Author: Rev. Dr. Mark R. Holland, Executive Director, Mainstream UMC
The mood this evening is interesting. There is a mixture of grief and fatigue at the loss by the One Church Plan. No one is totally surprised. We knew it was an uphill battle with bad math. But we are clearly disappointed. At the same time, the U.S. church isn’t going anywhere. We are still who we are and the idea of the draconian Traditional Plan is laughable. You can spank a toddler (which I do not recommend, but it is possible.) But you cannot spank a teenager (I really do not recommend it, but you can try it once.) The idea that the mean-spirited “orthodox” are going to enforce these rules on the unruly “progressives” is an open joke.
Think, Delores Umbridge of Harry Potter fame and her wall of rules.
So there has been rage at the harm that continues to be spewed by the church. And there has been a good deal of eye-rolling at how this is still possible in 2019. Our coalition strategy session tonight spent about 30 minutes tidying up the plan for Tuesday, and an hour brainstorming GC 2020. Newsflash, this is not your 1980’s Southern Baptist Convention and the progressive purge. Whatever.
So here are the details of how we lost the big vote today. We had 386 votes for the One Church Plan, we lost by 50 votes out of 822 cast. There were 34 delegates who were not seated for the conference, mostly due to visa issues. We knew we needed to flip 30 votes yesterday and we did not. We had 2/3 of the U.S. vote, ½ of Europe (all Western Europe) and some success in the Philippines. We needed 50 votes out of 260 from Africa and we received maybe 10 and maybe even zero. WCA leader Chris Ritter was right, they were all locked up for them. These are all estimates because the votes are secret…which is another problem for another day. The One Church Plan will be presented tomorrow as a “minority report.” We anticipate we will lose that vote as well, but we owe it to the Bishops and our church to finish the process with integrity.
The Traditional Plan passed, with a caveat. We were able to call the question and it was approved without the constitutional fixes. So, it is still a mess. That was an amusing victory. The TP supporters will try to complete the 30 pages of amendments Tuesday to make it constitutional. It has been referred back to the Judicial Council where they will say, “Yes, it is still unconstitutional.” We will work to defeat it, which will at least be entertaining. Status quo looks good in comparison.
There were a few great moments. The highlight was the speech by delegate JJ Warren of Upper New York. Watch this transformative speech: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jc5ZR7CAr1o He brought down the house speaking truth. This is more impressive when you know it was AFTER the Traditional Plan passed and AFTER the One Church Plan failed. He breathed new life into the vacuum of the General Conference.
Another great moment was when the Simple Plan was discussed, and queer voices were front and center. Strong Christians. Strong speeches. It received 323 votes, 63 fewer than the One Church Plan. It is likely to appear as a “minority report” also.
Finally, we passed not one, but two exit provisions. Seems like the delegates are eager to split up. We will likely choose one of the two and those who control the votes are likely to pass the one that makes it the easiest to leave. If there is any irony it is that they want the rules for everyone else to follow after they leave.
So we are bummed. No question we were hammered by a well-funded, well-organized political machine that has controlled the United Methodist General Conference for 40 years. Many of the supporters of the Traditional Plan continue to wonder why we are not more “gracious” about their attempts to kick us out of our church.
We had hoped that our extensive organization and coalition building could move our church to a new place. Indeed it has. The coalition we have built is not going away. I have said many times, the worst thing that could happen at General Conference is not that the Traditional Plan passes. The worst thing that could happen is that our coalition breaks up. In our meeting tonight, amidst the pain of the senseless, continuing harm, there is a spirit of resolve. We lost because of bad math, not because we were not well prepared or because we are wrong.
The U.S. church will continue to move forward. We will continue to be true to our mission fields. We will continue to bring people to a loving Christ. We will continue to love and nurture our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. I look forward to wrapping up Tuesday. It has been a long week…in a lot of ways.
God is Good! All the time! Be encouraged.