Monday, May 14, 2018

United Methodist Bishops Propose Plan to Allow LGBTQ Ordination & Gay Weddings in Some Areas of the Denomination // Updated Below...

(Originally written on 05/06/18): I grew up in the United Methodist Church. I eventually quit it and joined the United Church of Christ -- due to the UCC's open & affirming belief systems towards LGBTQ members and leaders. I still have a warm spot in my heart for the Methodists and I enjoy worshiping there when visiting my family. But I don't see myself returning to the UMC, in part because of my now twenty year connection to the UCC. But also because the United Methodist Church has a pretty awful history for defrocking LGBTQ pastors. Well, for defrocking any pastor who expresses any ounce of support for same-sex marriages and weddings.

Don't get me wrong. It's the UMC's right to push back against same-sex marriage and LGBTQ pastors. But it's also my right as a married gay Christian with nearly adult kids to worship elsewhere because of this.

I was reading an article yesterday from Religion News Service about a proposed plan within the United Methodist Church hierarchy that would allow individual pastors and regional bodies to make their own decisions when it comes to same-sex weddings and LGBTQ clergy ordination. The Council of Bishops recommended the One Church Plan on Friday the 4th of May:
(T)he One Church Plan... provides conferences, churches, and pastors the flexibility to uniquely reach their missional context while retaining the connectional nature of The United Methodist Church. 
The One Church Plan allows for contextualization of language about human sexuality in support of the mission; and allows for central conferences, especially those in Africa, to retain their disciplinary authority to adapt the Book of Discipline and continue to include traditional language and values while fulfilling the vision of a global and multicultural church. 
This plan also encourages a generous unity by giving United Methodists the ability to address different missional contexts in ways that reflect their theological convictions. The One Church Plan removes the restrictive language of the Book of Discipline and adds assurances to pastors and Conferences who due to their theological convictions cannot perform same-sex weddings or ordain self-avowed practicing homosexuals.
More details about this plan will be released on 07/08/18.

Personally, I don't think it will be that easy. It was challenging to be a married gay man living in Iowa when most of the rest of the USA refused to legally recognize our marriage. I would imagine that it will be similarly challenging if one is a married lesbian pastor in one conference and then trying due mission work elsewhere, or even Trying to move to another region.

Updated on 05/14/18: Religion News Service posted this article about reactions to the One Church Plan. It seems that nobody is happy about this recommendation:
Socially conservative evangelicals say the plan, which aims to avert schism in the 12 million-member denomination, goes too far by permitting individual pastors and regional bodies to make their own decisions on whether to perform same-sex weddings and ordain LGBT people as clergy.

“The reaction from the evangelical side of the church in the U.S. was, I think it’s safe to say, entirely negative,” said Mark Tooley, president of the Institute for Religion and Democracy, a conservative advocacy group.

Meanwhile progressives aren’t happy either. Reconciling Ministries Network and the United Methodist Queer Clergy Caucus, two groups committed to the full inclusion of LGBT people in the United Methodist Church, also expressed concerns that none of the three plans included in the bishops’ report would affirm ordination and marriage for all the denominations’ LGBT members.

“We took a step back and said there is an option that’s missing in all of this discussion, and that option is legislative language written into the Book of Discipline that would welcome and celebrate the lives of LGBTQ members of the United Methodist Church,” said RMN Executive Director Jan Lawrence.
I was visiting family over the weekend -- a bunch of Methodists. They hadn't heard yet about this recommendation. It really hadn't trickled down to their local church community -- and nobody was talking about it during coffee hour during church on Sunday.

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