The United Methodist Church is a mess.
Factions within are warring; but the latest move signals a conservative trajectory.
On Friday, the church came to a decision: It will uphold major components of its recent plan bolstering bans on same-sex marriage and the ordination of LGBT pastors.
The track adopted by the UMC in February — known as the Traditional Plan — states in part that bishops are disallowed from ordaining “self-avowed homosexuals” (see my coverage here). Also, ministers presiding over gay weddings could be suspended without pay. A second offense would mean they get the ol’ heave-ho out of the UMC ship. SPLASH!
But a buncha modern ‘Merican Methodists say the Traditional Plan is goin’ overboard — why be so crappy to the L, the G, the B, and the T? Three of those letters comprise the best sandwich known to man, and who wants to be mean to G?
Hence, one group’s call for an upsurge in defiance. Under the heading “Rise & Resist,” here’s what Reconciling Ministries Network’s website has to say:
We are a network of over 40,000 Reconciling United Methodists and over 1,000 Reconciling Churches and Communities. Dozens of statements, open letters, and bold refutations of GC2019’s shameful decisions have emerged from the people, communities, and churches of the Reconciling movement across the connection. Since GC2019, this people who call themselves Reconciling have borne witness for justice in media outlets, performed same-gender weddings, organized gatherings, and continued in faithful ministry as called by their Creator.
We are not only working on what is to come, but we are already living it. Justice movements within our Church can no longer seek justice by compromise. To do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God require us to rise and resist.
They have good reason to be emboldened: The Traditional Plan was adopted by a vote of 438-384. However, most U.S. delegates preferred an alternate system favorable to homosexuality. Traditionalists won due to votes coming from delegates based in Africa and the Phillipines.
It’s a definite trend: Liberalism among U.S. clergy is certainly growing — take a look at these ministers blessing an abortion clinic.
As for the UMC, Friday’s decision — by a nine-member judicial panel — did actually rule a few aspects of the Traditional Plan impermissible under church law; but the bulk was stamped A-Okay.
The impending solution to inner turmoil seems to be a parting of ways.
As reported by ABC News:
The Rev. Tom Lambrecht, general manager of the conservative Methodist magazine Good News, hailed the council’s ruling as a “strong affirmation” of the Traditional Plan’s core elements.
He suggested that Methodists opposed to the plan should start negotiating to leave the UMC and form a new denomination that would allow them to adopt LGBT-inclusive policies.
And there’s also this:
Opponents of the Traditional Plan will have a chance to overturn it at the UMC’s next general conference in May 2020. But Lambrecht said he agreed with other analysts who predict the UMC’s conservative bloc will be even stronger then.
Some averse to the plan — forming the coterie “UMC-Next” — have been holding meetings to discuss their next move. A contingent even suggests staking claim to the UMC and forcing out the traditionalists.
As the battle rages, some churches are raising flags in defiance (see more of the turmoil courtesy of RedState’s Mike Ford).
And the Reconciling Ministries Network is demanding outright repentance:
“We call upon the Church to repent of the sin of homophobia.”
Christian readers: What do you think?
Member of the UMC: What do you foresee becoming of the 12+ million-member denomination? To quote a great Jack Nicholson movie (also starring the fantastically friendly Keanu Reeves — see here), something’s gotta give.
I look forward to hearing from you in the Comments section.
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