After three days of presentations, workshops, strategy sessions, and networking, I am no more certain of the future of The United Methodist Church than when I left for last week’s conference in Kansas City. But I have made the following observations.
1) Virtually everyone throughout the denomination agrees that we cannot continue as we have been. Regardless of one’s theological position, almost everyone agrees that some degree of separation must now take place between traditionalists and centrist/progressives. Everyone is exhausted by this fight, and feels that our time and treasure could be better spent spreading the good news of the gospel and establishing the kingdom of God upon the earth instead of fighting with one another.
2) There is still, however, a great deal of variance between the various plans that have been put forward to facilitate this separation. It is highly likely that none of the proposals will garner enough votes to be implemented. Hardly anyone sees this being settled entirely by the upcoming General Conference in May. There is every possibility that we will have to convene another special called General Conference within the next quadrennium.
3) Though it will eventually be defeated, the hated “incompatibility clause” (“the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching”) will remain in The Discipline (The United Methodist rule book) for the foreseeable future. The hated Traditionalist Plan will still go into effect January 1, 2020, complete with prohibitions against same-sex weddings and LGBTQ clergy.
4) Therefore, it must be made clear by the leadership of the North Texas Conference that the Traditionalist Plan will not be enforced or implemented in our conference. This must be said without evasion, or hesitation, or couched in the language of “aspiration.” Approximately 40-50 clergy and laity from the NTC attended the conference and then met in strategy session to discuss how to make this a reality.
On a personal note, I cannot tell you how empowering it was to see so many straight people, who identify as theologically moderate, get up and say “no more! The church must become fully inclusive!” I deeply appreciate the support and activation of LGBTQ allies.
Also, for the first time that I am aware, a bishop of The UMC (Bishop Sally Dyke of the Northern Illinois Conference) got up and publicly thanked LGBTQ clergy for our service, dedication, and loyalty to The UMC, despite all the hurt and harm we have endured. To say this moved me beyond tears would be an understatement. I have never before been thanked by a bishop for my service, either publicly or privately.
We live in interesting times to be a United Methodist. I will keep the congregation informed as events unfold. In the meantime, we face the future with faith, secure in the knowledge of our God’s love, mercy, and grace.