Opening Statement by Bishop Ken Carter before the United Methodist Judicial Council on October 23, 2018 in Zurich Switzerland.
We are not here to argue against any of the three plans but rather to reflect on each of them with you to help the delegates do their work, so that all three plans can be rightfully considered by the General Conference.
Some have suggested that the traditionalist plan maintains the status quo with respect to human sexuality. This is not accurate. The traditionalist Plan organizes our church around one issue— human sexuality. Some may suggest the issue is biblical interpretation, but the recurring legislative focus on the certification of uniformity of thought and practice related to human sexuality defines this plan.
The traditional plan increases the length of the Book of Discipline and its complexity. It diverts our attention and resources to legal processes. By an excessive focus on law, it takes our attention away from mission.
This is not church law; it is a way of discipleship (102). The law came through Moses, John announces in the first chapter of his gospel; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. Truth is not a concept to be pitted against grace—at least this is not its purpose in the scriptures. John is calling us to see the law through the lens of grace in the incarnation of Jesus, who is the way, the truth and the life.
I am a traditionalist in my faith.
The strength of traditionalist faith is that it teaches us to be disciples. The weakness of traditionalist faith is that it separates law, grace and truth. They are one. But only grace saves us. Who is in a position to condemn, scripture asks us? If you would mark our iniquities, who could stand, the scripture asks us? The answer: none of us.
The traditional plan lodges the conflict in the annual conference, which is the basic body of the church (33). It forces every Annual Conference to define itself in relation to one issue, human sexuality, a topic about which there are very different opinions. This is not the cross and the flame!
Which leads me to a question: Is the creation of pathways that require Annual Conferences to vote a first step in dissolving the United Church, which we understand some groups have proposed?