Author: Rev. Dr. Mark Holland
In a stunning development, Bishop Scott Jones and Bishop Gary Mueller are now publicly touting the Connectional Conference Plan (CCP). Both are widely believed to be among the anonymous “few bishops” who initiated the hastily written Traditional Plan. Theirs is a dramatic shift from being the Traditional Plan’s most vocal episcopal supporters.
Bishop Jones spoke at, and Bishop Mueller attended the Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA) conference last November. It was there that the WCA, a separatist group with elected delegates, reaffirmed their plan of organization and intent to leave the UMC on March 1, 2019. The WCA has announced publicly they are leaving if the Traditional Plan does not pass; however, it seems clear that schism is their first priority. WCA President Keith Boyette has submitted a petition to the General Conference to dissolve the UMC. Fortunately, this open attempt to dismantle the denomination has now been ruled “Out of Harmony” by the Committee on Reference.
What does this new development mean?
It looks like Bishops Jones and Mueller recognize the challenges the Traditional Plan faces at General Conference. Even those who believe homosexuality is a sin have cringed at the mean-spirited certifying, punishing, and evicting of all who disagree. There is no question that most “conservatives” and “liberals” are insulted by the calls for schism by a few. In addition, the conservative-leaning Judicial Council ruled unanimously that 40% of the Traditional Plan is unconstitutional. Some Central Conference delegates are rightly worried that imposing the Traditional Plan alienates a large majority of the U.S. church.
The Connectional Conference Plan is an unlikely second choice for these WCA Bishops. Both Bishop Jones and Bishop Mueller acknowledge the near-impossibility of implementing the CCP. Even if the eight constitutional amendments were to pass at General Conference, the CCP requires a supermajority vote in the annual conferences globally. Best case scenario, the CCP requires more than seven years to implement.
Further, aside from these two bishops, there is no discernable constituency that wants it. To this end, Keith Boyette issued a statement on January 2, 2019, “The WCA is wary of the Connectional Conference Plan which appears to institutionalize our divisions over important matters of theology and ethics. The plan’s complexity, its long timeline of implementation, and the high bar posed by constitutional amendments make it unattractive to the church at large.” The WCA and their bishops are clearly not on the same page. We should all be wary of those supporting the CCP; a vote for it merely leaves everyone where we are – with an undesirable status quo.
One Church Plan
Meanwhile, the One Church Plan continues to gain support from all sectors of the church. It creates no winners or losers in that everyone, progressives and traditionalists, have a place at the table. It protects the conscience of every member, pastor, local church, conference, and bishop. It has no impact outside the United States. The One Church Plan is a Christian compromise, supported by nearly two-thirds of our Bishops and unanimously upheld by the Judicial Council. It is a compromise that can bear witness to the world, that we can work together! We deserve a denomination that is as gracious as our families and local churches in embracing different opinions.
The One Church Plan shares Bishop Scott Jones’ vision from his 2008 book, Staying at the Table. Here he writes: “The United Methodist Church should not split. Nor should its leaders allow it to be torn apart.” He also says, “Taken as a whole, the New Testament is offering a vision of the church of Jesus Christ as embodying a visible unity while also characterized by diversity.” Finally, and surprisingly, considering his support of the WCA, he says, “Liberals need conservatives and conservatives need liberals. If one group leaves, we are all worse off.” (Pages 3, 7, 21) This is the vision of the One Church Plan.
Rev. Dr. Mark R. Holland
Executive Director, Mainstream UMC
Full text of all three plans: https://mainstreamumc.com/resources/one-church-plan/
Bishop Jones’ video supporting the CCP: https://www.facebook.com/ExtremeCenter/videos/294278011412813/
More Bishop Jones’ videos on GC 2019: https://www.umnews.org/en/news/seeing-a-way-forward-bishop-jones
Bishop Mueller’s letter supporting the CCP: https://www.umnews.org/en/news/commentary-taking-a-fresh-look-at-the-connectional-conference-plan
Bishop Jones’ speech at the WCA: https://wesleyancovenant.org/2018/12/06/unashamed-of-the-gospel-and-moved-by-gods-amazing-grace/
WCA’s exit first strategy: https://mainstreamumc.com/blog/wca-schism-is-first-priority/
Keith Boyette’s petition to dissolve the UMC: https://mainstreamumc.com/documents/GC2019AdvanceDailyChristianAdvocate/196-236-Other51Petitions.pdf
Article about the Committee on Reference: http://www.umc.org/who-we-are/seventy-eight-legislative-petitions-headed-for-st.-louis
Judicial Council ruling 1366: https://mainstreamumc.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/JCD-1366-Docket-No1018-12.pdf
Keith Boyette’s complete Jan. 2 statement: https://wesleyancovenant.org/2018/12/27/understanding-the-plans/
Buy Bishop Jones’ book, Staying at the Table. It’s on sale! https://www.cokesbury.com/product/9780687645060/staying-at-the-table/