Author: Advisory Board Editorial Team, Mainstream UMC
This is the second of four posts analyzing the results of the Mainstream UMC Grassroots Survey that ran from June 25 to July 11, 2019. There were 28 questions total. This post covers questions 13, 14, 15, 16. These questions were designed to discern the depth of our division in the US church. There are links below to read the other posts as they are available.
The questions about the US church reveal a clear polarization. Consistently, Centrists and Progressives want to hold the church together; those who identify as Traditional want to pull the church apart. The question for General Conference 2020 is: will we allow a vocal minority group in the US to dissolve the 2nd largest Protestant denomination in the United States?
Can we live together in the US Church? The answer depends on how you identify yourself theologically and socially. Traditionalists say “no.” Everyone else says “yes.”
Question 13: “Are you willing to be in a denomination with individuals, churches, and/or annual conferences who think and practice differently than you around LGBTQ inclusion?”
In short, 70% of all respondents (Aggregate = Yes + Maybe) can find a way to live together. Not surprisingly, the Centrists are leading the way in getting along with 90% and Progressives are at 78% answering either yes or maybe. In other words, Centrists and Progressives are willing to live with people who both think AND practice differently around what for many is a core belief, LGBTQ inclusion. And, it is notable to read the comments attached to those who answered maybe. Most of them say something to the effect, “As long as I can practice as I choose in my local church.”
What a stark contrast with those who identify as Traditional; sixty-five percent (65%) of whom flat out said “no,” we cannot live together. Only 17% give an unequivocal “yes.” And in reading the comments attached to the answer “maybe,” most differentiated between “thinking differently”—which would be a yes and “practicing differently”—which would be a no. Since the question asked about both “think and practice differently than you” most of the “maybes” for the Traditional group would go to the “no” column.
The results above drive the outcome of the next question.
Question 14: “If the Traditional Plan is upheld or strengthened, how strongly do you feel that the church in the United States should change our common governance structure?”
In short, Progressives and Centrists can live together, but not the way we are now. Both of these groups overwhelmingly call for change, particularly in the face of the Traditional Plan. The next two questions tried to find out what options people agree would work moving forward. Question 15 was whether groups preferred two or three expressions of Methodism in the US. Would it be one Traditional and one that combines Centrists and Progressives (two total) or would there be a separate expression for each, Traditional, Centrist, and Progressive (three total)? Sixty-eight percent (68%) of Centrists and 75% of Progressives agreed they prefer 2 over 3 expressions. The Traditionalists made it clear in the comments they did not like this question because these are not the options they want, as the next question demonstrates.
Question 16 gets to the heart of the different desires between Traditionalists and everyone else. Traditionalists either want those who are unhappy to leave (51%) or to dissolve the denomination (33%). All the other choices received only a smattering of votes from their group. Centrists at 79% and Progressives at 71% both overwhelmingly agree that they would like to see some way for all of us to stay together with either a connectional conference type plan or the US as a central conference type plan. The survey did not identify how these might happen, but it shows that Centrists and Progressives are still trying to find a way toward some kind of unity. Please see the chart below.
Question 16: “Which courses of action do you most favor to allow space for Traditional, Centrist, and Progressive expressions of Methodism?”
|Central Conference or Connectional Conference||Dissolve the Denomination||Others Leave||We Leave|
(Note: these can add up to more than 100% because individuals could make more than one choice.)
Perhaps the most notable reality from this chart is that for every group, being the one to leave, is their last choice. In other words, no one wants to walk away from the denomination on their own. The response to that reality for Traditionalists was to either have the other groups leave or dissolve the denomination. The response from Centrists and Progressives was to try and find a way to live together with more space.
These four questions get to the root of why United Methodism is on the brink: fundamentally, Traditionalists want to break up the current church. They either want to force others out by trials with the Traditional Plan or dissolve the denomination entirely. Traditionalists, in their own words, are overwhelmingly unwilling to live together in the same denomination, even under a different structure—yet only 2% of that group want to be the ones to leave. Clearly, we are at an impasse.
We believe the key question for General Conference 2020 is this: Will the 2nd largest Protestant denomination in the United States dissolve because a group that represents 25% of the US General Conference votes and 22% of the total giving of the church wants to dissolve? Or, will the rest of the United States and global church stand up to their exclusionary self-interest and say “no?”
Again, a big “Thank you” to everyone who participated in the survey!
Read all the analysis:
Survey Results 1 of 4: Awakening & Urgency
Posted July 30, 2019
Survey Results 2 of 4: Can We Live Together in the US Church?
Posted August 1, 2019
Survey Results 3 of 4: Changes to the Global Structure.
Posted August 6, 2019
Survey Results 4 of 4: Concerns About a Split.
Posted August 8, 2019
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