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GC2019 passes Traditional Plan, maintains ‘incompatible’ language

GC2019 passes Traditional Plan, maintains ‘incompatible’ language
Delegates comfort one another after an impassioned speech. Photo by Matt Brodie.

By Jessica Brodie

ST. LOUIS—Culminating a day of tears, frustration, peaceful protests and impassioned debate, General Conference delegates have passed an amended
Traditional Plan for the denomination.

The Traditional Plan affirms current language in The United Methodist Church’s Book of Discipline that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” (Para. 304.3).

The very close vote came at the tail end of Day 4, Feb. 26, passing 438-384—a 53.28 percent majority.

After the vote, delegates flooded the center of the room, chanting and singing in reaction—some in protest, some in solidarity. In the risers circling the floor, visitors and others led speeches and rally cries citing Scriptural prophecy from Isaiah and other books and demanding the church turn from oppression to love. Then the conference shifted into a time of holy song, cranking up the volume on the praise band, which sang “Spirit of the Living God.”

Behind the music, and later as business progressed, others in the crowd chanted “No more harm!” sometimes so loudly it made proceedings difficult to hear. Reports of arrests and other police action spread throughout the room.

The rest of the afternoon saw debates on the two disaffiliation plans—which the UMC Judicial Council had ruled unconstitutional earlier that day in Decision 1377.  One disaffiliation plan, adopted as the minority plan, passed by a close margin, but it was referred to the Judicial Council.

Day 4 closed with an abbreviated worship service.

“It’s been a tough day,” South Carolina Resident Bishop L. Jonathan Holston said. “Regardless of how we feel on certain issues, we are still one church. There is so much that divides us, and we must look to things to unite around.

“It’s not a day to talk wins or losses. This is the church of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. We have to find a way to be God’s Kingdom.”

 

Why did we have a GC2019?

The special session of General Conference 2019, held Feb. 23-26, was held to help the global denomination move beyond its debilitating disagreement over human sexuality. Per the official call, GC2019 was “limited to receiving and acting upon a report from the Commission on a Way Forward based upon the recommendations of the Council of Bishops.” The Way Forward Commission was created at the will of the last General Conference, in 2016, and charged to examine paragraphs in the UMC Discipline concerning human sexuality and help the UMC move beyond its impasse around ministry and human sexuality.

The Way Forward Commission developed three plans for the church: the One Church Plan (recommended by the Council of Bishops and found to be constitutional by the Judicial Council), the Traditional Plan (ruled partially unconstitutional) and the Connectional Conference Plan (which would have required a full constitutional rework).

The idea was that if the decisions are addressed in 2019, then the next main General Conference, set for May 2020 in Minneapolis, will be able to focus on the full mission of the church and not one issue.

Sixteen delegates from South Carolina (eight lay and eight clergy) joined a total of 864 clergy and lay delegates from around the world for General Conference.

“When you come here, you vote your conscience,” said South Carolina delegate Herman Lightsey. “I don’t know if we made any great strides, but we made a decision, a step in the right direction. No matter what plan we picked, we’d be going through this. And no matter what we do, God’s got a church for us. God’s got a plan for us.”

 

What happened at GC2019?

GC2019 began Saturday, Feb. 23, with a full Day of Prayer to anchor the global church in God’s Word. There was a twofold prayer focus, both for the conference itself and for increased effectiveness in the mission of the church. The day featured a plenary prayer service, an experiential prayer guided by bishops from four different regions of the world and a service of Holy Communion.

Day 2 was jam-packed, tackling far more work than many expected. Delegates set their legislative priorities, voting to address the Wespath Recommendations first (pension liabilities and the Clergy Retirement Security Program amendment), followed by the Traditional Plan, then two disaffiliation legislation sets (first Taylor, then Boyette), then the One Church Plan, then the other disaffiliation legislation (Ottjes), then the rest.

Joe Harris, Oklahoma Conference, was elected chair of the Legislative Committee. Betty Kazadi Musau, North Katanga Conference, was elected vice chair, and Carlene Fogle-Miller, a young adult from the Florida Conference, was elected secretary.

Before the session adjourned for the day, delegates began addressing the Wespath Recommendations, ultimately approving them.

On Day 3, delegates continued their tough work in legislative committee. They narrowly voted (53.04 percent) not to pass an amended One Church Plan. They did approve an amended version of the Traditional Plan, as well as two sets of legislation allowing churches to disaffiliate with the UMC (with some limitations).

Then, in the aftermath of the One Church Plan rejection, they voted in an overwhelming majority (91.98 percent) to reject en masse all remaining petitions except A Simple Plan. Later that day, after lengthy debate, the body voted to reject A Simple Plan (60.47 percent majority), as well.

Also on Day 3, South Carolina delegate the Rev. Tim Rogers made a motion before the body that the Judicial Council review the constitutionality of all amended petitions approved by the committee. Rogers’ motion for the declaratory decision was approved.

 

The final debate

Finally on Tuesday, Feb. 26, the last day of General Conference 2019, the body reconvened in plenary session.

Per Rogers’ motion the day prior, General Conference Secretary Gary Graves announced Judicial Council Decision 1377, noting the UMC’s top court ruled the majority of the key aspects of the Traditional Plan were constitutional. These include aspects of qualifications for ministry (Paras. 304.3 and 304.5), episcopal responsibilities (Para. 415.6), minimum penalty (Para. 2711.3), complaint process (Para. 362.1e), just resolution (Para. 2701.5) and church appeal (Para. 2715.10).

Nine petitions were ruled unconstitutional. The court ruled six other aspects of the Traditional Plan unconstitutional: three on episcopal accountability violate Paras. 20 and 58, and three (on composition of Board of Ordained Ministry and full examination) violate the principle of legality.

It also ruled the second sentence in another petition, 90045 (Traditional Plan #4 Episcopal Accountability, Para. 422), was unconstitutional.

It ruled both disaffiliation plans (Boyette and Taylor) unconstitutional; the Boyette plan violates Paras. 33 and 41 and the Taylor plan violates Para. 33.

“It was a long day and a very difficult day,” South Carolina delegate the Rev. Mel Arant said, calling it a frustrating but necessary process.

“We’ve been divided since 1972, and it’s obvious that continues,” Arant said. “We did exactly what General Conference 2016 wanted us to do. We did not do what everybody wanted. Some were pleased, and some were disappointed and even hurt. All of us are here because we care deeply about The United Methodist Church, and when our family’s divided, it hurts. But one issue we can all agree on is that God is God and Jesus is Lord, and it’s time to celebrate what we hold in common and move forward in mission.”

South Carolina delegate Barbara Ware said she also found Day 4 to be a very difficult time in the life of the UMC.

“I would equate it with a family having a disagreement and trying to find a way to solve it,” Ware said. “And there is pain and sadness sometimes when we disagree with family members. My prayer for the UMC is that we can continue to be a source of strength for a hurting world.”

 

‘We shall press on’

Delegates entered a time of prayer just before noon CST, then had the chance to vote on whether to substitute the One Church Plan for the Traditional Plan. They voted (majority 54.56 percent) not to substitute.

The afternoon was spent amending and debating aspects of the Traditional Plan.

Finally, just before 5 p.m. CST, the vote on an amended Traditional Plan was called—and it passed.

South Carolina Delegation Chair the Rev. Tim McClendon said he believes the Traditional Plan will pass muster in the Judicial Council, but he believes the minority report on disaffiliation will be unconstitutional.

“It’s a sobering reality-check about how divided we are,” McClendon said. “There are a lot of hurt people, and it’s not a win-lose.”

South Carolina Delegate the Rev. Narcie Jeter said after the close of Day 4 that she is feeling a “jumble of emotions.”

“It was a very emotionally, spiritually and theologically exhausting day,” Jeter said—a day with much passion and tears. “We shall press on resting in the grace of God who calls us for this purpose to make disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world.

“Both the Traditional and the One Church plans would have caused harm. We move on by grace, compassion and love for one another. Making relationships with others of opposing views is very much needed right now.”

It’s not easy or comfortable, she said.

“But no one ever said it would be easy.”

 

South Carolina reaction

In South Carolina, emotions are mixed.

Stanton Adams, a young adult in the Charleston District, shared with the Advocate that he is deeply saddened about the outcome.

“It is heartbreaking to me that the majority of the body determined to that doubling down on the Book of Discipline’s exclusionary language was the best way forward for our denomination,” Adams said. “The fight for justice for LGBTQ+ people in the life of The United Methodist Church is far from over—we aren’t going to go gently into the night. We will continue to hear God’s call on our lives, we will continue to seek justice and love for all people and we will continue to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world—whether The United Methodist Church chooses to fully acknowledge us or not.”

 

Your views wanted

The Advocate welcomes your views about the decision regardless of your perspective. Letters to the editor are welcome and must be 400 words or less and contain your name, church name and church city, plus contact information so we can verify for any clarification. If you are interested in writing a longer opinion piece, contact us for details. Email jbrodie@umcsc.org.

25 Comments

  • […] Final day: GC2019 passes Traditional Plan, maintains ‘incompatible’ language […]

  • I cannot justify rejecting thousands of years of spritual teaching in favor of a few decades of Progressive philosophy.

  • I grew up in the UMC and this issue has been heavy on my heart. If God’s word say something is not to be done, one should not do it. Adam and Eve were told in the book of Gen. does and don’ts and the WORD declares it through out. One can not continue to live against the Word of God and stand in the pulpit to preach and carry out the WORD. Love is not accepting the sinful but sharing the word with the sinful. I pray this agenda never has to be brought to a vote ever again. I pray hearts of stone will accept truth and for their sake change to follow truth.

  • What’s done is done, and that’s the painful truth of the special called General Conference 2019. A majority of delegates have spoken in favor of keeping LBGTQ Methodists “in their place”. And what’s undone by the majority goes far beyond maintaining what we had before. More restrictive language against our LBGTQ members has been added. What was the purpose of this overreach, but an attempt to silence our brothers and sisters once and for all. Something else was undone as well, with the apparent dismantling of the Methodist “trust clause” to allow for churches to leave our covenant with the property they occupy. The trust clause, long a part of our Book of Discipline, did not allow such in other times of testing or trial like the before and after Civil Rights era, so why allow it now. Hopefully, wiser heads and more graceful hearts reside within our Judicial Council and they will right this great ship called Methodist before it runs aground or sinks.

  • Did not catch what the amendment was that was attached to the Traditional Plan, as passed. Martha Dodd-Slippy, Emporia, Virginia

  • So although the Bible says we should not judge,that’s what we are doing. Hypocrisy? I think so. Love to all people? Accepting all? Why would people come into a United Methodist Church if they are going to be judged. How can we minister to them if they don’t feel welcome. So disappointed after being a Methodist for 73 years.

  • I watched the video messages from the Bishop and the delegates. All spoke of healing the hurt and reminding us we are disciples of Christ and our mission has not changed. That we must “agree to diagree” or see the other person’s side. That we all should return to our churches and continue the commission of Christ to Make disciples for Christ in the world. However, to reconfirm that the Methodist Church doesn’t accept the LGBTQ community only indicated that those that do accept all of God’s Children will have to make disciples for Christ elsewhere. We are not chained to the Methodist Church. God has not directed all of his people to be Methodists. Many of us will take our tithes, time and talent to churches where all of God’s children are welcomed. It was a sad day for the Methodist Church. Certainly NOT a day to celebrate !

  • I am glad to hear that the Traditional Plan stayed for the Methodist Church.I believe all should be welcome in the Methodist Church but I don’t believe LGBT Pastors can teach fair and unbiased to all segments of the Church members.

  • […] My heart broke for my brothers and sisters—gay and straight and anywhere in between—in anguish now because The United Methodist Church, through its delegates to a special called session of General Conference, voted by a narrow margin to uphold its stance that homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching.” (See article, here.) […]

  • GC2019 has the attitude that LGBTQ people travel through life like a school of fish. Not so, LGBTQ people are in our society, in our families, in my family. We are a good Christian family,a UMC family yet we are hurt beyond imagination. I have stood by and welcomed every person who has committed every crime yet the GC2019, 53% of them, has said my child is not welcomed, not worthy of salvation. She is s a child of God, God’s gift to myself and my husband. So here I stand with people who have told me my child is not welcomed. Do I go or stay?

    • That is NOT what the church said, and you know it. The church said God’s Word is the truth. Either believe it or not. That’s your choice, but don’t blame the church.

    • Douglas have you no love, no empathy, no perspective on the “scriptures“? Have you ever heard of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral? We’ll light a candle to St Jude for you brother!

  • God already told us who we are, and how we should marry. This is simply a group of people telling God He was wrong. As most can see, lots are being led to continue watering down the gospel. 52% stand with the teachings of the bible. If it was a nationwide UMC vote, it would be 90% in favor. Please pray for our Pastors and Leaders. And stop inventing God. He isn’t going to change…

  • Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors. Oops!

    • I have thought this for a long time. In fact I replied to an article not too long ago suggesting maybe we should change our “motto,” as we cannot be all with the exclusions we have had and now will continue even more so. I don’t believe there is any family who has never, is now, or will someday be, be touched by this so called “incompatibility.” I believe we have been taught that God will be the judge of all people … we certainly are not letting Him do his job are we, as we have taken over for Him judging his children. We have a terrible shortage of pastors, as do all, denominations. We would rather have to beg and borrow for our pastors, rather than let in those individuals who love the Lord, have studied His word, and who only want to preach it. We are already beginning to see the effect of this sad day in United Methodism history …. the day we shut down our hearts, closed our minds, and slammed the doors.

  • A 50.1% so-called majority does not mean that justice, truth, or God’s Kingdom was served by this decision. It means theologically, 1/3 of US delegates and African delegates are the majority now. Let’s pray, that like the Methodist Episcopal Church South and North who split over how another people of “Sacred Worth” would be treated; we might someday have the theological and spiritual emancipation of all of God’s children.

    • Amen!

    • Amen, Len. May we live long enough to truly have open doors, hearts and minds. Currently, that slogan has been proven to be not true.

  • Amen!

  • All means All

  • I have been married for 41 years to my best friend; I am female and my spouse is a male. That being said, we both agree that is because we are attracted to each other, share the same interest, and love each other. BUT–that does not mean to either of us that all attracted to the same type of people, or sex. To both of us, when Jesus preached/answered below, it affirms what we believe. We are truly questioning if we can remain a part of our Church family that love when so many feel that sexuality and marriage is something to be brought to the pulpit, instead of simply preaching the Gospel as Jesus taught us. See Matthew 22:23-46 below.

    Matthew 22:23-46 New International Version (NIV)
    23 That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. 24 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for him. 25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. 26 The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. 27 Finally, the woman died. 28 Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?”

    29 Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. 30 At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 31 But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’[a]? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”

    33 When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching.

    The Greatest Commandment
    34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

    37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[b] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[c] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

  • I must say this with all the love and compassion possible. Let’s get off the issue that we of the UMC have ostracized any group of people, regardless of who they are or what they stand for. The general conference simply decided to stand by the word of a Holy God. That’s all. No more. No less. We should all do the same, individually.

  • I think the proper position was taken. Homosexuals, pedophiles, transgenders, womanizers, cheaters, druggies, addicts, are all still welcome in the Methodist church. We are all , as they say, sinners!

    • “Homosexuals” Come on Clif, ever heard of intersex?
      “Intersex people are born with sex characteristics (including genitals, gonads and chromosome patterns) that do not fit typical binary notions of male or female bodies.
      Intersex is an umbrella term used to describe a wide range of natural bodily variations. In some cases, intersex traits are visible at birth while in others, they are not apparent until puberty. Some chromosomal intersex variations may not be physically apparent at all.
      According to experts, as many as 1.7% of the population is born with intersex traits – the upper estimate is similar to the number of red haired people.
      Being intersex relates to biological sex characteristics, and is distinct from a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. An intersex person may be straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual or asexual, and may identify as female, male, both or neither.
      Because their bodies are seen as different, intersex children and adults are often stigmatized and subjected to multiple human rights violations, including violations of their rights to health and physical integrity, to be free from torture and ill-treatment, and to equality and non- discrimination.”

      If you think there are only male and female, you need to learn about the real world. It’s so unfortunate that ~53% of the GC delegates are as MLK observed “conscientiously stupid or sincerely ignoran” or just in the “church business”.

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