As GC2020 nears, fewer keep to the sidelines

In the denomination’s longtime homosexuality debate, fewer United Methodists are keeping to the sidelines.

The fallout continues after the 2019 special General Conference in St. Louis adopted, by about a 53% vote, the Traditional Plan that tightens enforcement of church bans on same-sex weddings and “self-avowed practicing” gay clergy.

Some are taking public stands to support the plan, while others are taking steps toward resistance. The denomination also has seen a drop in giving following the rancorous special session.

Meanwhile, various leaders are working on ways for the church to split into two or more denominations based on perspectives on LGBTQ status.

Still unknown is what impact all this will have when the denomination’s multinational lawmaking assembly next meets May 5-15, 2020 in Minneapolis. There is no guarantee the 862 delegates will adopt any plan of separation.

However, one thing is clear: More United Methodists across the theological spectrum are speaking up and strategizing ahead of the 2020 General Conference.  Learn more…

UM News Service has reported recently on these statements, as well as proposals and decisions by various, diverse groups. They include the Wesley Covenant Association, Western Jurisdiction leaders, the Greater New Jersey Conference and a group of active and retired bishops calling for “deeper conversations regarding new expressions of Methodist witness.” See those UMNS stories below.

Meanwhile, at least three Eastern PA Conference groups—the Evangelical Caucus, Reconciling Ministries and Methodist Federation for Social Justice—have discussed GC2020 in their recent meetings, which included participation by some General Conference delegates. And a meeting of African American United Methodists from across the Northeastern Jurisdiction, featuring presentations and dialogue, is planned for Jan. 11, 2020, at Tindley Temple UMC in Philadelphia.  

Scripture key to first draft of WCA discipline

Dec. 4—The Bible is the supreme arbiter of right and wrong when it comes to marriage and every other issue, states a 53-page first draft of a guidebook for a potential new denomination spun out of The United Methodist Church.

“The canonical books of the Old and New Testaments … are the primary rule and authority for faith, morals and service, against which all other authorities must be measured,” says the “Draft Book of Doctrines and Discipline for a New Methodist Church,” posted by the Wesleyan Covenant Association on Nov. 8.

The WCA formed in 2016, attracting United Methodists who hold to a traditionalist approach to Christian faith, including upholding the denomination’s bans on same-sex unions and ordination of openly gay clergy. The group supported the Traditional Plan that passed 438-384 at the rancorous 2019 General Conference in St. Louis. The plan strengthened church restrictions against ordination of gay clergy and same-sex unions.

Since then, the association has taken steps toward forming what it calls a new expression of Methodism, though its leaders continue to be in talks about the future of The United Methodist Church. The WCA’s legislative assembly endorsed the New Denominations of United Methodism Plan, better known as the Indianapolis Plan. That plan would divide The United Methodist Church into two or more denominations.  Learn more…

Gathering dreams of inclusive future 

Nov. 18—More than 200 United Methodists from the Western Jurisdiction gathered Nov. 14-16 to cast a vision and dream of a future for The United Methodist Church that is diverse and inclusive of “all God’s children.”

Participants at the Fresh United Methodism Summit at Rolling Hills United Methodist Church included the Western Jurisdiction bishops, delegates to the 2020 General Conference and Jurisdictional Conference, communicators and other leaders as well as a limited number of observers.

By the summit’s end, a working group of five clergy and five laity were elected as a visioning team. That team will bring a report to the 2020 Western Jurisdictional Conference to be held July 15-18, 2020, in Billings, Montana.

That plan came after hours of conversations, reams of sticky notes and large newsprint pages overflowing with ideas of what kind of future the participants want for a “fresh Methodism.” Learn more…

Conference charts ‘way forward’ with LGBTQ people

Oct. 28—By an overwhelming majority, the Greater New Jersey Conference in a special session voted to allow United Methodist churches to decide how to include and affirm LGBTQ people in every aspect of ministry while still allowing congregations the right to agree to disagree.

Churches can also create covenants about other mission priorities or choose not to have a covenant at all. Conference officials estimated 80 percent of those present at the special annual conference voted for the 10-point proposal, which came from the report submitted by the conference’s Way Forward Team.

Bishop John Schol tells delegates that “The time has come again for us to be bold and sensitive, to be courageous and humble, to be convicted and searching,” during the special session. Photo by Corbin Payne.

Bishop John Schol, episcopal leader of the conference, told the Oct. 26 special session that he chooses to be a pastor of all United Methodist congregations. He vowed he would not forward complaints for trial concerning LGBTQ people’s right to marry, seek ordination or for pastors who perform same-sex unions. Five requests for rule of law came from the floor of the session and are under consideration by Bishop Schol. Learn more…

Group of bishops calling for ‘deeper conversations’

Nov. 14–Eight United Methodist bishops are calling for a new form of unity amid differences over human sexuality that seem to be pushing The United Methodist Church toward a split.

Bishops Scott J. Jones, Eduard Khegay, Michael Lowry and Mark J. Webb, along with retired Bishops Lindsey Davis, Alfred W. Gwinn Jr., Robert E. Hayes Jr. and Young Jin Cho, signed a statement and offered it to the church calling for “deeper conversations regarding new expressions of Methodist witness.” They asked United Methodists who agree with the statement to sign it. 

“It is time to be honest about our current reality,” reads the statement. “The events since the adjournment of the Special Session of General Conference illustrate how deep our division is. Sadly, even greater discord, chaos and fighting loom on the horizon at the 2020 General Conference in Minneapolis.” Learn more…

Comparing plans headed to GC2020

This summary compares proposals from various groups, in alphabetical order, about the structure of The UMC. It does not include proposals from individuals. Further details are in the documents and legislation. All proposals will be open for amendments at General Conference and may be subject to Judicial Council review. Updated on 12/6/19.  Read or download chart