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Sunday, January 19, 2020
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As GC2020 nears, fewer keep to the sidelines

Heather Hahn Dec. 10, 2019 | UM News
 

In our longtime homosexuality debate, fewer United Methodists (UMs) are keeping to the sidelines. The fallout continues after the 2019 special General Conference adopted, by a 53% vote, the Traditional Plan that tightens enforcement of church bans on same-sex weddings and “self-avowed practicing” gay clergy. Some UMs are taking public stands to support the plan, while others are taking steps toward resistance. The denomination also has seen a drop in giving following the rancorous special session. Various UMs are working on ways for the church to split into two or more denominations based on perspectives on LGBTQ status.

Still unknown is what impact all this will have when the denomination’s multinational lawmaking assem-bly next meets May 5-15, 2020. One thing is clear: More UMs across the theological spectrum are speak-ing up and strategizing ahead of the 2020 General Conference.

As recently as the 2000 General Conference, the de-nomination had an extremely contentious dispute over LGBTQ inclusion that led to more than 180 arrests and left anger all around. What’s different now is that GC2019 “put the future shape of the Methodist connection on the table” and tied differences over LGBTQ rights to broader ideological tensions in the church.

In the days and weeks immediately following the special General Conference, a number of UMs displayed their rejection of the Traditional Plan in multiple ways, including wrapping church signs in rainbow flags to show solidarity with LGBTQ people. Since then, Traditional Plan supporters also have publicly expressed their views.

The Wesleyan Covenant Association, which advocated for the Traditional Plan, has endorsed a GC2020 proposal for separation — New Denominations of United Methodism Plan, better known as the Indianapolis Plan. The group has released a draft Book of Doc-trines and Discipline for a new traditionalist Methodist denomination. However, the WCA also said in a statement, that “if a mutually agreeable plan of separation does not occur,” it would push to strengthen the Traditional Plan. The Association of Korean Churches announced in September that it would be connectional with the WCA and work towards amicable separation of the denomination.
 
 
 

 
 

The group UM-Forward has submitted legislation that would dissolve The United Methodist Church and form four new denominations. About 60 UMs from 28 annual conferences attended a Dec 3-4 Advent Gather-ing sponsored by UM-Forward and Methodists in New Directions to cast a vision for a fully inclusive form of Methodism. “During the season of Advent, as we pre-pare to celebrate the ‘new thing’ God did when Jesus Christ was born, I am more convinced than ever that God is getting ready to birth a new, just and inclusive Methodist Church,” said the Rev. Martha E. Vink, co-chair of Methodists in New Directions.

At the same time, a new effort is gearing up to resist the Traditional Plan, which takes effect Jan. 1 in the U.S. The coalition behind the effort, Resist Harm, stand together in their rejection of the Traditional Plan. “The church’s stance against LGBTQ people results in cruelty, discrimination, isolation and spiritual exile,” said Pat Luna, an organizer. “We believe that the call of Christ to the church is expressed in our baptismal vows to resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves, so we are taking a stand.”

The five bishops in the Western Jurisdiction, which encompasses seven conferences in the westernmost U.S., have pledged to provide “a safe harbor” for LGBTQ clergy and those who officiate at same-gender weddings. The Greater New Jersey Conference voted to allow congregations to decide how to include LGBTQ people in ministry while allowing disagreement. The Norway Annual Conference established a commission to seek a way to fully include LGBTQ individuals and map possible consequences.

Church splits are nothing new for the people called Methodist. The denomination’s U.S. forebears experienced some kind of fracturing every few decades throughout the 19th century — most famously dividing over slavery in 1844. But today’s UMs have little experience dealing with the full ramifications of denominational breakups, said the historian Avery-Quinn. For much of the 20th century, church leaders worked to-ward reunification and stronger connection. “If the church is to remain united, it will depend on the will of the bishops and other denominational leaders to make bold stances on defining a new Methodist connectionism for the 21st century.” Are you connected with the Wisconsin Conference of The United Methodist Church on Facebook? ‘Like’ the Conference page to keep up with UMC news during the week, get updates, and be the first to know about new resources available for you and your church. Go to face-book.com/wisconsinumc and ‘Like’ the Conference Facebook page!
 
 
Are you connected with the Wisconsin Conference of The United Methodist Church on Facebook? ‘Like’ the Conference page to keep up with UMC news during the week, get updates, and be the first to know about new resources available for you and your church. Go to face-book.com/wisconsinumc and ‘Like’ the Conference Facebook page!