TOWN HALL MEETINGS ON THE DISTRICTS
“THE WAY FORWARD”
BISHOP PEGGY A JOHNSON
 
FALL 2018
 
Ephesians 4:3
“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”
 
. 2016 General Conference established a “Commission for the Way
  Forward with bishops overseeing the process. The “Commission”
 was an inclusive group of UMC people.
 
. The “Commission” worked for 2 years and held 9 meetings. They
 sought unity, mission and contextual flexibility.
 
. The “Commission” presented three plans (” Traditional,” “One Church,”
  and “Connectional Church”)
 
. “The bishops, including Bishop Johnson, supported the “One Church
   Plan” by an overwhelming majority
 
. The Judicial Council ruled in May that other plans in harmony with the GC
  mandate of the Commission could be submitted before the July 8th deadline
  that the Commission brings the plan to General Conference 2019
  (and not the bishops).
 
. Over 100 other plans have been sent in and are being vetted.
 
. A special called session of General Conference is set for February 23-26,
  2019 in St. Louis, MO.
 
OCTOBER 23-26, 2018 JUDICIAL COUNCIL MEETING IN ZURICH, SWITZERLAND
 
  The Judicial Council will consider a 231 page and 48 petition document from
  the Commission.  They are to rule if these plans pass the “constitutional test.”
  Each part of each plan is parsed out for individuals rulings. Plans could change
  depending on the decisions at this meeting.
 
GENERAL CONFERENCE 2019
 
.  There are 864 delegates from the entire connection, half clergy,
   half lay, most are the 2016 delegates, 42% from outside the US,
   and Philadelphia Area has been allotted 12 votes total (8 from EPA
   and 4 from PDC)
 
.  Bishops only preside at this meeting and do not vote
 
.  GC will determine what we will do about the paragraphs in the
   Book of Discipline that deal with homosexuality, the ordination
   of homosexual people and same gender weddings/unions.
 
WHAT UNITED METHODISTS NEED TO DO IN PREPARATION FOR THIS MEETING:
 
.   Pray that God’s will be done
 
.  Study Scriptures and other resources and discuss
 
.  Do the work of Christ – share the gospel and engage in mission
 
.  Be an un-anxious presence – hold fast to the “peace that passes understanding”
 
PRAY
 
.  Website:  UMCprays.org – provides many helps, lists of delegates,
   GC organizers, bishops, scriptures,
 
.  Pray every day from 2:23 to 2:26 pm.
 
.  Wesley Fast – sundown on Thursday through Friday at 3 pm.
 
.  Plan for prayer vigils at your churches before and during General Conference.
 
STUDY AND DISCUSS
 
.  Study the Word of God, particularly those passages that deal with unity
   and cultural and theological diversity
 
.  Study the many books and articles on the topic and have  a book study at
   church or during Sunday School (these are posted on the Conference
   website)
 
.  Become familiar with the three plans and other plans that may be submitted
 
.  Follow the developments on
   https://www.umnews.org (sign up for the daily digest)
 
.  Invite elected delegates and/ or persons of various perspectives to come
   and speak at your church
 
 
THREE PLANS (LATEST UPDATES)
 
.  Traditional
 
.  One Church
 
.  Connectional Church
 
 
The Traditional Plan
 
.  Affirms the current language in the Book of Discipline which bans 
   “self-avowed and practicing” homosexual clergy and the blessing of
   same-gender unions/marriages with strict enforcement of these bans.
   Also homosexuality is considered contrary to Christian teaching.  Marriage
   is only between a man and a woman.
 
.  Churches and annual conferences that disagree with these enforcements
   are encouraged to set up self-governing or “autonomous, affiliated
   or concordant” Churches or conferences
 
.  Broadening the definition of “self-avowed practicing homosexual” to
   include anyone living in a same-sex marriage, domestic partnership
   or civil union, or who publically states that he or she is a homosexual.
 
.  Setting minimum penalties (one year suspension without pay at the
   first violation) and quicker expulsions after conviction of violations.
 
.  Bishops and annual conferences must certify that they would uphold,
   enforce and maintain the Discipline’s standards on marriage and
   ordination.
 
.  Bishops who could not do so would not be eligible for compensation
   for their expenses after 2021 and would be urged to join the
   self-governing churches.
 
.  Bishops would not be allowed to consecrate, ordain, or commission
   a person who is a homosexual even if they were elected or approved
   by the relevant committees such as the BOOM or the executive
   clergy session.
 
.  Churches that disagree with a conference that refuses to enforce
   the Discipline can remain in the UMC by aligning with a conference
   that enforces the BOD
 
.  Churches that disagree with a conference that wishes to enforce the
   Discipline could band together to join an “autonomous, affiliated or
   concordant” church.  Groups of 50 or more could form a new
   denomination.
 
.  Encourage clergy who could not maintain the ban against
   homosexual marriage and ordination to leave the denomination
   and join the self-governing churches.
 
.  Require any “just resolution” of a complaint to contain a commitment
   not to repeat the offense.
 
.  Require every annual conference to certify that they will maintain the
   bans and if not, they would be encouraged to form a self-governing
   body.
 
.  The current general agencies could negotiate their services with churches
   and conferences that leave the denomination
 
.  Boards of Ordained Ministry must specifically ascertain whether or not a
   candidate is a practicing homosexual, including looking at information
   on social media.
 
.  There is a time line for churches or conferences to form a self-governing
   church with detailed procedures on how funds and pensions will be
   handled.  All must be in place by January 1, 2021.
 
 
The One Church Plan
 
.  The plan “gives churches the room they need to maximize the presence
  of the UM witness in as many places in the world as possible.”
 
.  It eliminates the paragraphs in the Discipline that talks about homosexuality
   being incompatible with Christian teaching.  It deletes the ban on ordaining
   homosexuals but allows each conference and clergy session to determine
   their standards.  Clergy will never be forced to perform a same-gender
   marriage and no one is forced to act out of their conscience.
 
.  In the US the local church members can decide what is best for their
   congregational and missional context relating to same-sex marriage on
   their church property.  Local churches must vote at a church conference
   (open to all members) to allow their property to be used for a same
   gender ceremony.
 
.  Central Conferences can retain the present Discipline language
   banning ordination and marriages of homosexual people.  They can volt what
   best serves their missional context
 
.  Each jurisdiction would pay for their bishops
 
.  If a clergy person decides to leave the denomination their vested
   pension will be protected at the time of their departure.  They can
   also seek to transfer to another annual conference.
 
.  Exiting churches must follow the current UM Disciplinary language
   about the trust clause and cannot take the building and assets and
   leave.  There also must be provisions for pension liability that an
   exiting church creates.
 
.  This plan does not require any amendments to the Constitution.
 
.  The plan would take effect on January 1, 2020 and full implementation
  will be completed on December 31, 2020.
 
The Connectional Church Plan
 
.  This plan simplifies the General Church structure and provides space
   and connection between parts of the church that are in deep conflict
 
.  It replaces the existing 5 jurisdictions with 3 connectional conferences
   that are values-based” rather than geographic in nature.
 
.  Those values are:  traditional, unity, and progressive.
 
.  The central conferences (those outside the Us) can join one of the three
   or form their own connectional conference.
 
 
DESCRIPTION OF THE 3 CONNECTIONS:
 
.  Traditional: marriage only between a man and a woman, a ban on homosexual
   ordination and same gender weddings with enhanced accountabbilities
 
.  Unity:  acknowledges that we are not of one mind, takes out the restrictive
   language about homosexuality, ordination of homosexual people and
   same gender marriages, allows, churches, conferences and pastors
   to follow their conscience
 
.  Progressive:  Same gender weddings are required of all clergy, all annual
   conferences must ordain qualified LGBT persons and all local churches
   are welcoming of LGBT pastors
 
.  Each Connectional Conference would create its own Book of Discipline
   that includes the items that are commonly agreed on with authority
   to adapt other items that are more specific to their theological perspective
 
.  Each Connectional Conference’s College of Bishops would provide
   episcopal oversight and accountability and handle elections, assignments
   and funding.
 
.  Each Connectional Conference would have its own administration,
   financing and policies regarding LGBTQ weddings and ordination.
 
.  Justice ministries relating to racism and sexism would be organized
   at the Connectional Conference level.
 
.  Cross Connectional Conference cooperation and partnerships would remain
   and all would continue to support mission work and ministry outside
   the US.
 
.  General Conference would be shorter and would retain authority over
   the church’s shared doctrine and services of continuing the
   general agencies.  Mostly wit would be a time of worship, inspiration
   and sharing best practices.
 
.  The General Agencies that would continue are:  Pensions (Wespath),
   the Publishing House, Finance and Administration, Archives and
   History, and some parts of the Board of Global Ministries (including
   the Committee on Relief)
 
.  The future structure of other agencies would be determine by the
   connectional conferences
 
.  The Judicial Council would have 2 elected persons from each connectional
   conference
 
.   Each jurisdiction would determine the connection they wish to join.
   Conferences and churches that disagree can join another on in
   another part of the country.
 
.  Jurisdictional property would belong to the affiliated connectional
   conference.
 
.  Retirement of bishops in 2020 would be waived (as needed) during
   this transitional time until 2022.  General Conference 2024 would
   be postponed until 2025
 
 
WHAT DO WE DO IN THE MEANTIME?
 
 
.   We discussed prayer and study / conversation
 
.   What else?
 
 
 DO THE WORKS OF CHRIST!!
 
.  Acknowledge that there is far more that we agree on than
   disagree on
 
.  Our mission is to Make Disciples for Jesus Christ for the
   transformation of the World.
 
.  This is important work we are doing with General Conference
   but it should not stop us from our ministries.
 
.  Be in fellowship and ministry with those with whom you disagree.
 
.  More than half of our churches have not taken in a single member
   in 2017
 
.  Number of new baptisms in 2017: 798 in PDC and 850 in EPA.
 
.  Number of new professions of faith in 2017:  1,260 in PDC and
   1,506 in EPA
 
,  There are more than 400 churches in each conference!  We could be
    reaching out more and evangelizing for the Kingdom of God.
 
 
FINALLY – BE AN UN-ANXIOUS PRESENCE
 
.  Trust that God will lead us and empower us for the
   days ahead.
 
.  Speak positively about the good that God is doing.
 
 
 
QUESTIONS?  COMMENTS?