor?

    As graduate of Asbury, he is a very Biblical preacher. As one member has said, “He includes more Scripture than any pastor in my memory.” I agree.

    Yet, in all this turmoil, not a single teaching was done to lay out the Scriptural answer to the LGBTQ issues. Starting with Genesis 1, the Bible is so clear and simple in the logic of this issue – just as it is on so many other hot potatoes. Teaching is not done.

    That same question may apply (according to Barna Research) to the great majority of pastors:
    “Can our pastor possibly become a 2nd Timothy chapter four pastor?”

    If ours can’t, now matter what upper levels of the UMC may do, the real underlying problem will remain. That problem is the fear of the challenge found in those verses:
    Preachers, exactly what part of “Preach the word. Be ready in season and out of season. Reprove, rebuke, exhort with complete patience and teaching” do you not understand?!

    • I agree. And yes, you are lucky to have the minister that you do.

      Ours, well, rarely talks about God, let alone the notion that he actually is involved in our lives and can transform a person. And the takings on the scripture is just buzarre. And…not once has she mentioned contrition, repentence, or sin. Not even one recited act of contrition or public repentence at her worship service.

      It’s big trouble to try to growna church when our leaders think we are a lions club. Or worse, an advocacy or civil rights. organization.

  13. Thanks again, Tom, Rob and everyone at Good News for your faithfulness to the church. Now we must begin praying for GC ’20, and I will be praying for you and continuing financial support for Good News as we move forward. Obviously, the battle for faithfulness to scripture in the church is not over; there will be attempts next year in Minneapolis to subvert and contradict the will of the faithful.

    It was sad to see “centrists/moderates” like Adam Hamilton and Tom Berlin speak so negatively about those who are seeking to uphold the church’s longstanding understanding of marriage. I suspect it will only get worse next year! And yet, we must continue to bend over backwards to be understanding, gracious and “tolerant”!

    Meanwhile, I am so thankful for so many faithful, bold delegates from overseas (and here in the US) who vocally supported scripture and our Book of Discipline. They were the heroes of this General Conference, and I’m thankful for all the support and encouragement Good News has given to them!

    Keep up the good work, and keep us informed as always. Don’t lose heart – there are many of us out here continuing in prayer and support.

  14. Bruce Thompson says

    I assume that you have seen the statement by the General Secretary of the General Board of Church and Society.

    https://www.umcjustice.org/news-and-stories/general-secretary-responds-to-general-conference-2019-808

    Undoubtedly LGBTQIA people and their ardent progressive supporters were unhappy with the Special General Conference result and there’s nothing wrong with expressing disappointment but these fiery comments by the leader of an official body of the UMC are way out of bounds and tantamount to civil war. Who is the General Secretary accountable to? She should be severely reprimanded if not removed from her position.

  15. John M. Stephenson says

    This is my e-mail in response to Ms. Henry-Crowe’s appalling misuse of her position:

    While I can appreciate Ms. Hill-Crowe’s disappointment in her favored plan being defeated by the delegates to General Conference 2019, her inflammatory statements make it totally unacceptable that she continue in her position as the director of a denomination-wide Board. She is certainly entitled to her opinions, but she is completely out of line using her position and the resources of her denomination-wide organization to condemn the sincere beliefs of a clear majority of the UMC delegates. If she has any sense of honor, she will stand by her convictions and resign her position rather than continuing to accept a salary and funding from those for whom she obviously loathes. If she does not resign, she is but a cynical hypocrite. I am appalled by her lack of neutrality and disdain for the majority of UMC members worldwide whose apportionments are funding her salary and the agency she leads. Put your principals where your heart and words are and do the honorable thing and RESIGN NOW!

    John M. Stephenson

    • Too bad we can’t also ask the many bishops (including my own) who have released their post conference video’s on You Tube (Facebook, etc.) to resign as well. They obviously do not want to honor the decisions of the General Conference – the only body that can speak with authority for the church. Let them resign. Or let us all cast a vote of “no confidence” in those bishops who continue to work against the will of the General Conference.

      It’s definitely time for General Conference 2020 to take up legislation to eliminate the lifelong bishop appointment. Return them to local churches (or retirement) after 2 four-year terms in office (or even better – 1 six-year term). Then they couldn’t do the ongoing damage that they do as “institutionalized” leaders.

    • Sherry Gray says

      Thank you for having the words to say.

  16. General Conference2019 proved to be the unmasking of One Church Plan calumnies against the Traditional Plan. What we saw on the last day of conference was an astonishing revelation of unholiness and bitter contempt for Methodist conferencing. But this sad denouement was recorded by modern technology. All of it bears witness. Every careless word testifies against itself.

  17. I think GC has brought forward a clear Moderate/Progressive and Conservative Schism right now. The question becomes if there will be 2 or 3 denominations as a result. As a moderate, I would prefer that there be 2 denominations going forward but with little to no contact with each other. Let us hug and go our separate ways. I am just concerned as to pulpit supply in the new system. We stand in the North, NE and West to not have anywhere near enough pastors who will support the new reality. This will lead to rural church and inner-city congregations closing to create pulpit supply. I am also concerned how the conservatives can possibly enforce their policies if who jurisdictions and AC’s simply ignore GC and go on with their own business. I don’t know. I just hope this mess gets cleared up before 2020. I really believe that the Bishops should consider relocation of GC from Minneapolis. We have the largest LGTBQIA population outside of San Francisco and Minneapolis is a bright blue city. I don’t see a warm welcome after this. Maybe Oxford MS, or somewhere more inviting. We don’t need Minneapolis destroyed over this.

    • To be clear, we have been in schism already for the last few years. Schism means that certain official institutional entities of an organization have decided that they will no longer abide by the organization’s rules. Schism occurred immediately when annual conferences decided not to follow this rule for clergy- and was most fervently on display when they elected a same sex married bishop and then ignored our court’s ruling that it was against church rules.

      If these churches left the umc, that is the point at which we no longer be in schism.

    • Excuse me, that is what you were saying also.

  18. Pete Geoffrion says

    Is there a place where I can find the full text of the Traditional Plan as amended?

  19. sad and discoraged says

    I did not watch any of the GC, but it sickens me that both sides accuse each other of lying, rudeness, and all other kinds of bad behavior at this contentious event. Which ever person or side made the accusation about ‘buying votes’ has a responsibility to come up with hard evidence to back up his/her claim, take it to the Judicial Council for action, or withdraw from a leadership role in the church.

    What is even sadder is the fact that the pro-One Church Plan people ‘poisoned the well’ for those who disagree with them, and whatever denomination emerges from it. It is hard enough to minister to people these days, but now the losing side in this debate has tarred and feathered the other side by saying that because you do not allow LGBT… people in leadership positions in the church you are bigots who do not care about them.

    This is completely false of course, even if the church says certain sexual behavior is a sin it does not mean that church cannot minister to them and help them lead a Christian life. The losing side in this argument is cripiling the UMC for the future by its rhetoric and does not seem to care, a truly depressing thing to see and hear.

    Furthermore, does anyone really think that the losing side in this debate will abide by the terms of the plan? It is quite clear that those who violated the Discipline before the GC will not accept the result now. In fact, there will be more violations of the Discipline as a protest if nothing else.

    At this point, with all the hateful rhetoric from both sides, it is time to close the UMC down and go our separate ways, which IMO is the likely result of the 202 General Conference.

  20. I think it’s false to claim a moral equivalency between the two sides in this conflict. This just indicates a lack of discernment. There’s a battle to be fought and a calling to fulfill. Scripture calls us to choose whom we will serve. The operative term is “choose.”

  21. John Cobil says

    I think the “way forward” is no clearer than it was a month ago. The same Book of Discipline is in place and the western conferences are still going to defy it. If the new enforcement procedures are followed, some liberal congregations will leave. If not, as I fear, we are exactly where we’ve been in the past.

  22. What no one says and it pains me to say it. Do we even have a church if 60% of our bishops don’t believe in the Bible ? We have the Untied Methodist Social Club. Without the African and Philipino Churches the one church plan , or worse, would be the order of the day.
    How do we get past this ? I am afraid we just won a battle, but will loose the war. The institution has failed. Lord help us.

    • Gary Bebop says

      We must not think of this as a “war won in one”: this war will not be won in one battle. (Pardon the alliteration.) But what we are gaining in the aftermath of St. Louis is a whole lot of clarity about the nature of the Adversary, the tactics that will be used against us, and the unholiness to be unleashed in all its hideous strength.

      • Yes. Clarity and tactical awareness; significant light was delivered along with the heat. And, as you pointed out earlier, the whole bloody mess is recorded as testimony to the travesty.

        Two such clarifications come to mind:
        1) There is no “middle”. The centrists have been unmasked.
        2) The extent of the rot in the COB has been laid bare, and their credibility has taken a hit below the waterline.

        ~Blessings~

  23. George Collier says

    I am confused — Tom’s summary above lists parts of the Traditional plan that will go into effect and several that remain that were declaired unconstitutional by the prior Judicial Council review. I also have a summary allegedly directly from UMC.org. It goes through dealings from both sides and says that the Judicial Council meets this coming April to review the Traditional Plan as passed. If any passage is found unconstitutional, then the whole plan is voided, and we are exactly back to square one. Which is it??? Moreover, even if the Plan as passed is partially validated, who says the COB will make any more effort to enforce it that they have been making already. Folks — keep your powder dry — this conflict isn’t over until its over!

  24. Susan Royer says

    I read the comments by the General Secretary of the General Board of Church and Society. She is apparently not happy with the decision that was made. Can someone please tell me the purpose of the General Board of Church and Society, with an office in Washington DC?

    • P. Perry says

      The General Board of Church and Society is a PAC run by the UMC to support Liberal political positions and Liberal politicians.

  25. Nathan Croom says

    WOW! My name is Nathan Croom. I’m a Methodist who just happened to click on this site as I have before. Yet, I feel compelled to speak about this conversation.
    Growing up literally in the church as my Dad was and now is a retired Methodist Minister and myself going to Seminary I find this painful to read… all of these comments about he said, or she said, or they said.
    I pray for All of You on Both sides of every issue when it comes to the church.
    Jeremiah 3:22 flashed over me as I heard a voice calling us to “come back” from this madness we are putting on ourselves.
    We are brothers and Sisters in Christ. Proverbs 16:24 tells us “Gracious words are like honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.”
    Brothers Please Cease this hateful language and let’s begin to look for Christ as he is with you. Sisters Please Cease and let’s find what common ground we do have and trust our Lord and Savior who resides in our own hearts. We are called to live as One and not only Methodists but all of God’s Children. As I do everyday, pray without hate, pray for forgiveness, and pray that we reach each other in the glory of Christ.

    • Gary Bebop says

      Respectfully, Nathan, there is a battle going on that we are called to wage. Have you not read? Spiritual warfare is not merely the internal struggles within individual hearts but within our conferences, as well. Let’s not make the mistake of believing the charms of the Snake. The Snake has fangs and is a liar and a deceiver. The Snake intends that you be very afraid of its hideous strength. Put on the whole armor of God.

    • P. Perry says

      Thank you for praying for us sinners.
      Yes, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ and we are all members of a religious institution which has some serious organizational flaws. We are all hurting as a result of these flaws. Pretending that we do not have problems is not a solution. Because of our deep disagreements regarding theology we need to find a way to divide into two or more separate denominations. Stalling and delaying only makes the situation worse.
      This website is a place where we can honestly discuss our concerns and hope to find a solution that is as fair as possible to all involved. Sometimes statements of fact are painful but I have never believed that they were made in a hateful way. They are simply statements of fact.
      Please continue to pray for us.

  26. Josh Harmond says

    Yikes! I’ve been looking for a church to go because I’ve been interested in Christianity for a couple of months now. I heard about the Methodist church and I thought you all were engaged in a serious conversation about human sexuality. I thought about attending a Methodist church this Sunday but not now! I can’t believe the way you all are talking on here. I don’t think I want to be a Christian … or at least not a Methodist.

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