Author: Rev. Dr. Mark R. Holland, Executive Director, Mainstream UMC
The US Annual Conferences are complete and the backlash against the Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA) and the Traditional Plan is unbelievable, even breathtaking. Fresh off General Conference 2019, with their signature legislation passed, the WCA organized in every annual conference to demonstrate they represent the US church. Fortunately, they published their preferred list of candidates so we can see how they did. Here are 5 takeaways:
1) The WCA has lost the hearts and minds of the US Church.
More than half of the annual conferences (28 of 54) passed resolutions in opposition to the Traditional Plan. Seventy-six percent (76%) of US annual conferences, (41 out of 54) voted for a majority non-WCA delegation. There is a super-majority in every US Jurisdiction of delegates against the Traditional Plan. In total, the WCA went from 35% US support in 2019 to around 26% for 2020. In other words, in 2019 the WCA was outnumbered with US delegates 2 to 1. Now, they are outnumbered almost 3 to 1!
Just look at the percent of centrist/progressive delegates elected:
Western Jurisdiction 100%
North Central Jurisdiction 82%
Northeastern Jurisdiction 73%
South Central Jurisdiction 71%
Southeastern Jurisdiction 69%
US Totals 74%
Click on the map link below to see this reality in full color.
2) The WCA has lost both Clergy and Lay representation.
There is a strong narrative coming out of Good News and elsewhere that it is the clergy who are “liberal,” but the laity are still “conservative.” Not exactly, the WCA elected more laity than clergy, but the laity are not far behind. Remarkably, of the 241 clergy elected to GC 2020 we can count only 35 who support the WCA, less than 15%. And, by our count, the WCA elected only 37% of the lay delegates. If this is what “conservative” looks like, the WCA laity alone are still outnumbered 2 to 1 in the US.
3) The WCA will not be electing any more Bishops.
Episcopal candidates must receive 60% of the votes in their Jurisdiction to be elected Bishop. Every Jurisdiction in the United States elected more than 60% centrists and progressives—even in the Southeastern and South Central. There is no need to even negotiate with the WCA for electing Bishops. We have elected our last Bishop who promises 100 trials. With no Bishops to enforce the Traditional Plan, the Traditional Plan is dead.
4) The Traditional Plan is…well…something else.
How do you explain this backlash? The status quo of the last 50 years at General Conference has never generated the blowback we are seeing in the US church. That is because the Traditional Plan is a radical step beyond the status quo. I receive about 1 or 2 emails a month criticizing the use of “mean-spirited” to describe the Traditional Plan. (And a few expressing appreciation.) For the record, I have never described the supporters of the Traditional Plan as “mean-spirited,” only the plan itself. The lifeblood of the Traditional Plan is expelling Bishops, Annual Conferences, and LGBTQ clergy and their allies from the church through trials. Call the Traditional Plan whatever you want; the US church is not having it.
5) The goal posts keep moving.
The Annual Conferences in the US have flipped enough votes to change the outcome of the 2019 General Conference. But the US church will lose 22 more votes for GC 2020. Two of those are just going away; the total delegate count at GC 2020 will be 862 instead of the 864 in 2019. Of the remaining 20 from the US, 18 will go to Africa and 2 will go to the Philippines. In 2019, the Traditional Plan received 60% of its votes from outside the US. With an even stronger global showing, the Traditional Plan could pass again in 2020 by as few as a handful of votes.
That is the plan according to Rev. Forbes Matonga, West Zimbabwe delegate and WCA leader. He boasted recently in a UMNS article, “Africa is growing in membership as the USA is declining, this means Africa will determine the future of the UMC.” This cavalier attitude does not bode well for 76% of the US church.
So now what? Well, we need your input. Mainstream UMC is conducting a grassroots survey about moving beyond the Traditional Plan. The survey addresses issues of US and global structure. If you have not already taken it, please do so today!
Also, please donate to our work, Inspiring a New Methodism: www.MainstreamUMC.com/donate
The map of the US church is on our homepage. www.MainstreamUMC.com
Here is a link to a summary of all 2019 US Annual Conference actions. https://mainstreamumc.com/documents/resources/2019-06-26SummaryUSAnnualConferencePetitions.pdf
Here is the link to Rev. Matonga’s interview: https://www.umnews.org/en/news/us-elections-see-shift-in-gc2020-delegates
If the links do not open, please cut and paste them into your browser.
Corrected: This article previously stated there were 860 delegates to GC 2020. The correct number is 862.