United Methodist Church Way Forward Part 3

Late last month, a long awaited ruling from the Judicial Council (i.e., ecclesiastical Supreme Court) of The United Methodist Church was issued related to the upcoming special session of General Conference in February 2019.

To read my full review of how we got here, read Part 1 of this series of posts.

The brief recap:
To address The United Methodist Church's disagreements over Biblical interpretation, Church authority, and sexual morality the world-wide General Conference of 2016 created a special "Commission on a Way Forward" to offer recommendations.

After two years of work, the Way Forward Commission has suggested 3 possible plans for preserving the institutional unity of the denomination in some form or other.  These three plans may be considered by a special session of General Conference in February of 2019 that has been called to deal with just this issue.

The three plans developed by the Commission are
1) The Traditionalist plan, which maintains current Church teaching (consistent with 3000 years of Judeo-Christian understanding) on sexuality and strengthens accountability for those pastors and bishops who refuse to abide by church teaching
2) The One Church Plan (a.k.a. "Local Option") eliminates any church-wide teaching on human sexuality and allows each congregation to decide if it will host same-sex weddings, each pastor to decide if he or she will officiate them, and each Annual Conference to decide if they will ordain individuals as pastors who are living in homosexual relationships
3) The Connectional Conference plan would radically restructure the denomination to group congregations and annual conferences into "Connectional Conferences" based upon theological convictions.  Presumably there would be a Traditionalist Conference and a Liberal Conference, and perhaps an "in between" Conference.  Annual Conferences and Congregations and pastors would then all decide which way to affiliate.

Each plan consists of a number of separate pieces of legislation, which together have a cumulative effect.

The Judicial Council Rulings: 
The Council of Bishops wisely requested that the Judicial Council look at each plan to determine whether it is constitutional under The United Methodist Church's constitution.

The Judicial Council has released its decision, which you can read a more complete description of at the Central Texas Conference Website.

In short, the "One Church Plan" requires only very minor modification to pass constitutional muster, so it is basically ready to go.

The "Traditionalist Plan" had more difficulties.  Of the 17 petitions that make up this plan, 9 of them are either partially or wholly unconstitutional.
If the remaining 8 petitions were passed, perhaps with a few of the others in modified form, we could end up with a Traditionalist Plan "Light", that would clearly express the direction that the Church intends to head, but would also have less "teeth" in terms of accountability for those who break their ordination vows.
I have no doubt that Traditionalist groups are hard at work to come up with corrections or alternatives to avoid a "Light" plan, but such a revised plan would not have the benefit of having been "pre-approved" by the Judicial Council, and could be (partially) struck down after the General Conference ended.

Finally the Judicial Council did not issue a ruling at all upon whether the "Connectional Conference Plan" is constitutional, since it would require amendments to the Constitution and so would be judged under a different constitution, as it were, and the Judicial Council did not want to issue a ruling on hypotheticals.  This leaves even more questions hanging over the most complicated of these three plans, that many see as both the truest compromise between liberals and conservatives and also the least likely plan to actually be adopted.

Of course, as I've stated in the first post on this topic, the General Conference could (theoretically) discard all of these and create a whole new plan from scratch.  Time will tell.

Labels: , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home