Saturday, August 04, 2018

Way Forward Report - Initial Thoughts

“Which plan are you going to vote for?”

Since the “Commission on a Way Forward’s Report to the General Conference” has been published, several people have asked me that question – “How are you going to vote?” or “What plan do you like?” or some variation thereof.

The truth of the matter is, at this point we have no idea what we will actually be voting on. Our United Methodist General Conference is a bureaucratic morass, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. After the petition process, the debates, the amendments, the motions to do this and that and the other obscure parliamentary procedure, who the heck actually knows WHAT we will be voting on, much less how we will end up.

As I’ve said before, our United Methodist system performs exactly as it is designed to perform. Suffice it to say that our denominational structures and processes are not conducive to sweeping, dramatic transformations.

In their report, the Commission lays out three plans – One Church, Connectional Conferences, and Traditional. (My very sketchy summaries are below, and I’ll also share the link to the report itself. Click this.)

There were thirty-two people on the Commission, and they were asked which of the three plans they would publicly support. (Feel free to check my numbers on this, by the way, and correct them if I have miscalculated.)

18 support One Church. 12 support Connectional Conferences. 9 support Traditional.

That is to say, there are that many names listed on each plan. If you are good at math, you will already have noticed that is 39 names. (If not, you will now be going back to add them up.) 39 names - from a 32 member commission. So … It’s a riddle!

Actually it’s not a riddle. Some people put their names on more than one. And one put their name on all three. And some didn’t put their names down at all. As near as I can tell…

Of the 18 One Church people, 6 also publicly support Connectional Conferences, and 1 supports all 3.

Of the 12 Connectional Conferences people, 6 also publicly support One Church and 5 also support the Traditional plan, and 1 supports all 3.

Of the 9 Traditional people, 5 also publicly support the Connectional Conferences plan, and (as I have mentioned) 1 supports all 3.

There are 6 commission members who did not take a public position. All 6 are bishops.

So what, right? Well, to me it is noteworthy that the “Connectional Conferences” plan is the only one of the three that has zero people who publicly support only it.

There are 11 who support only One Church. There are 3 who support only Traditional. All 12 who support the Connectional Conferences plan also support one of the others.

I’m not sure what that means exactly, but it may mean that none of the commission members are really champions for the Connectional Conferences plan, and I think that says something in and of itself. It also seems like the Commission on a Way Forward as a whole is itself in favor of the One Church plan, which may say something or not.

As I said above, at this point in the incredibly long and complicated process, there is nothing to vote on.  Any General Conference delegate who tells you how they will be voting is being a bit premature. We need to wait until we get “in the room where it happens” and see how everything unfolds and what things may be added or withdrawn or changed. Where we end up on February 26, 2019 is anyone’s guess.

Please continue to pray daily, and if you might be able to pause from 2:23-2:26 each day, you would be joining thousands of Methodists praying at the same time. Pray for grace and peace and love. Pray for guidance and focus and patience. Pray for an awareness of the Holy Spirit’s presence.

And please pray, as I do each day, for a bright, hopeful, faithful future for the United Methodist Church.

Sketchy summaries:
One Church - Pastors are free to, but not forced to marry same-sex couples. Conferences are free to, but not forced to ordain gay people.
Connectional Conferences - Creates 3 new subdivisions within the United Methodist denomination based on theological perspective, one on the conservative end of things, one in the center, and one one the progressive end. Conferences, congregations, and pastors choose with which of the 3 to affiliate.
Traditional - Reinforces restrictions on marrying and ordaining people who are gay, and strengthens the penalties for doing so.


Owen Smith said...

I do pray for the special conference, the delegates, and for guidance of the Holy Spirit at that vote. I really liked your comments and appreciate the unknown elements and possibilities there. I liked what Bishop Farr said at our AC, that he hopes/prays that no delegate goes with his/her mind made up but rather in the spirit of listening for the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
I love the UMC and have been an active part of it for nigh on to 80 years. I want it to continue to be that church that "makes disciples for the transformation of the world" and I believe it will.
In addition to the concern over this one question and stance that is the subject of the special general conference, I am concerned/worried about the not so subtle presence of the New Age theology that seems to be creeping into the church at large. Maybe its only my impression but that has been on my mind a lot lately.

bob said...

I think as long as those who vote try to discern what God wants and not what feels right right to each individual voter things will work out. There's the problem, how to separate our feelings from what prayer and scripture tell us of God's will. Tossing our own feelings and will to listen and obey God is probably the hardest part of trying to walk with Jesus.

Good luck and God bless as you walk this difficult path