Dissolution or Separation?

Minneapolis Convention Center, location of the 2020 United Methodist General Conference. Photo: Meet Minneapolis

By Thomas Lambrecht –

The deadline for submitting petitions to General Conference 2020 is less than three weeks away. So far, three major plans for “separation” have been released. More are in the works.

The UMC Next Plan proposes to remove all the restrictions in the Book of Discipline regarding clergy performing same-sex weddings and self-avowed practicing homosexuals being ordained as clergy. At the same time, it would provide a way for traditionalist local churches and clergy who want to maintain the current stance of our church a way to leave the denomination with their property.

The Bard-Jones Plan proposes to create three new denominations — progressive, centrist, and traditional — by allowing annual conferences and local churches to withdraw from The United Methodist Church. By 2025, there would be no more members in The United Methodist Church.

The Indianapolis Plan (of which I am a member of the development team) proposes to birth two new denominations — a traditionalist church that maintains the current stance of the church and a centrist/progressive church that removes all the restrictions regarding LGBTQ marriage and ordination. Other additional “branches” could also emerge under this plan, including a progressive church that mandates same-sex marriage and LGBTQ ordination for all. The current structure of the UM Church would persist in the centrist/progressive church, although leaders of that group say they want to make significant changes in how the denomination would function. The traditionalist church and any other expression formed under this proposal would have the opportunity to write their own Book of Discipline, while borrowing whatever is helpful from the current one.

It is important to understand the big picture of what each of these plans is trying to accomplish.

The UMC Next Plan wants a United Methodist Church that continues much as it is today, but without the restrictions on LGBTQ marriage and ordination. It would force individual local churches to vote (by a 2/3 majority) to leave the UM Church if they could not abide the removal of these restrictions. It is an attempt to enact the One Church Plan, only this time with an exit for traditionalists that centrists attempted to deny in St. Louis. Essentially, it would reverse the decision made by the 2019 Special General Conference.

The Bard-Jones Plan would result in the dissolving of the denomination. The three new denominations would share some general boards and agencies, while most other agencies would continue with the centrist church. While all three could share the cross and flame, none could use the UMC name (just “Methodist”). There are some constitutional, as well as some practical, concerns as to whether this approach can work. I have written more about it here.

The Indianapolis Plan is an attempt to create a process for a relatively equal, amicable separation to take place in the UM Church. It envisions at least two, and probably more, new churches growing out of the existing UM Church. All would be legal successors of the UM Church and share in its doctrinal heritage. All could use the United Methodist name with a geographical or theological modifier (but are not required to do so). All could use a modified version of the cross and flame. Annual conferences would vote first (by majority vote) on aligning with one of the proposed denominations, minimizing the need for local churches to vote. There would be some type of division of general church assets among the new expressions.

However, the Indianapolis Plan does NOT dissolve The United Methodist Church. The centrist/progressive branch would continue to operate according to the current Discipline and carry with it most of the current structure of the church.

There are several reasons why The United Methodist Church should not be dissolved.

General Conference cannot force annual conferences to take a vote on aligning with one of the proposed expressions. Those that do not take a vote need to have a default place to land, which would most likely be the centrist/progressive church in the U.S. So it makes the most sense for this group to carry on the United Methodist structure.

There may be legal aspects that fall between the cracks. Having a continuing United Methodist Church would make it easier to care for these details after the realignment.

Many United Methodists do not want to see the church dissolve, particularly in the central conferences outside the U.S. This plan keeps the UM Church relatively intact for those who desire it.

Some have questioned why the centrist/progressive church should be the continuation of The United Methodist Church and not the traditionalist branch, since the traditionalists prevailed in the voting at the 2019 General Conference. The short answer to this question is that many traditionalists believe the current structure of the UM Church, with its many boards and agencies, has become more of a liability than an asset to the ministry of the local church. While the general church agencies do accomplish some valuable work on behalf of the denomination, there are also many instances where their efforts are ineffective or even counterproductive to the goal of making disciples of Jesus Christ. The financial resources needed to maintain a highly structured bureaucracy might be better spent in a leaner structure that would free more resources for mission and ministry locally and globally.

It is also true that nearly every general agency operates from a more progressive understanding of the church. All the agencies except one endorsed the One Church Plan. Were the agencies to be given to the traditionalist church, substantial changes in personnel and program would be needed. Many traditionalists believe our efforts would be better spent designing a new type of leaner structure better suited for the 21st century reality than trying to reform a 20th century structure that is no longer effective.

With all the efforts the Indianapolis group has made to provide for an equitable separation, it is disheartening to hear repeated criticisms that this plan is simply “dissolution” under another name. A critique by the Rev. Dr. Stan Copeland recently published by Mainstream UMC unfortunately misrepresents the Indianapolis Plan in order to attack it as a “dissolution” plan.

Copeland first blames the Indianapolis group for not revealing all the authors/endorsers of the plan. However, the list of those who worked on the plan and allowed their names to be displayed with it was shared with UM News Service and linked in the story about the release of the plan. Copeland’s charge that “it should be general knowledge by now that there was not a consensus bringing the Indy Plan to the table” is false. There was one person involved in the conversation who declined to sign off on the plan. The other 12 participants all agreed to place their names as persons who worked on the plan. Since the plan is still under development, no final endorsement was asked of any of the participants.

A question to which Copeland gives no answer is, “What does it mean to ‘dissolve’ the UM Church?” In my way of thinking, it means that The United Methodist Church ceases to exist, replaced by successor denomination(s). Under that definition, only the Bard-Jones Plan is a “dissolution plan.” Under that plan, the UM Church would have no members as of 2025.

Under the Indianapolis Plan, The United Methodist Church continues to exist under the auspices of the centrist/progressive church. The centrist/progressive church envisions significant changes to the UM Church in this scenario, including removing all the restrictions related to LGBTQ marriage and ordination, as well as perhaps adding the notion of the U.S. as its own central conference. Structural changes will be needed as well, but these will come no matter which plan is adopted, due to the departure of at least some members and the financial retrenchment taking place in the general church.

Copeland asks, “If the Indy Plan is NOT a move to dissolve the denomination, then why could not the United Methodist Church General Conference 2020 simply birth a new expression — a Traditionalist United Methodist Church?” This question illustrates the difference between leaving and separating. In leaving, there are winners and losers, those who stay and those who go. In separating, all parties are treated as equally as possible. No one party has the advantage. The goal of the Indianapolis Plan, as well as the desire of Good News and the Renewal and Reform Coalition, has been to find a way forward that treats all groups equally and has no winners or losers. Otherwise, we might as well just continue the fight that was begun in St. Louis. To move past the fight, we need to move past the win/lose dichotomy to a fair and equitable separation.

Copeland then asks, “If this is NOT dissolution then why cannot the Centrist/Progressive branch that would be the ‘legal’ continuation and be responsible for the boards and agencies be The United Methodist Church?” The Indianapolis Plan envisions all successor groups being able (but not required) to use the name “United Methodist” with a modifier to distinguish one group from another. Some United Methodists care deeply about keeping the name, while others do not. One group that is deeply committed to keeping the “United Methodist” name is the church in Africa. However, African delegates and leaders have told us repeatedly they could not remain in a church that allows same-sex marriage and LGBTQ ordination. Copeland’s plan (and the UMC Next Plan) would force the Africans to choose between keeping the name and being faithful to their theological principles. To choose the latter would impose great difficulties on their churches in countries where freedom of religion is not always allowed by law or practice. It is mainly for their sake that we have consistently advocated for all groups to have access to the name. After all, all groups are equally historical successors to The United Methodist Church.

When the early ideas behind the Indianapolis Plan were first being informally circulated for feedback from various constituencies, our group heard from some centrists that they thought the plan was a form of dissolution. That is why we chose to specifically add a provision that stipulates that The United Methodist Church is not dissolving, but continuing structurally under the auspices of the centrist/progressive church. Now we are faced with an accusation from Copeland, “It’s been my experience that when persons or groups go out of their way to say what something ‘is not’ it usually IS at least a version of what is being denied.” Apparently, we are being criticized by some centrists for not clarifying what our plan does, while at the same time being criticized by other centrists for trying to offer the desired clarity. It makes one wonder whether this “critique” is a good faith effort or merely an attempt to misrepresent and slander a plan that is different from the one many centrists want to put forward — a plan to drive traditionalists out of The United Methodist Church.

Thomas Lambrecht is a United Methodist clergyperson and the vice president of Good News. 

Comments

  1. If they are misrepresenting your plan does this not give you some idea what their goal is. It would appear that you are trying to be equitable while they are trying to overturn 2019. At what point do you change your thinking and plan differently for GC 2020 before it is to late

  2. It appears that the liberals are trying to overturn GC 2019. When are you going to change your thinking about how to approach GC 2020. At some point trying to equitable is not going to be strategy that the other side will agree to. When do you change your strategy and press ahead with the numerical advantage and strengthen the GC 2019

  3. David Miller says

    Why do the Progressives keep the denomination? Didn’t the Traditional Plan win at the Special Conference or was that a waste of time.
    Enforce the rules as approved.

    • It was a total and complete waste of time, not to mention hundreds of thousands of our apportionment dollars. Centrists and Progressives has no intention of obeying the results if they lost.

    • Now, there is a new idea Ha, Ha!
      Ain’t happenin’ and ain’t gonna happen bro!

  4. The only thing I see as really positive about this plan is the ability for conferences to vote out with a simple majority. The continued use of “United Methodist” is a farce, and the ability of all churches to use that title with or without modification is a recipe for disaster. Pine Street United Methodist Church may have a completely different set of beliefs than Oak Street United Methodist Church two blocks away. As a traditionalist, I don’t want to be confused with “The Church That Used To Believe The Bible”, because homosexuality is only the first change to the Book of Discipline that will happen once a denomination starts putting popular culture ahead of biblical principals.

    • This is where I have been completely perplexed and frustrated with this whole thing. I keep asking — where is the BIBLE in this schism? I am frustrated with some traditionalists in that they seem to have shown far too much leniency with progressive, now centrists included, with the notion of various ways of interpreting, even discarding the Bible; with the various possible ways that Methodism can be expressed; and with the various forms of the Gospel accompanied by other ways of making disciples of Jesus Christ minus repentance.

      Let the SCRIPTURES do the talking. Stick with the SCRIPTURES and nothing more. Quote Scripture no matter what. Stand by Scripture.

      It is long past time for each and every Methodist to come to grips with the Bible and make that crucial decision. Do I believe what it says or not? Delegates to the 2020 General Conference must be challenged to decide what the Bible says about same-sex marriage and the sins of sexual immorality, including the practice of homosexuality — plus the other ..BTQ+ sexual practices? Everyone — including progressives, centrists, and traditionalists, MUST be challenged at every turn to back up what they say and believe with the BIBLE, not secular political talk, but the Bible as the only source and nothing more. Bring on the BIBLE and let us have a full and open discussion before the next vote.

    • Sherry Roby says

      Amen to that. Once we give to one change then there will be another.

  5. I’m deeply discouraged by this information. None of these plans make sense and regardless of what you say or intend the “Traditionalists” appear to be the ones being pushed out of the denomination. Allowing the progressives to control the agencies is a bad, bad move. The agencies should be split three ways to be fair. All three plans short-change the Traditionalists. Minneapolis will be chaos and no plan will receive the majority. And please, please stop trying to force the One Church plan down our throats. How many times do we need to vote this plan down!

  6. Some of the comments here seem to have missed some of Tom’s main points in the article.

    The rationale for “giving the progressives the denomination” is clearly spelled out: the United Methodist Church’s structure (of agencies, ministries and their staff) is bloated, expensive and ineffective. They will be nearly impossible to reform! I agree that we traditionalists need to start fresh with an updated, leaner, future oriented structure that will help us grow by multiplication rather than simple addition.

    It’s like the difference between starting a new local church and trying to revitalize an old one – the structure (and often the people / programs / leadership) of the old church resist change, and real growth becomes impossible. Sometimes you Tinker, sometimes you Transform, but sometimes you just Toss, and start over. Which really seems most likely to be effective at this point?

    It’s also been my experience (and I’m 61, BTW – no spring chicken!) that younger people today are drawn to new things; new expressions of the church that meet in more modern facilities and use updated media and communication tools. We have that opportunity in front of us if we will stop trying to “win” and hang on to a nearly dead institution!

    Also, we must consider which of these plans has the best chance of passing at a GC that passed the Traditional Plan last year. It seems to me it will be a plan that Traditionalists from around the world can support. So we’re not turning our back on last year’s “win” – as Tom said – we’re trying to offer a plan for the future that doesn’t create losers, but gives everyone the chance to move into the future feeling blessed and affirmed.

    Keep up the good work, Tom! There is more to be resolved ahead, yes, but we must keep moving forward in order to get to a new day of making disciples for Jesus Christ!

    • Mike,
      What you are ignoring is the majority of churches will stay by default. If you have a church that is 55% conservative, then they are mostly likely going to stay in the UMC even if they want to move to new church. People inherently do not like change. It is easy to wind down organizations and fold up agencies quickly. This plan that Tom is supporting hurts the 44% who are orthodox and in the pews unless you are in a church that is at least 70% orthodox and willing to vote to move.

      • Agreed. Most of these plans abandon US traditional believers and any traditional majority church in a progressive annual conference. There is no way a church in a progressive annual conference is going to vote to leave unless their traditional majority is around 70%.

        Again and again, our leaders fail us. The simplest thing to do remains for gc to make decisions regarding doctrine and provide a gracious exit for local churches to exit by simple majority. But this requires annual conferences to follow the rules, and they refuse.

        This started as a clergy and money issue and it will always remain one. Our clergy don’t care what local churches want. Their allegiance is to their club, the annual conference. Our clergy want to change our doctrine and keep all the churches so they will have incomes and pensions. The situation is rotten to its core.

    • I believe that we should not attempt to remove the Bible from the Book of Discipline so I suppose I’m a Traditionalist. It does seem that Tom is correct that the church agencies and hierarchy are predominantly progressives. That is the prime reason that I am concerned that each individual church, regardless of size etc, might not have a vote as to it’s direction. It has become apparent to me that the Traditionalists are going to “lose” this struggle even though they are clearly the majority. Perhaps that is related to the leaning of the hierarchy. I intend to stay and support my church so long as the Bible is preached in it’s entirety from the pulpit.

  7. CHRISTINE MILES says

    I applaud the various groups for trying to come up with a way forward. However, I do struggle with any group being able to use United Methodist Church without a modifier identifying which version of the denomination they are associated with. I think it will still be very confusing to laity looking for a church home. People do everything via the internet these days, including searching out a new church to visit. Making it clear what the beliefs of each version of the denomination/church is will be extremely important just to identify which churches they would like to learn more about. Having it stated right in the name of the denomination does that. I believe we need to end up similar to the Lutherans, where it is clear what the various synods believe and stand for. It has been difficult to get new people to seek out the UMC during this time of battle. Our church has been fortunate that new people have still sought us out despite being UM and evaluated our church based on what they see and hear. We have another new couple joining our church next weekend PTL, and another couple interested in joining. But it is an uphill battle as so many won’t even look the way of the UMC right now due to the battle and I don’t blame them. Can the Central Conference use UMC with a modifier or is that an issue for them?

  8. What Happens if? says

    I must ask just out of curiosity, ‘What happens if none of these proposals are adopted by the General Conference?’

    We all assume that the split is going to happen, which is not really that big a deal, it’s not like this have never happened before in the history of the Methodist Movement in America. But in all the rush to leave, what happens if there is no agreement on how to leave?

    Frankly, the motion passed at the 2019 General Conference is the best one for the Traditionalist side of the church IMO. I would prefer that all the other proposals lose this time around and the political/social left of the church be forced to leave and start their own church from scratch. It is that side of the denomination who precipitated this crisis, and if they cannot live under the historic beliefs of the church, then they need to own up to that fact and withdraw using the mechanism in place.

    Does the Traditionalist side of the church really have to cater to their political opponents on this issue? Is bending over to backwards to accommodate those who disagree the best way to handle this? IMO I do not believe so. If you disagree with the consistent stance of the church for generations now because secular society is immoral about sexual practice why should the other side make it easy for you to leave?

    If it takes church trials and some ugly events, so be it.

  9. An Arkansas Traditionalist says

    I’m weary, nearly to the point of exhaustion, in keeping hope alive for a peaceable and quick solution to the decades old debate which continues to cause our focus of creating disciples for Jesus Christ to be pushed to the side. I thought we already had gone through the labor pains of the path the UMC would follow and now just need to work out the details. And, if the general agencies need to be pared for the future, and restructured to staffs who can abide by the traditionalist vote, then by all means, do it! Why are there groups even discussing different plans. The time for that is past. Now its time to figure out how to implement the plan that was approved in St. Louis.

  10. The most dangerous plan is the mainstream plan. It is a give us what we couldn’t win and you can leave. The 2/3 vote requirement is a way to guarantee few churches will actually leave. My church is 85% traditional but some of the older folks hate change and will buy promises that they will never receive a pastor that violates their beliefs. A majority would vote to leave but 2/3 d’s might be difficult. The folks at Mainstream know this. Can you imagine the anger and the number of traditionalists members who will leave after a minority forces them into a progressive umc. There will be a self imposed purge of traditionalists from the umc. Mainstream knows this and is counting on it. For my traditionalist brothers and sisters who think we should retain control of the umc. We are better off leaving! The umc name is now poisoned, the structure is bloated, and the agencies are full of anti evangelical progressives. It would be much better to build a fresh, lean, and evangelucally focused denomination that has a modern structure and not one based on 18th and 19th century bureaucratic ideas. It would be wonderful to be in a denomination that had a stated theology rooted in Wesleyan theology, unpolluted by post modern liberation theology.

  11. I’m very discouraged about the Traditionalists commenting, as it is clear many are more concerned with “winning” rather than trying to craft an amicable way out of the mess in which we find ourselves. No plan will be perfect. I want out of this mess and into a Traditionalist Wesleyan expression without having to fund agencies led by and full of liberal “social justice” warrier bureaucrats. Is it worth continuing this anguish over a man made name and logo? If after 2020 we are still in the status quo and still wasting time and resources fighting over what it means to be a Methodist, I am leaving and looking for spiritual direction elsewhere. I suspect I will not be alone. My loyalty is to The Triune God as revealed in Scripture much more so than to a man-made denomination and bureaucracy.

    • What Happens if? says

      John,

      I understand your point clearly. However, no matter where you go, even if to an independent/non-denominational church, you will have to deal with the same stresses the UM church deals with now. We all want peace and unanimity in our churches, but the church is still a human institution and imperfect.

      I am not sure any of the new plans will pass; if one does not, then we have the plan passed at the 2019 GC, the best plan for those of us who are for the biblical plan/traditional plan. It is not a matter of win/lose, but once in a while one side of the church needs to stand up to the other side and not walk away discouraged or surrender because there is conflict.

      One last thing; this disagreement has festered for decades now; if in the 1980’s this had been dealt with instead having four decades for it fester we wouldn’t be here and both sides of the debate would be much better off. But at this point is most assuredly not the time to give up and leave the denomination, especially when we have a world-wide church to support, when some of our brothers and sisters face persecution and death daily for their faith. Would Wesley leave now? Would Albright? Would those who led the fight against slavery give up now?

    • Agree with you John and others who recognize the key problems. We traditionalists seek a true spiritual home. The Indy plan provides a UMC in name only, packed with extremist agencies representing a convoluted religious body known for views far outside Biblical doctrine. I am hopeful that the final plan becomes a variation of Bard and Indy. Two bodies of the church, traditionalist and “progressive”, with new names relative to Methodist (but removing United for obvious reasons). Each body is within the broader Methodist church for the next 7 years, BUT, each develops their own internal structure for agencies or ministries. The large organization helps to oversee and transition each body over this period while retaining both within the “Global Methodist Church”. If, after the 7 years, it is determined the global body is no longer needed, it is dissolved.

      My suggestions for the names: The Wesleyan Methodist Church (traditionalist) and The Progressive Methodist Church.

  12. Having fought so hard to get a traditional plan voted and approved by GC it seems ridiculous to walk away. I want to be a part of a group that knows how to stand its ground. Slinking away is not what I want to do.

    • If liberals are somehow able to reverse the decision of the 2019 General Conference, the the Reform & Renewal Coalition, using the Wesleyan Covenant Association structure, will exit the remains of what was once the United Methodist Church and form a global orthodox Methodist denomination. They have been completely honest with this from the beginning, yet have been falsely accused of all sorts of things as a result of their honesty. Note, the DNA of contemporary liberalism — they do not deal honestly or comprehend honesty, integrity, or truthfulness.

      An amiable separation is the desire. Traditionalists are ready to deal, but not on terms unacceptable to the majority. At present, the Centrists/Progressives appear to recognize the need for separation but are all over the place as to how to accomplish that. In all honesty, the general church is not worth a fight on the part of the traditionalists. As Tom points out, much of the general church is already dead. Traditionalists already have the beginnings of a leaner, efficient, mission focused structure in the WCA. Let the liberals officially have and FUND most of what they already control anyway.

      If General Conference 2020 passes nothing or enhances the Traditional Plan, liberals will not accept that. So four more years of defiance and decline will ensue awaiting the 2024 General Conference.

  13. I’m not slinking away. I’m making a conscious decision to forego wasting more emotional energy on trying to make an institution act as it should and concentrating on what I understand God demands of me to live a righteous life. No need to fight over dead bones.

  14. I would encourage Good News to speak to the emotions and exasperations expressed by respondents. This conversation has a living quality. The disaffection and ennui is representative of what is “out there” among Traditionalists. While the elite have their channels and talking partners and echo chambers, many Traditional laity are lost at sea.

  15. A couple things to remember:

    The September 18 deadline for GC legislation will soon be passed. Then we will know what plans are being brought to the table. I am pretty sure that at that time (after Sept. 18), the different factions will be talking to each other and negotiating LONG BEFORE GC 2020, in order to try to have a workable solution to support when May arrives.

    At the very least, after the 9/18 deadline, each group (bringing a plan) will be able to look for more support among it’s own constituency around the UMC (both in the US and abroad). This will give us a better idea of what will be most likely to pass at GC.

    While I understand that the Traditionalist Plan passed at GC19, I believe it is unrealistic to believe that we can ever see the majority of UM clergy and Bishops submit themselves to it – no matter how many trials, etc., are threatened or brought to pass. That will be fruitless and demoralizing for everyone.

    We need to see the passing of the Traditional Plan at GC 2019 as the means to finally initiate an amicable separation…it has pretty much forced everyone to come to the table willing to find a way forward as two separate churches (I personally don’t believe a third, “centrist” church will come about).

    This is the real power of the passage of the Traditional Plan. And for that, I am thankful. We need to move forward as a renewed, leaner, focused, unified NEW denomination that can hit the ground running!

    In my AC, there are already many lay people who are in liberal enclaves (like the larger cities) who are looking forward to starting new, biblical Wesleyan churches! How exciting is that? We already have many people who will be part of this new movement of God!

    P.S. I also believe that churches in liberal conferences will be able to live with a simple majority vote… I think whichever plan is passed, the traditionalists in the US and around the world will ensure that it is easy/possible for traditionalist churches to move to a new church home (despite the obvious desire of UM Next and others who hope to make leaving difficult!).

  16. The Snake is in the details of a move to separate. Traditionalists in the PNW are already dealing with inquiries from cabinet representatives about the loyalties of their congregations. The WJ is hiring an organizer in preparation to separate. Illusory reassurances are being issued to keep the lid on.

  17. Notice the language… “UMC Next Plan” Methinks perhaps a hint of things as they are and will be, without regard for the voice of the people. So much for the ideal of “democracy.,” the foul stench that it is. We are so broken that we have now come to believe “dissolution” to be a synonym for “separation.” John Wesley is rolling back and forth in his grave.

  18. The africans have just come out against dissolution or disaffiliation. It sounds like we are walking into GC2019 part II. They may be playing the long game knowing that by 2024 or 2028 they will dominate the voting. I hope there are enough votes to protect what was passed this year.

  19. The Africans have again issued a warning: they will not accept dissolution or division of The United Methodist Church in Africa. They will stand their ground for orthodoxy. How ironic that the Africans would say a resounding “NO!” to a reckless and foolish American constituency eager to waste its treasure and legacy on a comprised future.

  20. Looks like the Africans are going to flex a little muscle at GC 2020. Having the preferred plan pass at GC 2019 they are going forward not apart. The Indianapolis plan might be dead in the water without African support. Might be time for that group to have another meeting.

  21. Thank you to those for all of their hard work taking a stand for the Lord. There seems to be an issue with annual conferences voting to align rather than individual churches voting to align. Suppose there are 5 UMC churches in city A and 1 is traditional and 5 UMC churches in city B with 1-5 traditional, etc. If the annual conference they belong to votes progressive, then those traditional churches are not able, apparently, to continue to align with the other traditional UMC folk in their own city and throughout the nation. There should be some consideration/mechanism of/for the individual congregations at both the individual church and individual city level to actively decide for or against biblical scripture. Otherwise, individuals in a particular city may need to choose to leave the UMC, even if there are other cities with a decidedly traditional annual conference, which may be a hundred or hundreds of miles away. Also, as one previously said before, it is confusing, and potentially off-putting to those unsaved and/or weak in the faith, if both traditional and progressive alike can continue calling themselves simply “United Methodist Church.”

    • Hello and thank you for your comments/questions.

      Under the Indianapolis Plan, local churches that disagree with their annual conference can vote to align with a different denomination. So if the annual conference votes to go progressive, traditionalist congregations can vote to link up with the traditionalist denomination.

      The use of the United Methodist name is optional, and it would require using a modifier. So different churches/denominations would have different names. Perhaps an Orthodox UMC or a Covenant UMC for traditionalists and a Progressive UMC or Inclusive UMC for progressives. There would be some way to differentiate the names.

      In Christ,
      Tom Lambrecht

      • “Can vote” is not the same as “must vote”. Unless there is an obvious super majority, the vote to leave an annual conference will never occur.

        This issue started as a clergy and money issue and it will be resolved as a clergy and money issue. The priority in all these plans and previous plans is to keep annual conferences and their clergy intact. The focus has never been about the laity and local church- consisting of a laity that i might add that does not expect the church to change its doctrine to suit their political tastes. A super majority of laity sees no reason to change current teaching. But that is not what they will be offered. In order to keep long-accepted christian doctrine in their church, they will have to vote against their annual conference and leave it. Politically, this will be mostly insurmountable: they will be portrayed as disrupters and bigots. And their clergyperson (who is really a member of the annual conference) will most likely be working against the local laity who want to leave.

        For a church that does not vote, it makes no sense for the default to be changing christian teaching on sexual sins.

  22. Larry Wiggins says

    So Tom, if a local church is just sick of connectional burdens and fighting can it vote to become an independent local church? And if that happens can it leave with it’s assets and hire any minister is wishes? That would mean becoming a self governing church with no ties to any remaining remnant of the UMC. Of course it could not use any trademark names and symbols.

    • Thank you for the question, Larry. An exit path for congregations was enacted in St. Louis. We are hoping to amend that path to be more church-friendly. It would require less of a payment of apportionments, but would still require payment of pension liabilities if the church goes independent. The stipulation for the church taking the exit is that they declare the ongoing conflict is harmful to their ministry. So if they are just tired of paying apportionments, that would not be a proper reason. But if it is about the fight that we are in, that would be a proper reason.

  23. Michael Gilstrap says

    It is time for this to be resolved. The millions of dollars spent on having additional General Conferences should be used to further our outreach to the unbelievers and poor. Traditionalist should leave and continue with the Book of Discipline intact and leave the current church government behind, with their progressive Bishops, and form a leaner operation within the church. This all begin by trying to blend progressives, centrists, and traditionalists together which hasn’t worked and will never work. Most of the clergy representing the annual conferences to the general conference aren’t traditionalist anyway. So time to leave!

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