Tuesday, February 26, 2019

And Now...

It's hard to know what to say tonight. These have been long, emotional days and we are all exhausted.  Today, the Traditional Plan passed. A number of petitions were previously ruled unconstitutional, and only one of these was amended before the plan was passed. Perhaps the amended petition will again be ruled unconstitutional. Perhaps not. The entire plan will be reviewed by the Judicial Council before it is formally implemented. I believe the petitions will be taken into consideration one-by-one. My understanding is that the date for implementation is January, 2020 - but I know the dust will have to settle a bit before we are sure about what we know.

If you'd like a play-by-play of this Plenary day, you can visit my Twitter feed: https://twitter.com/minimar7.

What is the Traditional Plan? First, you can find read the plan for yourself here, pages 182 to 195. Note that the following petitions were ruled unconstitutional by the Judicial Council: 90033, 90034, 90035, 90037, 90038, 90039, 90040, 90045 (2nd added sentence). One of these - 90037 - was amended today in an attempt to bring it into compliance.

Tonight, I'll simply say that the plan is designed to: 1) provide for churches and conferences that don't agree with it to leave the UMC; 2) make the restrictions regarding homosexuals tighter, and 3) to make punishments for those who violate the Discipline clearer and stricter. For example:
  • The bulk of the plan is found in a new paragraph (5 full pages in the ADCA) to be added to the Discipline. This paragraph is entitled, "Implementing Gracious Accountability" and begins, "Because of the current deep conflict over the United Methodist Church's position on marriage and sexuality, a local church or annual conference may indicate its desire to form or join a self-governing church...." The rationale for this paragraph states that this is "The heart of the Traditional Plan." The heart of the Traditional Plan begins and is laced with language about how churches can leave the UMC. 
  • What is a self-avowed, practicing homosexual? Previously, the Judicial Council ruled that this was anyone who "openly acknowledged to a bishop, district superintendent, district committee of ordained ministry, board of ordained ministry, or clergy session that the person is a practicing homosexual." Now, this definition will include "or is living in a same-sex marriage, domestic partnership or civil union, or is a person who publicly states that she or he is a practicing homosexual." Unintended consequences of this could include false charges being brought upon clergy or those seeking ordination by others who report that they "said they are a homosexual," even if this is not the case. Unfortunately, it is not unknown for this to occur, even within the church. 
  • Members who are nominated for the Board of Ordained Ministry will be required to "certify that they will uphold the Book of Discipline." This might sound like a no-brainer; certainly, those who serve on the Board of Ordained Ministry should uphold the Discipline. (Boards of Ordained Ministry are comprised of clergy and laity who determine if individuals are fit and ready for ordained ministry in the United Methodist Church.) The problem for this pastor is that this puts my integrity in question. I vowed to uphold the Discipline at my ordination. I serve as an Elder in Full Connection, which means that I am in covenantal relationship with my clergy sisters and brothers. It is no small thing to me that the UMC will ask me to sign something that says (again) that I will uphold the vows of my ordination. If you are married, imagine if your spouse required you to re-commit to your marriage vows, not because you wanted to, but because you had to in order to continue to fill part of your role as spouse. It is true that some Boards of Ordained ministry are not keeping this covenant. However, it is a breach of covenant to require all clergy who serve in this role to perform what feels very much like punitive action. It is a breach of trust - a sign that no clergy member's ordination vow is trusted by the connection.
  • One provision that has been deemed unconstitutional (petition #90038) states that Boards of Ordained Ministry must "conduct an examination to ascertain whether an individual is a practicing homosexual, including information on social media, as defined by the Discipline. The Board shall certify that such an examination has occurred and its results." Again, this will not make it into the plan, but it indicates the spirit of this plan. With no specifics offered, I can only imagine what sort of test Boards are supposed to come up with to determine for sure whether or not a person is a homosexual, especially if taking their word for it is no longer enough. Our BOM will interview 28 people this spring who are in process for ordination. In addition to reading their theological paperwork, reflection papers, sermons, reports from SPRC, mentors and district superintendents, this rule would require us to scour their social media pages and other sources to see if we can determine and prove their sexual orientation and practices.
Enough. Our Bishop has asked all clergy and laity of the Central Texas Conference to allow at least 30 days to just keep on being the church in mission and not make any knee-jerk reactions to this plan. Certainly, we do not know what will happen when this plan goes back to Judicial Council. The Council will also look again at the Taylor petition for disaffiliation (see previous post - the Boyette petition was not voted upon), which was amended today to bring it in line with our constitution. The petition passed in plenary, but whether or not it is deemed constitutional remains to be seen. So, there is still more information to come.

And there are untold numbers of "unintended consequences" to what happened today. For example, there are 117 academic institutions, the oldest of which was founded by Methodists in 1830, that are questioning whether they can continue to be associated with the Methodist Church because of non-discrimination values they have to uphold to receive accreditation. Other relationships with non-Methodist institutions are also threatened, and these consequences will affect more than just the current United Methodist congregations and conferences.

It's too much to sort out tonight. 30 days is a start. Of course, we keep breathing. Of course, we keep praying. Of course, we continue to be the church in our mission field. And we wait to see what today's decisions will bring.

Tonight, I am tired. Tonight, I do not have a very encouraging word. It did not have to be this way. Conferences should be assisting local churches in mission, not responding to allegations of homosexuality. Clergy should be serving and leading and mentoring, not proving their fidelity to the connection and spying on one another to see if we can catch this one transgression while not keeping a watchful eye out for, or reporting, any number of biblical, but not-targeted-by-the-Discipline sins. 

For too many, this Conference was never intended to be about unity; it was designed to draw a line and "graciously" invite churches and people to leave. This is not who we are as a church, and I am sad.

I know we will move forward. I know this is not the end of the mission. I know there is much we can and will do to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with a world in need. I just can't quite see the future shape of the UMC - not just yet. I pray that we will find it - create it, even - together with our God, who sees things so much more clearly than we do.

And I know one more thing. The church I am honored to serve, the church whose members and mission are so dear to me, we will continue to welcome all. We will continue to invite people into a relationship with the living Lord, whose love is shared in the work of our hands and feet. We will continue to worship together, teach together, learn together and serve together. We will do this without requiring people to prove their sexual orientation is deemed acceptable. 

The explanatory notes in the Commission on a Way Forward Report regarding the Traditional Plan (ADCA, p. 154) state that:
The Traditional Model provides freedom for progressive pastors, churches, and conferences to evangelize persons who they believe would best be reached by a form of Methodism that is fully inclusive of all sexual orientations and gender identities. At the same time, it provides assurances that traditional United Methodists can continue to make disciples among people who value traditional teaching on marriage and sexual behavior.
While these words appear to make a distinction between churches that desire to invite all people into a relationship with Jesus Christ and churches that follow traditional United Methodist doctrine, I refute this either/or contrast. I am proud to be Wesleyan, and I am honored to serve one church among many in our connection that provides a much-needed, faithful, and faith-filled Wesleyan witness of grace in this world, even while evangelizing to all. I have good reason to believe Arlington Heights UMC is by no means the only church that will continue to do both. And tonight, even in my sadness, I rejoice in this truth.

God Bless,

Rev. Mary

What's in the Disaffiliation Plans?

[Edit: It was announced this morning that both of these plans have currently been ruled unconstitutional by the Judicial Council.]

Disaffiliate (verb): to end an official connection

There are two disaffiliation plans on the table today: 1) Taylor and 2) Boyette. These are basically plans for churches that want to leave the UMC.

What is in these plans? As submitted, the plans included (quick summary):

Taylor Plan: Rationale - Creates a consistent process for local churches who desire to disaffiliate from the UMC over disagreements related to human sexuality to receive their property while reducing the impact on the annual conference by paying their portion of conference pension liabilities, and other financial considerations.

  • Local church shall have limited right to disaffiliate from the denomination for reasons of conscience regarding a change in the Discipline
  • Local church needs to make a decision by the end of 2023.
  • Church council shall submit a request to the District Superintendent
  • DS will appoint a task force to recommend whether the church will have a viable future within or outside the UMC
  • DS shall call a church conference if church is found to have viable future
  • DS shall recommend closure, if church is not found to have a viable future; if closed, all property of the local church shall remain with The United Methodist Church
  • The church conference shall be held within 120 days from the DS requesting it
  • Decision to disaffiliate must be approved by 2/3 majority vote of the professing members of the local church present at the church conference
  • If church decides to disaffiliate, the terms and conditions for that disaffiliation shall be established by the resident bishop of the annual conference, with the advice of the cabinet, the annual conference treasurer, the annual conference benefits administrator, the director of connectional ministries, and the annual conference chancellor
  • Agreement for disaffiliation will be made between annual conference and the trustees of the local church, acting on behalf of the members
  • General Conference of Finance and Administration shall develop a standard form for disaffiliation agreements to protect the United Methodist Church
  • Apportionments: local church shall pay any unpaid apportionments for the 12 months prior to disaffiliation, as well as an additional 12 months of apportionments
  • Grants (this part was removed by legislative committee yesterday and will be voted upon by plenary today) - All grants received by the local church form the annual conference or its ancillary organizations within 5 years from the date of disaffiliation shall be repaid
  • Property: church has right to retain its property. All costs for transfer of title or other legal work shall be borne by the church
  • Pension: church shall contribute withdrawal liability in an amount equal to its pro rate share of any aggregate unfunded pension obligations to the annual conference
  • Other: church shall assume all other debts, loans, and liabilities
  • Payment: term of payment shall be specified in agreement between annual conference and local church and shall not exceed 10 years
  • Disaffiliating church shall continue to share common religious bonds and convictions with the UMC based on shared Wesleyan theology and tradition and Methodist roots (unless church expressly resolves to the contrary). As such, church shall remain eligible to participate in voluntary employee benefit plans through the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits
  • Once all obligations are fulfilled by local church, the UMC shall release any claims that it may have under the Discipline related to the Trust Clause (P2501)

Boyette Plan: Rationale - Churches should not be constrained to remain part of the UMC. A path must be created to disaffiliate without the loss of property and in a ministry-affirming way.

  • Local church may surrender its charter based upon the church's declaration that it is in irreconcilable conflict for reasons of conscience with the doctrine or moral teachings and requirements of the Discipline, or with the way in which such requirements are being enforced
  • Minimum of 30 days of study and discernment required
  • 55% of church's professing members present and voting at a duly called church conference or 2/3 of members present and voting at a duly called charge conference
  • Local church shall retain full rights to its property and funds
  • Debts assumed by local church
  • Church pays annual conference their proportionate share of the net unfunded pension liability
  • Bishop, DS, annual conference board of trustees, and the appropriate individuals of the UMC shall facilitate the orderly and timely administration of this process, including holding such church or charge conference within 120 days of the date on which the local church's pastor or church council requests such action
  • Deed - not subject to Trust Clause in favor the the UMC or the annual conference - shall be provided to church or its successor -

Monday, February 25, 2019

Still Breathing

[Note: for a blow-by-blow of this legislation day - and plenary tomorrow - you can visit my Twitter feed: https://twitter.com/minimar7]

It's sad to feel like there have to be "winners" and "losers" in the United Methodist Church. It's sad that some feel that their denomination is being taken from them. Some feel this way because the church will not be inclusive enough: the church will not allow LGBTQ individuals to be ordained; the church will not allow same-sex marriage. Some feel this way because the church will not be restrictive enough: the church will not refuse to allow LGBTQ individuals to be members, Boards of Ordained Ministry are not required to determined if people are self-avowed, practicing homosexuals.

Long security lines at the Convention Center with amazingly cheerful security personnel.

Since 1972, the United Methodist Church has allowed the topic of homosexuality to pull our focus away from the mission of our movement. Prior to that, perhaps the Methodist Church was too caught up in keeping blacks and whites segregated. When the Evangelical United Brethren and the Methodist Church united in 1968, the EUB church required the dissolution of the Central Conference, which was the Methodist church's way of keeping blacks separate from whites. Once that matter was settled, homosexuality took the forefront as something we wanted to legislate against.

Presence over protest is how most LGBTQ members have been presenting
their hope that the UMC will change its position.

Knowing that the church could not continue to fight about this issue, in 2016, our Council of Bishops sought a way for the church to remain united but allow differing theological understandings (not just on one issue) and different expressions to co-exist within the UMC. This, of course, has been the reality in our churches for a long time. In one city, there is a charismatic church where members raise their hands in the air when they sing and pray and regularly conclude services with an altar call. The church across the freeway has traditional "high church" services, where hands never come above the waist. In one Sunday school class, a man objects to studying Adam Hamilton's Confronting the Controversies. "I don't come to church to have my faith challenged," he says. "I come to hear what the Bible says." In the class next door, a lay member, fresh off of Laity Week at the nearby seminary, is sharing Marcus Borg's Reading the Bible Again for the First Time. "You don't have to agree with Borg," he says. "But isn't it interesting to think about your own faith and how it fits or doesn't fit with what Borg is saying?" One member of the UMW has attended Bible Study Fellowship for years. Another is enjoying her fourth year of Disciple Bible Study. These members interpret scripture differently from one another while working together to further the mission of the UMC.

We've been a "big tent" church for a long time. But there are core tenets that bind us together and make us Methodist: an open Communion table, infant baptism, prevenient grace, emphasis on social justice, the movement of the Holy Spirit today, a belief that everyone is a beloved child of God, itinerancy, ordination of women, the Quadrilateral, an outward focus on the mission field...the list goes on. Even with differing understandings and different expressions, even in vastly different mission fields, together, we are United Methodist.

This truth is certainly under threat tonight. The Bishops have urged us to agree on a way that we can continue to exist with diversity while not hindering our mission due to rules and punishments. We have failed to do this. It's not clear what we will, in fact, succeed in doing.

Bishop Lowry joined us "off the floor" of General Conference for part of the morning.
Tomorrow, we head into plenary having not "perfected" the Traditional Plan, which means that it goes forward (vote was 461/359 or 56% to 44%) with a number of petitions that the Judicial Council has already deemed unconstitutional. The "Modified" Traditional Plan was not discussed at all by the legislative committee, since two of the petitions were previously referred to the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters, which reviews legislation related to Central Conferences, which are outside of the U.S. This committee met late last night to look at this plan, which will surely re-surface tomorrow. (It wasn't discussed today at all by the legislative committee.)

And the One Church Plan, which did not receive the simple majority needed to "pass" out of the legislative committee (386/436 or 47% to 53%), will also make an appearance tomorrow. It will be resurrected by those who signed a "minority report" to have it considered in Plenary (requires 20 signatures to be properly on file by a particular deadline).

Some of my favorite people! Mark Holland, Susan & Tim Bruster, and Sid Hall.

Tomorrow will be somewhat different, although it will look very similar to today. The presiding Chair will be a Bishop (who does not vote), and the rules will be slightly different. The work of the plenary is to work through the petitions that passed out of the legislative committee (and Committee on Central Conference Matters), as well as any petitions that are given new life through a minority report. This means that we will re-visit Wespath petitions covered yesterday, two petitions related to "disaffiliation" that were passed today, and two or three plans for moving forward. 

And it feels, yes, it feels very much, like there will be winners and there will be losers, both in the church and in the mission field.

Some possible outcomes include:
  • Some form of the Traditional Plan passes, and it is strong enough to pass Judicial Council scrutiny. Restrictions are tightened, punishments are meted out, and churches and conferences who do not want to be subject to this will begin to make their plans to leave the UMC. Some individuals, also, who do not want to be in a denomination that says LGBTQ people are "less than" others, will choose to leave. 
  • Some form of the Traditional Plan passes, but it is a watered-down version of this plan that doesn't do enough to enforce the rules, as the original plan required. While it is able to pass muster with the Judicial Council, the plan isn't strong enough to satisfy those who wanted the original version of the plan. Some traditionalist individuals, churches and conferences choose to separate from the UMC. Others, who supported the One Church Plan, also choose to leave, as the Discipline will retain exclusive language.
  • Some form of the Traditional Plan passes, but tomorrow, or later, it is ruled unconstitutional by the Judicial Council. We effectively find ourselves with no plan. Traditional Plan backers leave.
  • Nothing passes. The Traditional Plan gets "watered down" so much that it is not acceptable to those who originally wanted it, and those who didn't want it continue to vote against it. There aren't enough votes to support the One Church Plan, so nothing passes.
  • The Traditional Plan becomes so watered down in plenary that some who favored the plan feel that their separation from the church is inevitable and shift their votes to the One Church Plan, effectively handing the church over to those who support the inclusive plan.
Or....I know that almost anything can happen on the floor of General Conference. So, we'll see tomorrow what, if anything, gives our denomination a Way Forward.

In the meantime, there are many people who are hurting this evening. Members of the Commission on a Way Forward gave days of their lives over 18 months to meet together to come up with plans to hold the church together. The plans they worked on did not even make it out of legislative committee, and there is some real grief evident among members of this Commission. Certainly, LGBTQ laity and clergy, and those who love them, are grieving that the UMC does not accept them on equal terms. Many Methodists believe without any doubt that young adults and future generations will see the UMC as a place of judgment, not grace. "This is not the church of grace and love that I grew up in" is a common conversational theme. 

Prayers continue, and I hope you are adding yours. Tomorrow is our last day, and we have much to decide.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Big, Long Day; Big, Long Post

Our morning began at 7:30 with worship. This was 30 minutes earlier than originally planned, which makes sense, since we don't have a lot of time to convene. Funny thing, though...after worship, we took a 40 minute break. It sort of felt like we were reluctant to start the legislative process.

After our break, we heard a presentation from members of the Commission on A Way Forward, including endorsements from members who support each of the plans presented in the report (One Church Plan, Connectional Conference Plan,  Traditional Plan). Other plans submitted through petitions after the COWF Report was published were not included in this presentation.

The presentation was long, and at General Conference, everyone speaks very slowly, to give interpreters time to translate. You could sense the anxiety in the room escalating, as people knew we were finally getting close to finding out how General Conference would choose to move forward on the petitions.

But the presentation was important. In 2016, General Conference gave the Bishops authority to help the UMC find a way forward.   The Council of Bishops then  appointed a 32-member committee and charged them to "design a way for being church that maximizes the presence of a United Methodist witness in as many places in the world as possible, and that balances an approach to different theological understandings of human sexuality with a desire for as much unity as possible."

The Commission developed a number of "sketches," and submitted them to the Bishops for review. The Bishops asked the Commission to continue to work on only two of the sketches, which are known as the One Church Plan and the Connectional Conference Plan. When the Commission was near the end of their work, with just one meeting left, the Bishops asked them to also provide a third plan, known as the Traditionalist Plan. The Commission submitted their final report, but shared concern that this plan was not as well developed as the other two, given the time they had to work on it. The Traditional Plan was included in the appendix.

Before General Conference convened, additional petitions were submitted by people throughout the United Methodist Connection. The Judicial Council reviewed all of the petitions to see if they were in harmony with the purpose of this called session, and also to see if they were constitutional. A number of petitions, including many that were part of the Traditional Plan, were ruled unconstitutional.

Following the COWF Report, Bishop Hope Morgan Ward from North Carolina led the delegates through a process of deciding the order in which petitions would be considered by the legislative committee. (After a delay, as technological issues related to the voting machines were resolved. We are not, as a body, very good with technology.)
Photo by Paul Jeffrey for United Methodistst News Service.
Each of the petitions (some were grouped together) were voted on, separately, with a "yes" or "no" vote. "Yes" meant that you thought the body should make this petition a priority, "no" meant that we should not. The votes were tallied, and the petitions were listed in order of votes received:

The petitions receiving the highest number of votes were submitted by Wespath, the pension arm of the UMC. Immediately, some snarky comments surfaced on Twitter stating that the UMC cares more about pension than about anything else. Given the context of our meeting, these claims are out of line. In presentations made to jurisdictional conference delegates throughout the country, Wespath urged delegates to vote for these petitions, so a practical plan is in place regardless of what plan passes (or doesn't pass). Since one thing all plan supporters can agree on is the desire to follow the wisdom of Wespath, a trusted institution, regarding the future of our pension, it is no surprise that these petitions ranked highest.

The Traditional Plan ranked the next highest, so this is the plan that the legislative committee will work on, first. This plan keeps the current language in the Discipline related to homosexuality, and tightens restrictions to ensure that the rules are followed by clergy and conferences.

The One Church Plan had a strong number of votes, which means that tomorrow could be a very interesting day. Since much of the Traditional Plan has already been ruled unconstitutional, we will work together on the floor of Conference to refine it. There may or may not be time to refine the One Church Plan. Monday is the only day scheduled for the legislative committee to do its work. Tuesday, we'll reconvene as the plenary session of GC to vote on which plan we will follow. Or, possibly, we won't agree on any plan.

After these results were shared, the Conference elected a Chair, Vice-Chair and Secretary of the one legislative committee (the entire body of GC) that will work on Monday to refine these petitions. The committee began its work today, and agreed to move forward with the Wespath Recommendations as they were submitted. Tomorrow, work will begin on refining the Traditional Plan.

Rev. Mark Holland seeks clarification on the Wespath petitions.

The body was relatively subdued about all of this, although there were some protests in the arena. There wasn't a jubilant air from those who support the Traditional Plan, and those who support the One Church Plan were a bit quiet. Maybe it's hard for people to quite know, yet, what to think. We'll certainly know more, tomorrow.

Is the One Church Plan dead? No. If we agree on changes to the Traditional Plan tomorrow, does that mean that it passes? No. If we spend all of our time tomorrow on the Traditional Plan, and do not get to the One Church Plan, it can still be presented as a minority report on Tuesday. It's hard to know what will happen, and a lot still hangs in the balance.

Continued prayers are needed, along with the reminder that, "Jesus is Lord!"

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Day of Prayer

Saturday was designated a Day of Prayer, and it was a very meaningful time for the church to gather and remember that human sexuality is not and should not, by any means, be the only thing for United Methodists to care about, pray about, or act on. Bishops from around the globe reminded us all that missional challenges exist throughout the word: people are hungry, families cross borders as refugees, violence and human trafficking claims lives. There is much going on in the world that needs a United Methodist witness.

Delegates pray together during the opening session of the Special Session of the General Conference of the UMC. Photo by Paul Jeffrey for United Methodist News Service.

Since I flew in today, I unfortunately missed a large part of the Prayer Service. However, the power of this service, and our true desire to keep Christ at the center of our gathering, was evident when I arrived at the Convention Center. I had to walk about a 1/4 mile from the Metro station to the entrance of the Convention Center. And all the time I was walking toward the entrance, I heard loud street preaching. The words were not a message of grace, but an angry demand for all to believe as this street preacher believes, with a strong threat of the fires of hell for those who don't. There were actually two stations of hell preaching, one at either end of the street next to the Convention Center. You couldn't escape the angry rhetoric.

Inside the Convention Center, it was very different. As I was looking for my section, I walked by a number of prayer stations, where Bishops were ready to serve Communion and offer blessings. Before I even made it to my seat, I received Communion from Bishop Lowry.

In the Convention Center arena, I found over a thousand United Methodists deep in prayer. The stillness in that space, which was filled with so many people, was far more powerful than the rantings of the street preachers. Truly, this Conference has been bathed in prayer!

In other news today, the Judicial Council ruled two (more) of the petitions submitted prior to the conference unconstitutional. The issue for both petitions had to do with the location of oversight authority. Decisions related to the character of clergy and their relationship to the annual conference currently reside with the annual conference, beginning with the clergy and lay members of the Conference Relations Committee. An attempt to move this authority to the General Conference and the College of Bishops was ruled unconstitutional. Another petition, which would create a global episcopacy committee to oversee the character and conduct of the bishops, was also ruled unconstitutional, as this authority currently rests with the episcopacy committees of the jurisdiction. 

Both of these petitions are part of the Modified Traditional Plan, which is seeking to tighten accountability for clergy, including bishops, who do not follow the UM Discipline. However, it appears that shifting responsibility for oversight of clergy and bishops is not in keeping with the rules of our constitution.

What will this mean for the Modified Traditional Plan? Perhaps we will find out tomorrow....

Tomorrow morning we begin with worship at 7:30, a half hour earlier than originally scheduled. We know there is much work ahead, and very little time in which to get it done.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Preparing for St. Louis

The special called session of General Conference will begin in just a couple of days in St. Louis - deep breaths, everyone!

Do not be afraid or discouraged, 
for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. 
He will be with you; 
he will neither fail you nor abandon you. 
- Deuteronomy 31:8

How did we get here?

The General Conference of the UMC meets every four years to do the official business of our denomination. Increasingly, the debates and disputes related to the church's understanding of homosexuality have overshadowed any other work of General Conference, so a decision was made in 2016 to allow the Council of Bishops to find "A Way Forward" for our denomination. It was determined that we would "hit the pause button" on all legislation dealing with human sexuality, and reconvene in February of 2019 in St. Louis.

You can read more about this here. You can also find information about United Methodist polity, the history of our position on homosexuality, and how Christians interpret scripture differently on this topic on our church's website.

Consequently, the Bishops created a Commission on a Way Forward, a diverse group of United Methodist clergy and laity who met together over many months. The report of the Commission on a Way Forward was made available to the Bishops, and later to the entire church, in 2018.

As we head into GC2019, a number of plans are on the table:
You can find a chart outlining the first three plans, here

It will be the work of General Conference 2019 between February 23 and 26 to choose one of these plans to refine and then work together to refine it.

You are invited to be in prayer with United Methodists around the globe during this critical time of discernment for the church.

  • If you would like to participate with those attending General Conference in the Day of Prayer that will be held on Saturday, February 23, you can join General Conference via live stream here. A schedule for this prayer event can be found here.
The general schedule for General Conference is as follows:
  • Saturday, Feb. 23 - Day of Prayer
  • Sunday, Feb. 24 - "Pick a Plan Day," where delegates rank all legislation a high or low priority and elect a chairperson for Legislative Day
  • Monday, Feb. 25 - Legislative Day, where delegates deal with all petitions before the Special Session. (All 864 delegates will comprise one legislative committee.)
  • Tuesday, Feb. 26 - Plenary Day, where delegates enact legislation from Legislative Day
I serve as a Reserve Delegate from the Central Texas Conference (i.e. I am part of the delegation, but do not have a vote). I will be in St. Louis Saturday through Wednesday and will periodically post updates on this blog. If you would like to have updates delivered to your inbox, please sign up using the box on the right. (note: if you are viewing this on a mobile device, you will likely need to click "view web version" at the bottom of this page in order to see the panel on the right side.)

I know that our God is with us always, and I know that so many faithful Christians are seeking to discern and do God's will in this matter. I also know that change will inevitably occur as a result of this conference. And not knowing what that change will be, or if we are truly prepared to face it, is difficult. I've already heard from church members who share that they are considering leaving our congregation, and it saddens me to think that Arlington Heights UMC may not be a place where all feel that they can worship God. It also saddens me to think that our congregation could be a place where all would not feel welcome. 

So I keep breathing, and praying, not only for the delegates of General Conference, not only for the United Methodist Church, but for the members, attenders, and the mission field of Arlington Heights UMC. I am grateful to know that God holds us all in the palm of his hand.

God Bless,

Rev. Mary

Additional Resources:

Advanced Daily Christian Advocate (ADCA).  This is the book of everything about the GC. All delegates receive this before GC, and receive an updated copy daily during GC: https://mainstreamumc.com/resources/gc-2019-advance-daily-christian-advocate/
List of Petitions (i.e. modifications to the plans presented by the Way Forward Commission) that are “in harmony” & “not in harmony.” Our Judicial Council has already weighed in on these, in the hopes that GC does not vote for something that will ultimately be overturned as against our UM Constitution:
Panel Discussion with 4 perspectives on General Conference.  Great for a church that wants to hear from all sides. 1.5 hours   https://www.umnews.org/en/news/perspectives-on-a-way-forward
Presentation by Mark Holland supporting the One Church Plan.  1 hour.  https://vimeo.com/316156508

And Now...

It's hard to know what to say tonight. These have been long, emotional days and we are all exhausted.  Today, the Traditional Plan passe...