The Judicial Council has spoken YET AGAIN about the Traditionalist Plan. And the end result is the Traditional Plan turned a General Conference into the Fyre Festival.
Both Netflix and Hulu recently had documentaries about the Fyre Festival, a musical event that promised to be the experience of the century and ended up being a complete disaster.
Watching both documentaries this past month, it struck me how it was avoidable at so many steps along the way, but a fraudster at every turn kept the long con going until a lot of people were hurt (workers and laborers on the island it was to be on) or embarrassed (the hundreds of people who flew to a unprepared location). The only good that came from that festival was a renewed sense of skepticism of dazzling promotions, and a question of the value of “influencers” on social media who sold the festival in the first place.
A similar event is taking place in St. Louis now at The United Methodist Church’s General Conference 2019.
What went wrong?
The purpose of this General Conference was to find a way forward through the LGBTQ debate in the UMC. The Commission on A Way Forward provided two commission-created plans.
But in the last minute, the Council of Bishops, in order to go from a supermajority (2/3) to a 90% majority of support for some reason, forwarded a privately-created Traditional Plan as well.
While offering multiple paths was done seeking unity instead of majority, it ended up giving majority support to a plan that was not constitutional.
Majority Support for an Illegal Plan
The privately-created TP had myriad constitutional issues, according to the Judicial Council.
In Decision 1366 , the Judicial Council said the following about the Traditionalist Plan:
- Too Adversarial: “The Council of Bishops was not designed to function as an inquisitional court responsible for enforcing doctrinal purity among its members.“ So the JC struck down many provisions that made the Episcopacy more adversarial than constitutionally conceived.
- Too Fixated on The Gay instead of Overall Upholding of Discipline: “The General Conference…cannot reduce the scope of the board [of Ordained Ministry’s] examination to one aspect only and unfairly single out one particular group of candidates (self-avowed practicing homosexuals) for disqualification.” Many of the doctrinal assent requirements and due process violations were singling out LGBTQ issues, so they were overreaching the JC’s interpretation of fairness (as fair as it can be, I guess, when it comes to discrimination against LGBTQ persons).
- The Heart Is Heartless: The biggest question was how the JC would handle Petition #10, the “heart of the Traditionalist Plan,” that provides a way for churches and annual conferences to leave the denomination that they find too intolerant of LGBTQ persons. The decision is a lot to wade through, but essentially the only thing left in this section is that annual conferences can choose to leave the denomination, but individual clergy and churches cannot in the same way. Which reduces the likelihood of it working (see below).
All in all, of the 17 petitions that constitute the Traditionalist Plan, 8 were constitutional and 9 were not (7 were outright unconstitutional, and 2 had sections declared unconstitutional).
For comparison, there were only three sentences which were declared unconstitutional in the One Church Plan’s petitions, but those were irrelevant to the overall novelty of the “unity in diversity” approach of the OCP.
( Read our original coverage here )
We Alone Can Fix
To these legal concerns, there have been multiple rounds of “fixes.”
- First, Rev. Thomas Lambrecht published corrections and amendments to the The response to the legal challenges here.
- Second, one of the proposed ways to fix it is via substitute of another plan called the Modified Traditional Plan that would be an alternative path to parts of the Traditional Plan. But the ruling came back that a critical component is not constitutional . So that won’t work either.
- Finally, Maxie Dunham had a 30 page document of fixes and amendments. He did not follow the requests of the official processes and the document was not translated or distributed beyond caucus group efforts.
In short, a vast amount of money, resources, legal minds, and effort is being put into propping up a broken plan. And at every end, it keeps being kicked down.
Prophetic words by JJ Warren
As a brief interlude, Upper New York lay delegate JJ Warren had an impassioned speech on the floor, which you can view here.
We desire a church that seeks the justice of God. A Church that doesn’t waste its money on a conference and come out with no decision because it was unconstitutional.
The pain that would happen from this crucifixion of putting th entails in our Methodist Church, the pain of this death might be worth a resurrection, but I’d like to see first if that can happen together with being called unconstitutional with whatever we decide.
It turns out JJ was portentious.
Judicial Council – Penultimate Word
Finally, today, the Judicial Council AGAIN looked at the Traditional Plan in Decision 1377. 7 petitions are STILL unconstitutional out of 17, and two were already unconstitutional before we got here. Link forthcoming when it is available.
While the UMC will spend the afternoon likely trying to perfect them, the end result will be that GC will pass an illegal plan, or at least a plan with its most restrictive components cut out of it. In other words, a failure to do anything novel to correct the path of The UMC to this point.
The Fyre Festival was a long con. We see now that the United Methodist Church spent $3million to pass Exit Petitions (or to pass nothing of substance). The result is that the UMC will lose influence in the world and regard for being a “Do Nothing General Conference.”
And it was all because of a long con and insistence that the Traditional Plan would deliver. It never could. And we see it was never meant to.
What will we tell our congregations when we get home that all we did was protect clergy pensions and church property of exiting congregations?
What will we tell our congregations when we get home that we wasted $3million dollars on legislation that got voted unconstitutional?
What will we tell LGBTQ people, who were beaten up all week, that they were useful tools to pass money and property legislation?
We’ve been conned. We are trapped on an island that cannot sustain us and that we are depleting its resources and grace.
And we’ve been left holding the bag.
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The Cross and Flame is the registered trademark of The UMC, handled by GCFA. On this post, it is not used with permission but under fair use for the purposes of parody.
Jesus had no exclusion in his love….why is the UMC harboring exclusion?
Do you think the traditionalists have the votes to change the constitution? Wondering if anyone has run the numbers.
Not yet. But soon. See the section “Majority in no need of minority” here: https://www.hackingchristianity.net/2016/03/from-a-majority-to-a-hegemony-in-the-umc.html
JJ is from my conference, and he is truly a gifted man. Go JJ!
Do you think that Ja Rule showing up to perform could improve this situation? Or that perhaps the delegates are eating sad cheese sandwiches and salads with no dressing while sleeping in half built tents? I am trying to laugh because I’m afraid I will start crying at work, and I have other things I am trying to do today.
I’m more thinking Kesha should show up and play her song “Praying” or Wrabel with “Village.” But Ja Rule never hurts either!
My heart goes out to you and other clergy who have worked in good faith to nurture the UMC into inclusion and continued relevance, while putting your livelihood in its hands. I’m so terribly sorry the UMC has been hijacked by the Biblican version of ALEC, who follow Machiavelli more than Christ.
Yes. ALEC is the perfect analogy, and, with WCA and IRD, probably much of the same funding source.
Almost as if someone sat down long ago and devised a way of “making the environment of the church so hostile to the minority party that they choose to leave or agree to amicable separation”.
And then spent years chipping away a path to make that happen.
Prophetic words, indeed.
Perhaps the only thing more telling to me in all of this is that the GC has to wrap up and get out of the facility by this evening so they can switch the setup over for a monster truck event scheduled for Saturday. Not that I think any more time/debate was going to be fruitful anyway.
What will be “the FYRE next time”?
I am filled with sadness over this. The cynic in me believes this is just part of the WCA’s plan to break our church.
It is not the traditionalist who are breaking the UMC, it is the liberals. Why would you join a church when you obviously do not believe in the discipline? We feel like we have been high jacked by evil worldly ideas. This is how the great deceiver works, or have people stopped believing that Satan and evil are in the world? Everyone is loved and accepted, but no one can rewrite the Bible. The word became flesh, not the flesh became the word. A person can believe all the lies they wish, but doesn’t change the truth, God has “not evolved” to meet the modern world. Some think they are smarter than God and want to pick and choose what they believe and what makes them feel better about their sins. We are all sinners and need forgiveness, but Jesus said, “Go and sin no more.”
I agree entirely with your commentary Tracy Adams. Our regional conference, the NTC is on the side of the OCP vote. From my pastor to the superintendant up to the bishop. All were crying, saddened and heartbroken that the OCP did not pass. So that tells me where their hearts and minds lie. How can I attend this church knowing that my leaders condone sin. So for that reason, I told them, I am out. I’ll find another church. Not only are all the liberal crybabies leaving the church, those leaders that voted to go against Gods word are losing their traditional believers. No Im not a bigot or racist or any of the other cheap names the liberals want to throw at us. I accept sinners into the congregation with open arms. But to flaunt and promote sin in church is just plain wrong.
Brilliant point about protecting the pensions and property. I made the point at a prayer gathering that this is really all about money…all about the stuff, not the congregants and their souls…certainly not about their children.
A majority of the delegates really showed where their priorities lay these past few days. God have mercy on the UMC.
Now that the Traditional Plan’s approval is obvious, we should thank God that a majority of the GC approved the proposal allowing progressive congregations to withdraw from the UMC with their property and a reasonable chance to succeed in the new direction they choose to take.
Your schadenfreude is showing.
You think you know me but you don’t have a clue.
I really don’t give a rip who “wins” this GC, but I know with certainty that members of this denomination are irrevocably split. It matters not who “is at fault”; it only matters that those who cannot abide by the decision of GC have a means of continuing their spirituality in peace. Justice belongs to the Lord, and it is time for us humans to leave that job with the Lord and for us to leave the past in the past. Thank God GC enabled that opportunity!
Actually, I don’t really think about you at all.
You keep responding, so your actions disprove your statement. I do think about you and wish a happier life for you. Amen
Dave is right! Nothing is wrong with leaving a dying denomination structure to step out in the Spirit.
I left the UMC and couldn’t be happier.
Congratulations on escaping the misery of victimization. It does take strength but I pray that your witness helps the many here who struggle to make that escape.
This GC feels to me like an event that will end something like this- the 575 cubic inch, 2,000 horsepower, supercharged engine won’t turn over in the monster truck called Gravedigger. It won’t run. It can’t run the course, jumping over and crushing a lineup of cars and trucks. It can’t circle the arena to the delight of people young and old who love the smell of partially combusted methanol. It can’t reign as the ultimate winner in the monster truck kingdom. Maybe next time. Maybe when the monster trucks come around again in 2020 they can get it to fire up. Won’t that be a sight? But not today. Not this years edition. It sure hurts to think that my church has become the punchline, an opening act for Monster Jam St. Louis 2019.
All of a sudden I feel I can’t stay.
Ours has been a “reconciling congregation,” but should we continue to support leadership that doesn’t care for all of us? This decision is the opposite of godly leadership. It’s hateful. I can’t follow.
Ours too. It’s got great people of all orientations, and it’s done huge amounts of good in the local community. And there are good things about the global UMC too — such as UMCOR, which is best-in-class international development & humanitarian aid relief.
But despite a deep family legacy connection, throughout my whole life I’ve been neither able (nor encouraged) to in good conscience (a) join the UMC, or (b) donate money that I can’t easily dis-aggregate from apportionments. My morals just won’t allow me to support groups that codify hate, even if they do good things too.
I don’t know what to do now. There’s an opportunity for great things on the horizon, but I’m becoming an old man, and growing so tired of waiting.
It’s been a good run, 50 years for the UMC!
Certainly time to correct that absolute lie “open hearts, open minds, open doors” needs to be retired, we’ve been false advertising with that for years.
The umc has been beating a dead horse with this for 30 years. I left in 1987 when I came out/ realized I was gay, as the sentiment was quite clear then. I came back 6 years ago (reconciling congregation) and really am sad at all the years I missed being in a church doing really great work.
I just pray the two sides split and shake hands and move on quickly. There really is a bit of Stockholm syndrome going on with lgbts who stay. I hope they create something quickly. The traditionalists should get to have their church, and the progressives theirs.
For the progressives still hammering away at an issue that will only get more divisive – umc numbers are growing in areas of the world where they still burn witches – they should be focused on creating a church that truly is welcoming, as all the millennials I work with, they don’t or won’t look past discrimination, meaning they won’t even consider joining such a place that has discrimination encoded in it. Those millennials our our future, and if they won’t even enter the door it’s a problem.
Thank you Eric,
You hit it right on the head with your “Stockholm Syndrome” analogy. There are many here who need to look themselves in the mirror and realize the delusion they are living. Yes it is tough but do-able and necessary for a sane and productive life. Might as well do it now, the UMC is DOA anyway.
Like you, I left my UMC and also miss the ceremony of church, but I still help in the community with others who have chosen to stay in the UMC. Thus I stay connected with friends and the mission while avoiding feeling guilty for refusing to feed the donation plate when it is passed. It’s a good way to go.
I will tell everyone this: 55%
That this THE lesson of General Conference.
Everything else is smoke and mirrors.
It is “what we know now.”
What we learned is that Conservatives and Africa have a SOLID and unbreakable 55% majority that can, and will, control every vote at the 2020 General Conference.
Any other argument against this unmistakable, and umovable fact is believing in a fairy tale and a fiction.
Church people do not do politics well. WCA does politics EXCEEDINGLY well.
Therefore, a legislative fix, is a fix based on a fantasy.
It. Will. Not. Happen.
Change will come, but any theory that promises legislative change, via the General Conference is sheer fantasy.
We must breathe, heal, and support any who are wounded and hurt.
But 55% assures us the next steps won’t be at General Conference.
Thanks Eric F. That clarity of your post about the 55% screams volumes. My hope is those churches that lean toward progressive band together quickly and make a new thing – but having been around church again these last six years, I understand “quickly” in church is shockingly slow and tedious even when creating new happy things. Serious, this thing has drug on for decades. If the progressive church wants to survive they need to make something this year. Hahahahaha that’s a funny one, we will still be picking apart the resolutions of the traditional plan three years from now. That realization makes me sick.
And decades are exactly what the umc doesn’t have in the USA. Both left and right point to outlier churches, but Methodists have sucked at converting people – we made babies after the war and again in the 60s, since then we’ve been in a slide.
The younger generations are surprisingly aware and won’t “do” discrimination. I work in tech and all those smart young people won’t put up with codified racism or sexism. It actually is the reason the “one church plan” would be not have been ideal as well, as to have to explain that some umc church’s allowed one thing and another umc church didn’t – they wouldn’t buy off on that. It is rather refreshing to see it in action and I am constantly shocked each year when so many of my straight coworkers go march in the gay parade with their families with the company group.
I enjoy the music, I resonate with the three graces of Wesley, but just about every other denomination has settled this and split in one way or another. I already had an issue with how apportionments are figured, as of now I have a serious problem contributing to them at all any more.
Our church is in the middle of planning something big and new for the future. Suddenly that feels like chewing sand….
I left the UMC because my pastor, the superintendant of our regional conference and the bishop of our conference are all going against the word of God in the bible. The King James Version, not some made up gay bible where every instance of homosexuality is condemned as sin. Yes, we are all sinners, but most of us try earnestly to go and sin no more. To accept it and preach it from a pulpit is just wrong. God doesn’t change for the world, the world must change for God. So because I hold traditional values, based on scripture, and my pastor and the chain of command in our conference all are crying tears of saddened hearts that the OCP did NOT pass, I can’t be part of it. So bye then.