Author: Bishop Kenneth L. Carder, retired
The United Methodist Church faces its most important institutional decision since the 1840s when our forebearers split over slavery. It took a hundred years to rectify that tragic mistake and even longer to officially repent of the sin propelling the schism, racism.
Delegates to the called session of General Conference in February will render another historic decision with far-reaching consequences on our witness and mission. The stakes are very high! Future generations will look back upon the actions taken and either celebrate that unity won or repent of another unnecessary and ill-advised schism.
From my perspective, the One Church Plan is the most theologically grounded, biblically faithful, missionally formed, and evangelically authentic way forward for the denomination.
The church is called to institutionally and organizationally embody the presence and mission of the Triune God. Central to the nature of God is unity amid diversity grounded in God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The One Church Plan bears witness to a unity that summons us beyond narrow theological enclaves, ideological loyalties, and political power plays; and it represents a longing expressed in Jesus’s prayer “that they may all be one… as you, Father, are in me and I am in you…” (John 17:21).
The One Church Plan is faithful to the central message of the Bible: God’s salvation of human hearts, relationships, communities, and the entire cosmos. Each part of the Bible is to be interpreted through the lens of God’s supreme revelation in Jesus Christ! Jesus declared that the entire “law and the prophets” hangs on two commandments: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind’ and “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-40). To love as Christ loves is the Scriptural imperative; and John Wesley declared that all schism is a failure to love.
Mission has been the driving force of Methodism since its beginning. The mission has always been holistic, resulting in founding of schools, medical clinics, cooperatives and lending agencies for the poor, and pensions for “worn out preachers.” The One Church Plan preserves the extensive worldwide mission of The United Methodist Church while allowing for contextual expressions of that mission. The Traditional Plan confuses and disrupts the complex web of mission currently in place.
Finally, I support the One Church Plan because of its message of good news (evangel) of God’s boundless love and radical hospitality. While preserving contextual structures of accountability and freedom of conscience, the One Church Plan removes discriminatory language directed toward LGBTQ children of God; and it declares to a divided and hostile world that God in Jesus Christ has reconciled ALL things. Unity has already been achieved in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The One Church Plan provides a structure through which we can life that reconciliation and oneness in Christ!