Paragraph 2702.1Includes "immorality including but not limited to..." as a chargeable offense. The immorality clause includes "being celibate in singleness or not faithful in heterosexual marriage...being a self-avowed practicing homosexual; or conducting ceremonies which celebrate homosexual unions; or performing same-sex wedding ceremonies..." and about a dozen other items. The key phrase here is "including but not limited to." What if the statements about homosexuality were not included (and they were only added in 2004)? I suspect not much would change. A pastor could still be charged with immorality for any of the above language if the person bringing charges interprets homosexuality as immoral. A jury would find the person guilty or not guilty based on their view, likely shaped by the Annual Conference that they are part of. It is clear that this is how we are already functioning. Bishops and juries are already finding ways around the language. In fact, the Jurisdictional Solution does this very thing, only for just one jurisdiction. In other words, as regards 2702.1, the effect of simply removing the language quoted above would be identical to the effect of the Jurisdictional Solution.
Paragraph 806.9This paragraph charges GCFA with ensuring that funds aren't used to "promote the acceptance of homosexuality." As this pertains to a general agency I don't think the Jurisdictional Solution would affect it. Although I disagree with this paragraph for the sake of the church as a whole would not advocate for changing it.
Paragraph 613.19Essentially, this is the same as 806.9 but applies to the Conference Council on Finance and Administration. This would be one of the areas that the Jurisdictional Solution would allow flexibility. But what would happen if we just remove the paragraph from the BoD right now? Conferences that are opposed to homosexuality are not going to begin funding gay rights. A Conference that would support a move to the progressive jurisdiction may be willing to give financially to "promote the acceptance of homosexuality" and a conference in the traditionalist jurisdiction would not. As with 2702.1 above, simply eliminating the language would have the same practical effect as creating two jurisdictions.
Paragraph 341.6This is the paragraph that prohibits "homosexual unions" from taking place on United Methodist property. Again, this paragraph could be adjusted by a progressive jurisdiction. If it were eliminated completely right now I suppose some would be concerned that a pastor or church could then be forced to allow "homosexual unions." As a religious ceremony, however, a pastor has the responsibility for the integrity of a marriage ceremony (paragraph 340.2). So, in fact, as the BoD is currently worded I could marry a couple who freely admits to serial adultery...as long as they aren't gay. I would never do that because I am obligated to protect the sanctity of marriage, but if I chose to I could. Removing the language here would restore the full rights and responsibilities of pastors. However, since one could still argue that it would violate the morality clause in 2702, a pastor in a traditionalist conference would most likely not take the chance. Thus removing the language in 341.6 would have the same affect as the Jurisdictional Solution. Pastors in progressive areas would be able to perform weddings on church property and pastors in traditional areas would not take the chance.
Paragraph 310.2dProhibits candidates for ministry from "the practice of homosexuality" as part of a footnote that is four pages long. Yes, the footnote covers portions of four pages. It's the same footnote, by the way, that says "the burden of proof would be upon all users [of tobacco and alcohol] to show that their action is consistent with the ideals of excellence of mind, purity of body, and responsible social behavior." In my years on the Board of Ordained Ministry I never remember that coming up. What if we deleted most of the footnote except for the line that currently reads "We affirm our trust in the covenant community and the process by which we ordain ministers."? Like we've seen before, a given conference would set its own rules for what qualifies as moral behavior. No conference would be forced to ordain "practicing homosexuals" and the rules for transferring from one conference to another would allow a bishop opposed to homosexuality from allowing a pastor to transfer to the conference he/she serves. The stakes in episcopal assignment would be higher than they currently are, but if a conference has a like-minded bishop there would be no issue. The difference between eliminating language and creating two jurisdictions would be minimal.
Paragraph 304.3Does the same thing as the footnote above without going into the same ridiculous length. I would treat it the same way as the footnote - allow the conferences to fulfill their responsibility as they see fit.
Paragraph 161FThis is the Social Principles paragraph that calls homosexuality "incompatible with Christian teaching." And this is where I may lose my audience on the left. Here's the thing - as the preamble to the Social Principles says, I think we should be honest. The honest truth is we are divided. It is also honest to say that those of us working towards change are working at something different than the large majority of Christians today and a larger majority of Christians historically would affirm. I'm OK with acknowledging that truth. I also understand that, hypothetically, if the suggestions above were to come to fruition we would be asking our friends on the right to move beyond their comfort zone. I think those of us on the left can do the same thing. There is one important difference between what I have suggested so far and the Jurisdictional Solution. The Jurisdictional Solution leaves our anti-gay position as the normative position. The progressive jurisdiction could change that normative position, but officially the UMC would still be opposed to homosexuality. Deleting all or most language on sexuality would mean we would take no official position and the media and average church goer would understand that change to be a de facto change to support of homosexuality. I understand the fear from some delegates overseas that they may even be physically in danger if our position changes and from some regions of the U.S. there is concern about a mass exodus.
Considering all of this, I would advocate to change the relevant portion of 161F to "A significant majority of United Methodists continue to hold to the long-standing belief that homosexual practice is incompatible with Christian teaching. While we acknowledge differences in opinion on sexuality, this remains the official position of the UMC."
Summing UpReaffirming our official position prevents those of us on the progressive side from gloating about a victory. It would acknowledge all that many of us want - that we are divided - while also assuring traditionalists that they are the majority opinion. Changing the other paragraphs would restore pastoral and annual conference authority in ways that are consistent and appropriate but we would not be accepting the wholesale change of position that has caused such turmoil in other denominations. Finally, specifically for those who endorse the Jurisdictional Solution, it upholds every point that the Jurisdictional Solution hopes to address without any of the shortcomings.
This proposal would require no constitutional amendments. It would require only a majority vote at General Conference. In other words, it could pass. And, I believe, it could bring us back together.