This article is the third and last article in a series on the challenges facing the United Methodist Church as we approach General Conference (GC), which will meet from May 5-15, 2020 in Minneapolis.
In my first article I gave a brief history of the United Methodist Church’s difficult and divisive struggle over the issue of human sexuality. I explored how that struggle has impacted the denomination, and how failed attempts to reconcile differences over this issue have led the denomination to the place where it finds itself today, on the brink of separation.
In my last article, I detailed the “Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation.” In my view, the Protocol is the most significant separation plan that will be considered by General Conference 2020 delegates, and the one that has the best likelihood of being adopted. This plan has support from most of the various UM factions within the US, as well as support from United Methodist conferences outside the United States. In my view, it provides the best chance of an amicable separation of the United Methodist Church into two or more denominations; denominations that would allow for different expressions of vital Methodism in this country and throughout the global United Methodist connection.
In this final article series, I want to briefly describe several other separation plans that will possibly be considered by GC 2020 delegates.
First, the Indianapolis Plan (https://indyplanumc.org/). This plan, if adopted, would create 2-3 global Methodist denomination (traditionalist, centrist/progressive), with the United Methodist Church continuing through the centrist or centrist/progressive denomination. All denominations would develop their own structures, polity and governance, and their own rules governing LGBTQ matters.
US annual conferences and UM conference outside the US would choose by simple majority which denomination to join. Clergy and bishops would also choose the denomination they wish to affiliate with. Local churches, by simple majority, may choose a different denomination than their annual conference and retain property, assets and liabilities. Clergy pensions would be protected and provisions would be made for the continuation of the work of the UM general boards and agencies, including the United Methodist Committee on Relief.
The Indianapolis Plan would take effect in May, immediately after the conclusion of GC 2020, with a timeline established for churches, US and global UM conferences, clergy, and bishops to choose their denominational affiliation.
Next, there’s the UMFORWARD plan, titled “New Expressions Worldwide.” (https://um-forward.org/new-plan)This plan would dissolve the United Methodist Church and create four Methodist global denominations - traditionalist, moderate, progressive and liberationist. A transitional council would develop a plan of separation. All denominations would develop their own structures, polity and governance and their own rules governing LGBTQ matters. US annual conferences, central conferences outside the US, clergy and bishops could choose to join any new denomination. Local churches, by 2/3 majority, could choose to join a different denomination than their annual conference and retain property, assets and liabilities. No specific provision would be made for the protection of clergy pensions. The general church assets of the current United Methodist Church would be divided equitably between the denominations. United Methodist general boards agencies would become self-supporting, independent 501(c)3 organizations. The UMFORWARD plan would be effective at the close of General Conference 2020. And a special General Conference would be called within four years to approve a plan of separation.
Finally, there’s the “Next Generation UMC” – UMCNEXT -- plan (https://umcnext.com/legislation/). Under this plan the UMC would remain intact with options for new Methodist denominations that could continue in relationship with the UMC. Current rules regarding ordination of LGBTQ persons and allowing clergy to officiate at same-sex marriages would be removed from the UM Book of Discipline. General Conference would include grant funding for new denominations in relationship with The UMC in the 2021-2024 budget. The plan would create a U.S. regional conference and a U.S. Regional Committee of the General Conference. There would be the option for annual conferences, local churches, clergy and bishops to leave the United Methodist Church to affiliate with another denomination. Churches choosing to leave the UMC and join another denomination would retain their property, assets and liabilities. The provisions of the UMCNEXT plan would be instituted over a four-year period beginning in August, 2020.
One other proposal, the proposal to simply create a US regional conference within the United Methodist Church relates to strictly U.S. structure. It does not address LGBTQ related matters. If you want to know more about this plan go to: https://www.umc.org/en/content/connectional-tables-us-regional-conference-legislation-now-available.
Again, this is a critical time for the future of the United Methodist Church. Whether the “Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation” or another one of the plans that I have outlined, or any combination of them, is adopted by the delegates at GC 2020, or even if no action is taken by GC, change is coming to the United Methodist Church.
I would invite you to be in prayer for our denomination in the coming months as we seek to move forward following the leading of the Holy Spirit.
If you have questions or concerns about anything in this article, you can call or text me at 319-559-0678, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.