By Keith Boyette
January 2, 2019
The special General Conference of The United Methodist Church is 52 days away. Unfortunately, far too many remain unaware of the solutions proposed to the conflict which has undermined and eroded the denomination’s health and effectiveness, especially in the United States. Although other proposals have been filed, the three plans submitted by the Commission on the Way Forward (COWF) are likely to receive greater consideration. For those inclined, you can access the commission’s 93-page report here.
Despite a plethora of articles about the plans, understanding their practical implications has not been easy. By many accounts, U.S. bishops and leaders of annual conference have made presentations with a bias for the so-called One Church Plan (OCP). The Council of Bishops now has a website that openly advocates for that plan’s adoption, which calls for redefining marriage as between two people, and liberalizes our sexual ethics and ordination standards.
While bishops will preside at the special General Conference, they will not have voice or vote, as is customary under our polity. Ultimately, the 864 delegates to the General Conference will act on the proposed legislation February 23-26, 2019 in St. Louis, Missouri.
The WCA has worked to provide accurate information to local churches about the various plans and their implications. To that end, we have prepared two charts, which provide a brief summary of each plan and its ramifications if adopted. The first chart identifies the implications of each plan for local churches, clergy, lay people, annual conferences, and the denomination’s general boards, agencies, and related institutions (e.g., hospitals, universities and camps). The second chart identifies how each plan would impact the fast-growing international UM churches and their related bodies.
Both charts are adapted from a similar table prepared and distributed by the Great Plains Annual Conference of the UM Church. The table prepared and distributed by that conference omitted some information we deemed important for a comprehensive understanding of the major plans; we have revised it accordingly.
The charts are currently available in English, French, Korean, Portuguese and Spanish, and will soon be available in two versions of Swahili. The charts are being made available to General Conference delegates. We encourage you to download the charts and distribute them widely in your local church so those you serve and worship with will be apprised of the various plans’ implications.
The WCA urges the adoption of the Modified Traditional Plan. We believe it accords with the teachings of Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience. It alone provides measures to uphold the UM Church’s discipline and polity, supports the perspective of the majority of the global church, and is generous in its provisions towards individuals, local churches, and annual conferences that can no longer abide by our discipline and polity. You can read more about the Modified Traditional Plan here.
The WCA urges the delegates to the special General Conference to vote against the One Church Plan. The One Church Plan endorses practices contrary to Scripture and 2,000 years of Christian teaching regarding our sexual ethics, our definition of marriage, and our ordination standards. Furthermore, the One Church Plan undermines the connectional nature of our church. Its adoption would lead to disunity as thousands of local congregations decide to leave the denomination. You can read more about the One Church Plan here.
The WCA is wary of the Connectional Conference Plan which appears to institutionalize our divisions over important matters of theology and ethics. The plan’s complexity, its long timeline of implementation, and the high bar posed by constitutional amendments make it unattractive to the church at large. You can read more about the Connectional Conference Plan here.
Now is the time to respectfully let the delegates elected by your annual conference know where you stand on the major plans. You can obtain their names and addresses by contacting your conference office. When you communicate with them, provide them with a copy of the charts referenced above. Let them know why you support the Modified Traditional Plan and why you oppose the other two major plans.
In the meantime, the WCA has been hard at work preparing for what it prays will be a revitalized UM Church faithful to the historic Christian faith in the Wesleyan tradition or, if necessary, for a new expression of Methodism. The WCA Council will meet in St. Louis, Missouri on February 27-28 in order to prepare its response to the actions of the special General Conference.
These are critical days for the movement launched by John and Charles Wesley, and nurtured by Francis Asbury, Thomas Coke, Richard Allen, Phillip William Otterbein, and Jacob Albright. At its best the Methodist movement has been desperately dependent on God working through prayerful and spirit-filled persons. May we be counted among their number and found to be faithful in our generation.
Keith Boyette is president of the Wesleyan Covenant Association and an ordained elder in the Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church.