The 2019 General Conference is over. Mercifully. To say yesterday was a tough day would be the understatement of the decade. I confess my mind and heart are still reeling from the events, debates and decisions of the day. Let me first give a quick recap of what was decided, then talk about a way to face into it.
- The Conference adopted a pair of petitions to ensure the financial viability of pensions for retired clergy, which include fair-share payments from any congregations who may leave the UMC.
- After impassioned debate and prayers, the minority report on the One Church Plan was defeated by a vote of 449-374.
- After hours of openly-admitted stalling tactics, a partially amended Traditional Plan was approved by a vote of 438-384.
- A motion to refer the Traditional Plan to the Judicial Council to determine its constitutionality was passed by a vote of 405-395.
- A “Disaffiliation” plan was approved that offers a process for how congregations can gracefully leave the denomination with their property, if they desire to leave “for reasons of conscience.”
As always, the Judicial Council, the United Methodist Church’s version of the Supreme Court, will address any action taken by the General Conference to be sure it aligns with our constitution. Any legislation declared unconstitutional will not be included in the Book of Discipline, our denomination’s policy book. The Judicial Council’s next scheduled meeting is April 23-25 in Evanston, Illinois. All constitutionally aligned legislation will take effect January 1, 2020, with one exception. The Disaffiliation plan is scheduled to take effect today, February 27, 2019. However, its constitutionality will have to be vetted at the Judicial Council’s meeting in April.
In light of all that’s happened the last four days, many are wondering, “Where do we go from here?”
Let me suggest we push the pause button, take a breath, and take stock of where we are. It’s been a highly charged, intensely emotional and deeply divisive past few days. For those of us who love the United Methodist Church, the world has changed.
Quite naturally, that makes us sad. Rather than launching into next steps, we need some time to metabolize. After Job lost his family, his wealth and his health all in one day, his friends came to comfort him. They sat with him on the ground for 7 days, “and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great” (Job 2:13 NRSV). This is the Biblical way to meet people in their grief.
Perhaps the most healing thing we could do is humble ourselves enough to sit with our LGBTQ+ sisters and brothers and their allies and feel the hurt they feel, to sit with our traditionalist sisters and brothers and feel the sting of hurtful words spoken to and about them, and to sit with some of the millions of long-time United Methodist Christians around the world to feel their confusion and angst over what the future holds. This doesn’t change what happened. It restores our souls, so we can face the world as it is now.
In a future post, I’ll muse about what may come next. Today it’s enough to sit on the ground and be silent for a while.
Once again thank you for this information. Time to be silent and in prayers for all members.
I agree it is a time to take a deep breath and reflect on the impact on all of UMC family. It does restore our souls by comforting the hurt. We came to Christ in a UMC. My wife met the bishop of the Haitian Methodist church which started our amazing walk with Christ in Haiti and developed into a 501c3 ministry! Our heart breaks to see the division but we also know that Christ is bigger than the decisiveness in the church.
Communication is key and dialogue within the church is key. Our prayers and thoughts are with the lgbtq and the traditionalists within UMC. We all are brothers and sisters in Christ that are trying to follow.
Thankyou Roger. I have very strong liberal views, but your words make sense.
As a longtime United Methodist, thank you for putting into words what I’ve been feeling – confusion and angst. I was hoping that this Conference would provide a way forward , that those who disagreed with the decision would have a gracious exit, and the infighting would be resolved to allow the church to return to its mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ. My fear is that GC 2020 will be more of the same and the church will continue to decline.
Indeed my brother! I have come to hear God say, in my Spirit, that the faith community may need time to do a self assessment of their own cultural humility as they wait for the Spirit to guide them into the future.
In grief, sadness, confusion, and exhaustion, the best thing we often can do is step back, sit with our emotions, and just wait for a season before we say, “This is what this means.” Well said, my friend.
Roger thank you for this. As you said it’s time sit still in silence. I think that aptly describes how I have felt. Like sitting in a boat in the water all alone not seeing any shore or anyone. Just quiet. I don’t know the answer, only that I feel the pain of all from both sides from watching it live-streamed. But I am confident that God is still in control and we need to be still and listen.
Comforting and reassuring advice, Roger. I will prayerfully wait before making decisions.
Very well written. Hope the UMC can recover from this.