Author: Rev. Dr. Mark Holland, Executive Director, Mainstream UMC
The most important thing right now is to be empowered about the future of the Methodist Church. We lost the votes for 4 days in St. Louis. We win the remaining 361 days of the year as we vote with our actions and our dollars. The 2/3rds of the U.S. church that is in support of full inclusivity cannot be controlled by votes from outside our mission field. Paragraph 101 of the Book of Discipline gives the global church broad autonomy over their mission fields. This is not currently reciprocated to the U.S. church. Yet, we have all the members and resources we need to form a church in the Wesleyan tradition that is filled with grace and not mean-spirited rules. The Traditional Plan lives in the past. Together, we need to form a new future.
Here are three things we can all do.
- Acts of Resistance. There is nothing that those who seek to be in control hate more than not being in control. The supporters of the Traditional Plan have very little ability to enforce their mean-spirited plan on 2/3rds of the U.S. church. Every local church and annual conference should adopt statements of open resistance to the Traditional Plan. These do not need to be uniform, they just need to be clear. Be sure to understand your annual conference’s process for bringing petitions. Even if the deadline has passed, most provide a process for bringing petitions directly to the floor. The global church needs to hear loud and clear that control of the U.S. church is not an option. See links below for sample petitions. These can be adapted for local churches as well.
- Evaluate apportionment dollars. The U.S. church funds $600 million of the $604 million quadrennial budget (99.3%) but we have only 56% of the votes on how to spend it. Why should 2/3rds of the U.S. church prop up a global governance structure that is actively harming LGBTQ persons and their allies? Every local church and annual conference needs to have an open conversation about funding the general church. We then need to communicate ideas so we can act as a unified group.
- Convene a dialogue group. Lots of groups are forming. There is no way for all of us to attend all of them. I am grateful for those who are taking leadership and talking about what options are before us. Do this in your local church and annual conference. We need everyone talking about possible future structures for the church. Below are three options to talk about. Are there more options?
Our current governance system is irreparably broken. Possible reforms could be passed if can reach agreement among a majority of delegates prior to the 2020 General Conference. Here are some options:
- Pass a Constitutional Gracious Exit Plan. The Wesleyan Covenant Association has already formed a new denomination. We can simply vote for an easy exit and let them leave with their property. We fought for unity. But unity was rejected. Is it time to let them go? Does this option address the global imbalance in the church?
- Vote for a revised form of the Connectional Conference Plan or make the U.S. one or two Central Conferences. Either of these could be negotiated. We could even negotiate different names and logos to make it clear who is who…something I think we all want. It is time for the U.S. church to have an autonomous governance structure as the Central Conferences currently have in place.
- Dissolve the UMC and form 2 new denominations. This is the most exciting and is the most expensive. All of our thousands of local churches would need to file new titles in their state for the new denominations. And all general conference property would need to be re-titled as well. Even if this is amicably negotiated, it would take a decade or more and literally tens of millions of dollars in attorney’s fees. We should not be afraid of this option, we just need to understand the implications.
Whatever options are chosen, then we must have a negotiated settlement with our brothers and sisters in Christ in both the U.S. and abroad. If there are no negotiations, then General Conference 2020 becomes another train wreck. The group negotiating must have the buy-in of the broader church on both sides of this decision or even a good idea will be shot down. Petitions are due in September 2019 for GC 2020. We do not have much time. And, it would be naïve to believe that we will work something out without acts of resistance and financial pressure. If it looks like 2/3rds of the U.S. church is going to just roll over, we have already lost. Local churches and annual conferences must act now!
Please send along your plans and ideas to Mainstream UMC so we can share them with others.
I would encourage you to forward this post to every United Methodist on your contact list, and encourage them to sign up for our newsletter at www.MainstreamUMC.com/sign-up. We have had a tremendous response since the harmful General Conference. We need to continue to grow our network for what is next.
Sample petitions to Upper New York Annual Conference and Great Plains Annual Conference. Either can be adapted for local churches as well. https://mainstreamumc.com/resources/2019-annual-conference-petitions/
Article about the global imbalances in our church. https://mainstreamumc.com/blog/5-reasons-to-consider-a-u-s-church/