by Jeremy Troxler, General Conference Delegate, Spruce Pine UMC
I rise to speak against what is referred to as the “Traditional” Plan, not because it is traditional, but because it is NOT. This plan’s approach is contrary to the generous, grace-filled spirit and nuanced, thoughtful understanding that have traditionally marked us as the church of open hearts, open minds, and open doors.
It communicates a mean-spiritedness unworthy of the people of the warmed heart. It reflects the narrow, obsessive mindset of Javert
more than the wide mercy of Jean Valjean. It puts its trust in cold, unfeeling Law, instead of flesh and blood human beings who have met together in the Spirit to interpret the Scriptures and discern God’s will.
This non-traditional plan treats the Church as if it were made for the Discipline, rather than the Discipline made to serve the church.
It tramples upon the traditional rights and freedoms of the Annual Conferences, forcing them to become serfs to the will of this body,
threatening to turn the Boards of Ordained Ministry into sanhedrins, and the clergy sessions not into gracious discernments, but into hostile inquisitions.
To an extent almost unprecedented in our history, this so-called traditional plan singles out LGBTQ people, not only in disaffirming their sexuality,
but in implying that they are a special class of sinners in need of special prohibition. As a result, this nontraditional plan violates our Social Principles, and breaks our tradition’s First General Rule of “Do No Harm” – this plan would cause great harm.
Some have claimed that we could somehow approve such a plan that so blatantly singles out LGBTQ people with a legislative pink triangle
and, at the same time, say “We love you.” And yet, paraphrasing Desmond Tutu, “You cannot at the same time tell me you love me and keep your boot upon my neck.”
I believe this plan, with its harsh provisions, is a boot on the neck of LGBTQ people, and a General Conference boot upon the neck of our church and its ministers. It lets our Discipline do our exclusionary sinning for us, so we can walk around with a clearer conscience. In all this, I believe that the so-called traditional plan’s heavy-handed approach to coercive Church Discipline goes against the core of our tradition, which is the Bible.
The Bible makes it clear that our accountability is to God, and not to a church body that has made an idol of its authority and substituted its law for the judgment seat of Christ. Ironically, in the defenses I have read of this plan, not one has appealed to Scripture to justify the enforcement approach of the plan itself. Instead the rationale seems to be, “Well, you’ve got to have consistency.”
And yet the Scriptures themselves seem much more comfortable with messiness and inconsistency than we are. When this plan was presented, a reference was made to the need for us to create a more orderly playing field. And yet Jesus compared the Kingdom of God to a different kind of field: a disorderly wheat field where the wheat and the weeds grew entwined together.
And his disciples said, “Lord, do you want us to pull up the weeds?” And Jesus, who would have been a terrible farmer, but who is a good, good Lord, said, “No, no. Let the wheat and the weeds grow together. You all are terrible at telling wheat from weeds – if you tried to pull up the weeds, you would end up pulling up a lot of wheat instead. So just let them grow together, and I will sort them out at harvest time.”
So much of our debate, and so much of this anti-traditional plan, is about this body assuming it has the ability to purify the field, to separate the weeds from the wheat. And yet I fear that if we were to pass such an untraditional plan as this, then when harvest time comes we might discover that we ourselves were the weeds.