In February 2019, at a Special Session of the General Conference, United Methodist delegates from around the world will decide how to move forward as a denomination around the issue of human sexuality. Below is an explanation of one of the plans, the “One-Church Plan” (recommended by Council of Bishops), that will be presented.
This plan would allow for contextualization in different parts of the world (adapting some non-essential practices to different mission fields to maximize our witness and success in each place). It is based on the belief that we can be a church with a large enough tent for people to disagree about homosexuality and yet remain together as The United Methodist Church. It allows us to affirm that our unity and mission are more important than our disagreements. Some key components of this plan:
It will neither affirm nor condemn LGBTQ persons. It would remove the controversial statement that the practice of homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching” that has been experienced as hurtful by gay persons and as alienating by younger generations.
It relies on pastoral discretion. Clergy would decide which weddings to officiate or not officiate. Clergy—through their normal Board of Ordained Ministry process—would discern who is fit and fruitful for clergy service in their annual conference. This plan would remove the current prohibitions without creating new obligations or affirmation. This plan should put an end to clergy trials that are damaging to individuals and to our public witness.
It respects local church wishes. As for weddings, no local church would be forced to vote. However, the church property would not be used in same-sex weddings unless the local church updates its local church policy to specifically allow it. And as for clergy assignment, bishops would take local wishes into account concerning who is or is not a good fit for their appointment. So, practically speaking, there would be gay weddings and gay ordination in some parts of the United Methodist world, but it would not be forced on local churches.
It protects clergy rights to individual conscience. The Book of Discipline would protect clergy who do not want to officiate same-sex weddings. Likewise, all would be allowed to follow their conscience in matter of ordination.
Pros of this plan:
· Allows for contextualization in different parts of the U.S. (this already exists in Africa, Asia, and Europe).
· More coherent theology for unity because it no longer assumes that human sexuality is the defining theological issue for The UMC.
· No more clergy trials.
Cons of this plan:
· Does not completely satisfy the progressives because it does not bar some kinds of discrimination against married homosexuals in some parts of the United Methodist Church.
· Does not completely satisfy the traditionalists because allowing same-sex marriage in any form violates their particular interpretation of scripture.
For more information, visit www.umc.org and search “a way forward”