Authors: Donald P. Wiley, Reserve Lay Delegate, North Texas Conference
Daniel Soliz, First Alternate Lay Delegate, North Texas Conference
Rev. Owen Ross, clergy delegate, Director, Center for Church Development, North Texas Conference
Tim Crouch, lay delegate, Chair, North Texas Conference delegation
A common theme in the Church and in conflict resolution is: Keep the main thing the main thing.
- The main thing is the call of the Special Session – Finding a Way Forward as United Methodists regarding issues of human sexuality is the purpose of this Special General Conference. We need to first address and vote on plans offered by the Commission that address the gridlock issues of human sexuality in the United States jurisdictions. Until we address this, the rest is guesswork.
- We are called together as a body to unite, not as parts to divide Allotting precious limited time to issues arising from possible splinter – property, pensions and pastors – is an “off-call” message. This conference is fundamentally about finding a future in unity. The General Conference cannot decide issues of leaving before it has made decisions on the recommended plans for a way forward.
- We are called to holy conferencing. Emotions will be running high in St. Louis – we need to claim the gift of time – time to cool off, time to reflect, a time to listen, a time to find space for togetherness – or a time to find fairness in exit. Yes, it sounds Ecclesiastical – and we should be reminded of that. Referral of all matters of separation for full consideration at GC 2020 will give all of us time to be gracious, faithful and thoughtful as we move forward afterward. In the words of one episcopal leader: “When making choices – do it prayerfully but not quickly”.
- We won’t reach a deal now. GC 2019 will not have the necessary information to effectively deal with exit issues such as pastors’ pensions, church foundations, endowed funds, property/Trust Clause matters and a myriad of other separation issues. Many want to believe there is some ‘grand bargain’ to be struck in merely five days. The hard truth? There is no ‘grand bargain’.
- Lack of Trust. This is fundamentally about a lack of trust. Let’s face it: THAT is a spiritual problem which certainly won’t be solved in 5 days. A committee working together while building trusting relationships can develop fair plans of action to find a way forward which will pass Judicial Council review.
- Complexity. See Unintended Consequences, above. A hasty, ill-considered effort to ‘just get it over’ could leave the UMC with a “solution” more permanently damaging than our temporary impasse.
- Lack of Uniformity. The rest of the Global Church is NOT engaged on this issue The property, personnel and pension issues are different state by state and, in large part, are only of concern for U.S. churches;
We, as a United Methodist Church, are here because of divisions and deteriorating trust which have been building for nearly fifty years. Their common point of focus is human sexuality and they will not fade without being addressed. The critical first step is making a forthright decision on the plan proposed by the Committee On a Way Forward.
GC 2019 is a first, significant step in a process of change – not all of the change itself. In order to work effectively to bring the organization of the United Methodist Church into the 21st century , we must prayerfully and proactively plan, mindful of our people, our process and our purpose: making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.