Lectionary Scripture’s for 9-23-18

September 17, 2018

Lectionary Scripture’s for 9-16-18

September 10, 2018

Lectionary Scripture’s for 9-9-18

September 3, 2018

Lectionary Scripture’s for 9-2-18

August 27, 2018

UMC’s Hope for the Future – The Traditional Plan

August 21, 2018

This article is from the Wesleyan Covenant Association and is about one of the three plans to be brought before the called General Conference in St. Louis in February of 2019. Described below is the Traditional Plan and some history that has brought about the proposal of three different plans: The Traditional Plan, The One Church Plan and the Connectional plan.

This is the second of three articles briefly describing and analyzing the various plans that are slated to come before the special, called General Conference in St. Louis, Missouri, February 23-26, 2019. Readers wanting to read the official reports, plans, and enabling legislation can click HERE. See Exhibit C, pages 82 through 130 of the whole document to review The Traditional Plan.

In January 1999 the Rev. Don Fado of St. Mark’s UM Church in Sacramento, California, presided at a same-sex union. An additional 67 UM clergy claimed they co-officiated at the faux wedding – same-sex marriage being neither recognized by the church nor the state at the time. Formal complaints were lodged against the clergy participants, but the charges were dropped and no one involved was held accountable.

In October 2013, retired Bishop, Melvin Talbert presided at a same-sex wedding in Birmingham, Alabama, in violation of The UM Church’s Book of Discipline. He did so despite the request of his colleague, Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett, not to disrupt the good work of local churches in her episcopal area with such a provocative act of defiance. He refused and presided anyway. Talbert was never held accountable.

In July 2016 the Western Jurisdictional Conference elected the Rev. Karen Oliveto as a bishop of the whole church. It was widely know that Oliveto had presided at numerous same-sex weddings, and was herself married to a deaconess in the UM Church, all in violation of the Discipline. The next day the Western Jurisdiction bishops consecrated her and in short order she was assigned to lead the Mt. Sky Episcopal Area. Complaints have been filed against Oliveto, but to date she has not been held accountable.

These are just some of the more noteworthy examples of the blatant defiance of the Discipline over the past couple of decades. And yet, some UM centrists and progressives now profess to be alarmed that one of the plans coming before the special 2019 General Conference calls for enhanced accountability. The Traditional Plan (TP) does, among other things, just that. However, it is not nearly as onerous as its detractors make it out to be. Briefly, here are the main features of the TP.

First, it does require annual conferences and bishops to categorically state they will abide by the church’s teachings regarding its sexual ethics, definition of marriage, and ordination standards, or face stiff penalties for violating them. Again, given the serial acts of defiance and lack of accountability, this should surprise no one.

Second, for those individuals who cannot, in good conscience follow the denomination’s teachings on these matters, the TP offers a fair and even gracious way for them to step away from the UM Church.

And finally, unlike the One Church Plan, the TP provides a gracious way for any local church and any annual conference to leave the denomination without having to worry about the possibility of losing or having to litigate for their property and assets.

In short, the TP is a sincere attempt to restore good order to the church, and to refocus the denomination’s attention on its mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

United Methodists understand every church must have a form of governance that provides a way for it to discern God’s will when it comes to defining its core theological and ethical beliefs. (And yes, unlike supporters of the One Church Plan, proponents of the TP believe our sexual ethics, teachings on marriage, and our ordination standards are core convictions that derive from Scripture and nearly 2,000 years of Christian teaching. These are not novel or esoteric claims; they are ones the vast majority of Christian faith communities ascribe to.) It is widely known that the important task of discernment in the UM Church is the purview of the General Conference – a body composed of duly elected clergy and lay delegates from around the world that speaks authoritatively for the whole church.

For over 45 years the UM Church has engaged in a debate over its sexual ethics, teachings on marriage, and its ordination standards. For many years that debate was a healthy and helpful one as one General Conference after another thoughtfully, prayerfully, and graciously engaged these matters. Blue ribbon panels were formed, studies were commissioned, and reports were widely shared. General Conference delegates, with civility, candor, and grace, debated the key issues repeatedly. And the results have always been a re-affirmation of not only the UM Church’s teachings on these matters, but what the vast majority of Christians world-wide have practiced and taught, in all times and all places, for the past 2,000 years.

Unfortunately, some progressives, particularly in the past six years, have decided to reject the UM Church’s time-honored way of discerning God’s will. Even though General Conferences have reaffirmed the church’s sexual ethics, teachings on marriage, and its ordination standards, they have embarked on a strategy of ecclesial defiance. And some of our bishops have abetted their defiance, and others have even joined in it.

Therefore, it is no surprise a proposal like the TP has been submitted to the special General Conference, and that it might actually pass. Laity and clergy want local churches where all people are warmly welcomed and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is passionately proclaimed. They also want a church where clergy and bishops promote and defend its standards. They want a church where good order is maintained. And they want a church that is growing, healthy and vibrant. Proponents of the TP want nothing more and expect nothing less.

So reactionaries can make their hyperbolic claims – the TP ushers in an “inquisition” or it is only interested in “enforcing the rules”– but the fact of the matter is the vast majority of United Methodists world-wide sincerely believe the church’s sexual ethics, teachings on marriage, and its ordination standards are grounded in Scripture and 2,000 years of Christian teaching. They believe the church has openly and fairly arrived at these teachings, reaffirmed them – repeatedly– and now rightly expect its clergy and bishops to abide by and embrace them. Current and prospective clergy members are not entitled to violate UM Church standards with impunity. And a church that prizes unity, health, and vitality cannot endlessly tolerate those who would brazenly undermine its core theological and ethical convictions.

Simply put, after years of defiance, the TP calls for the reaffirmation of the church’s sexual ethics, teachings on marriage and its ordination standards. It calls for accountability for those who refuse to abide by them. And it offers a generous and gracious pathway for those who want or need to part ways with the UM Church.


Walter Fenton is an elder in the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference and the WCA’s vice-president for strategic engagement.

Lectionary Scripture’s for 8-26-18

August 20, 2018

Lectionary Scripture’s for 8-19-18

August 13, 2018

Where the UMC MAY BE HEADED based on the Episcopal Churches experience.

August 13, 2018

This is an article from Good News! May not be such good news.

Episcopalians and the One Church Plan

Here is the trajectory The Episcopal Church followed:

• 2003 – The first openly gay bishop was consecrated

• 2009 – The church’s standards were changed to allow openly gay or lesbian persons to be ordained, subject to the approval of their bishop (some dioceses did not grant such permission)

• 2012 – Ordination of transgender persons was allowed, subject to the bishop’s approval; a provisional ritual for same-sex union/marriage was adopted

• 2015 – Same-sex marriage performed by priests was allowed in the church, subject to the approval of the bishop (8 dioceses out of 101 declined to grant approval)

• 2018 – Same-sex marriage was required in every diocese, whether the bishop approved or not, but clergy were not required to perform same-sex weddings and the provisional ritual was not adopted into the official church worship book

(Sources: Stances of Faiths on LGBT Issues: The Episcopal Church; Episcopal convention approves a ‘pastoral solution’ on same-sex marriage; and LGBTQ in the Church)

The Episcopal Church took a “local option” approach to resolving its conflict over same-sex marriage and LGBT ordination. Since The Episcopal Church gives more authority to bishops in setting policy, that “local option” revolved around the decision of the bishop, rather than the diocese (equivalent to our annual conference). This is the same approach that the One Church Plan takes, allowing annual conferences to decide about ordination and local churches and pastors to decide about performing same-sex weddings.

One thing to notice is that taking such a “local option” approach, even when spread out over a period of 15 years, did not stave off massive membership losses. Several whole traditional/evangelical dioceses left The Episcopal Church over the last ten years. Attendance dropped from 857,000 in 2000 to less than 580,000 in 2015-a 32 percent decline. Membership dropped from 2,329,000 in 2000 to 1,745,000 in 2016-a 25 percent decline. The national church spent over $45 million on lawsuits to retain church buildings when congregations left. In the same way, adopting the One Church Plan will cause hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of United Methodists to depart from The United Methodist Church and could well cost millions in lawsuits over property.

Another thing to notice is that each step along the way was only a step in the process of becoming more affirming of LGBT practices. Even the most recent Episcopalian action in 2018 is not the end of the story for their denomination. It is anticipated that the formal approval and adoption of a same-sex wedding ritual will take place in 2021 (their next general convention). And provisions mandating equal access to bathrooms and shower facilities regardless of gender identity that were turned down in 2018 may pass the next time around. The process (and conflict) leading toward full affirmation will not stop until same-sex weddings and ordination for LGBT persons are required for all.

The recent gathering of the Love Your Neighbor Coalition reportedly discussed that very prospect. Although many were loath to accept a solution (the One Church Plan) that allows for what they consider discrimination against LGBT persons in some parts of the country, others saw adoption of the plan as a good first step that allows the church to move farther in the direction of affirmation in future years. Dorothy Benz, a New York delegate and leader in Methodists in New Directions (MIND), called the One Church Plan “the necessary first steps for justice,” implying that other steps will need to be taken.

There are no guarantees in the One Church Plan that protections for traditional pastors, churches, and annual conferences will remain in place. In The Episcopal Church, what was once allowed is now becoming required. The “local option” is continually becoming more restricted in favor of required affirmation. By a simple majority vote, the General Conference in 2020 or 2024 could turn around and remove the protections for traditionalists and institute greater requirements for inclusion and affirmation of what the Bible restricts.

Evangelicals will not remain part of a church that forfeits its moral authority based on Scripture in order to go along with the tide of American public opinion. While the One Church Plan seems to offer a “live and let live” way forward, the experience of the Episcopal Church shows that it is only a slippery slope on the way to abandoning the clear teachings of Scripture.

Thomas Lambrecht is a United Methodist clergyperson and the vice president of Good News. He also served as a member of the Commission on a Way Forward. 

Lectionary Scripture’s for 8-12-18

August 6, 2018

Lectionary Scripture’s for 8-5-18

July 31, 2018