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.