Author: Rev. Dr. Mark R. Holland, Executive Director, Mainstream UMC
The UMC Next meeting at the Church of the Resurrection concluded today at noon. More than 600 United Methodists gathered from every annual conference in the United States. The gathering represented both centrists and progressives. Mainstream UMC was well represented. It included me and 11 of our 19 Advisory Board members in attendance. In addition, the Convening Team of UMC Next included 2 of our Advisory Board members.
Here are my observations:
- There is a need for more coalition building. Progressives and Centrists seem a bit wary of one another following our failed joint effort to pass the One Church Plan. There are clearly different sensitivities and focus areas. I remain hopeful that we will continue to talk and put what divides us in the rear-view mirror and move forward together. This is the best hope for our church.
- There is no clear path forward for the church. In part, this is driven by different contexts. Those in local churches and annual conferences that are predominately progressive/centrist are suffocating. They are ready to leave. Those with divided congregations and conferences are more ready to resist. Even those for whom resist has never been an option are fired up in a whole new way. The Traditional Plan is intolerable to everyone.
- There were no Central Conferences present. It is not a surprise since the Central Conference delegates from Africa, Philippines, and Eastern Europe voted as a virtual block and provided 60% of the votes to pass the Traditional Plan. Many in Western and Northern Europe joined the cause for inclusion. Germany has already declared it will not abide the Traditional Plan, an option not available to the U.S. churches. It is clear that many in the U.S. are ready to break up the global church over the harm being done by the Traditional Plan. It is time for those in the global church who voted for the Traditional Plan to stop the harm if they want to be included in the same future as the U.S. church.
There were 4 statements that were agreed upon by a clear consensus of the whole group:
Four Commitments of UMCNext
We believe these commitments are essential to a hope-filled future for the global Methodist movement as we make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world:
- We long to be passionate followers of Jesus Christ, committed to a Wesleyan vision of Christianity, anchored in scripture and informed by tradition, experience and reason as we live a life of personal piety and social holiness.
- We commit to resist evil, injustice and oppression in all forms and toward all people and build a church which affirms the full participation of all ages, nations, races, classes, cultures, gender identities, sexual orientations, and abilities.
- We reject the Traditional Plan approved at General Conference 2019 as inconsistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ and will resist its implementation.
- We will work to eliminate discriminatory language and the restrictions and penalties in the Discipline regarding LGBTQ persons. We affirm the sacred worth of LGBTQ persons, celebrate their gifts, and commit to being in ministry together.
Here at Mainstream UMC, we will follow up with a number of forum questions that came out of this meeting. We are interested in hearing feedback from you on the same issues as those who were in attendance. The more information we have, the better we can Inspire a New Methodism.