Uniting Methodists Suggestions for the Special Session of General Conference in St. Louis – February 23-26, 2019
Now is the time to move forward with purpose, determination, and hope.
The One Church Plan comes to The UMC through the faithful work of the Commission on a Way Forward and has been endorsed by the majority of the Council of Bishops.
Prayerful and well considered work has been done to set before us a viable way to remain focused on our core witness and mission as we live with differences of opinion and support contrary views on matters that have vexed our church and others for decades.
Paul calls us “to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties you together” (Ephesians 4:3). This is central to our life together and for the work of the Uniting Methodists movement which has drawn the support of over 5,000 clergy and laypersons. The first priority for the Body of Christ is always to search for unity rather than division.
This is not a call for simple and easy compromise, but a path and framework we can employ to achieve our aspirations of unity while respecting varied contexts and sincere diversity of opinion. The One Church Plan doesn’t seek a false or win/lose resolution of conflicting convictions, but honors all United Methodists as they exercise their consciences and share in ministry to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
Votes to choose “winners and losers” or to maintain the status quo could tear our churches apart and dishearten the people called United Methodists. Such outcomes would undermine confidence in the ability of the General Conference to address critical concerns in constructive and definitive ways. We urge passage in St. Louis of the One Church Plan.
One Church Plan Amendments
We support only three amendments by deletion to the One Church Plan (view the changes here). These will correct deficiencies identified by the Judicial Council. Regarding petition 90008, the ability of laity and clergy to suggest that a change of appointment would be beneficial to all parties is already present and part of the consultative process used in the jurisdictional conferences in work with the Staff Parish Relations Committee, pastor, district superintendent, and bishop.
The One Church Plan represents a blending of perspectives that address multiple interests and make room for the faithful and effective ministries of all United Methodists. Amendments that seek to tilt the delicate balance of interests that has been forged will likely result in the loss of as many votes as may be gained.
The One Church Plan makes room for diverse opinions and honors the unique requirements for faithful mission in different settings. It does not demand uniformity but sets the table for our collective mission to love God and our neighbors. Any amendments should be measured by whether the proposed changes assure freedom on matters of conscience for all.
We recommend that the General Conference defer actions on other amendments to the One Church Plan and encourage delegates to maintain the integrity of the carefully crafted petitions as presented by the Commission on a Way Forward and recommended by the majority of the Council of Bishops. If any amendments are considered, they should be evaluated in light of their contribution to: 1) the pursuit of unity in mission; 2) the degree to which they assure protections to all in matters of conscience; and 3) and how well they balance the needs of varied contexts for ministry.
The General Conference resolution creating the Commission on a Way Forward articulated a clear desire for the Church to find a path toward unity. There are existing and ample provisions in the Book of Discipline that allow for local church exits. These have been utilized in several cases over the last few years to provide gracious exits for congregations. Newly proposed exit provisions that encourage annual conference and church departures would create schism and do not align with the expressed intent of the 2016 General Conference to create a plan for unity. These proposals have not been sufficiently vetted to account for both intended and unintended outcomes. Given that the One Church Plan permits all to act according to their conscience, we do not view new exit provisions as necessary.
We urge the General Conference to complete work on the petitions before it from the Commission on a Way Forward. If there is a desire to enhance or clarify exit provisions, we recommend asking the Council of Bishops to thoroughly investigate options and bring recommendations for consideration to the 2020 General Conference.
Grace & Peace,
The Uniting Methodists Coordinating Team