Well, this morning began with worship, and then we jumped right into the “perfecting process” for the petitions before us in the order we prioritized yesterday. The top priority petition group (WesPath Retirement) was passed on to plenary yesterday, so the top priority this morning was the Traditional Plan.
The pre-conference Judicial Council review identified several constitutional missteps in the structure of the Traditional Plan, so we began with several amendments. In the middle of that, someone moved to delay the Traditional Plan to the end of the day. Such a delay would effectively kill it because we won’t likely get through all of the petitions today (although we did…we bundled a bunch at the end and killed them all together). That motion failed, and debate continued. A delegate (rather abruptly) ‘called the question’ (motion to close debate and vote on the petition under consideration), and the Traditional Plan was passed on to plenary without much fanfare.
The next two petitions were handled individually, although they were both titled “Disaffiliation.” They were both attempts at what’s commonly been called a “Gracious Exit” (GE). The concept of a GE is that this division goes so deep that churches, Annual Conferences and pastors should not be compelled to remain in the UMC against their conscience by financial concerns (Trust Clause, apportionment, or pension). After much debate, a few amendments and several procedural questions and discussions…BOTH of these petitions passed.
After lunch, we returned with the One Church Plan on the agenda.
Westboro Baptist Church was on the corner again, although the megaphones were gone….just signs and unamplified yelling today. Everyone is going to Hell by the way. 🙂
The One Church Plan took a lot of time, and garnered many amendments and debate. In the end, it was voted down by 53.04%. So it “died in committee” and will not go to plenary tomorrow. As an eerie quiet fell on the room, the debate moved quickly to rejecting a third GE plan.
As the next petition was brought up, a motion was made to combine all of the remaining petitions and reject them in bulk. This is a very common practice in smaller Legislative Committees at regular General Conferences. One delegate moved to delete the Simple Plan from that bulk, which passed. A second motion to remove the Connectional Church Plan from the bulk failed. The stated purpose of removing the Simple Plan was to make a statement that the Conference is willing to listen to the more progressive voices, even if not willing to pass their plans. The remaining petitions (except Simple Plan) were bulked and defeated together.
Before dealing with the Simple Plan, a motion was made to formally ask for a Judicial Council declaratory decision on all that’s been passed today. That passed, so we should have a good idea sometime tomorrow of what needs to be ‘fixed’ to meet constitutional standards. I’ve heard Fromm few sources that a plan, even if passed in one bulked vote would NOT be completely invalidated by a single constitutional challenge. The statement that violate the Constitution would be stricken and the rest would remain in force. Hopefully, we don’t have to find out if that’s accurate or not.
While much more passed through the Legislative Committee today than I thought would be dealt with (I expected more to be included in the bulked/rejected), passing something on to plenary is not passing a petition. Tomorrow, the plenary will deal with everything passed today, and will likely spend a large portion of time amending these petitions further. So speeding petitions through the Legislative Committee may be a good move so that plenary can amend and debate at a deeper level.
At this point, I’d like to remind everyone that the issues being debated do NOT include the sacred worth or value of any person or group of people. Our doctrine has said, and continues to say that ALL souls are of infinite value and sacred worth. What’s being decided are two issues:
- Standards for clergy ordination and licensure (including some standards of behavior)
- The church’s position on same-gender wedding ceremonies (which indicates a presumed position on same-gender marriages).
If everything passed today passes tomorrow exactly in its current form, NOTHING has changed in our doctrine. NOTHING! The changes are related to holding one another accountable to the covenant clergy have voluntarily agreed to, and the expectations local churches and Annual Conferences are held to as United Methodist bodies.
On a VERY personal note (I’ve tried to avoid inserting my own emotions up to this point), the plan I hoped for passed. But I’m not jumping for joy. Our denomination is VERY divided! I stated before this conference that there would likely be an exodus of some proportion regardless of what passes or doesn’t pass. This would be a painful ‘loss’ for any of us, so just because my preferred path was taken doesn’t mean I am jubilant. People I care about are hurting, and that grieves me. Their sacred worth DEMANDS that I grieve with them, even as I am glad of the decision made. As I sat during the break, I was near tears for many reasons.
The primary reason is that I know people I love are hurting right now, and I hate that they are grieving. My friend compared it to going to a funeral for a friend’s relative you didn’t know. You grieve with your friend even though the outcome wasn’t particularly emotional for you.
A secondary reason for my emotional response is a sense of relief that we (the UMC) may have moved closer to a longer-term resolution for these issues. The period of ‘limbo’ has grown more and more urgent, and it has been crippling to the task of making disciples. A decision in either direction may help us (please, Lord) move disciple making back to the front burner.
I retire tonight both hopeful and heavy-hearted. I would encourage anyone reading this to consider a similar response.