Friday, August 3, 2018

What's Wrong with the "Traditionalist" Plan - Part 2

There are so many issues with this plan that I can't fit them into one post. The first post contained 7 critical issues covering the first 5 of 17 petitions. Note, again, that all of these issues are independent of how you feel about LGBT inclusivity.

Similar to one of the earlier points, I want to note that the 6th petition requires nominees to the Board of Ordained Ministry certify that they will uphold the Discipline solely in the area of "self avowed practicing homosexuals." There is no other requirement for a BOM member. I'm not numbering this as an additional issue but it bears attention.

8. Petition 7 gives us a third way of categorizing people. Some petitions keep our current language of "self-avowed practicing," petition 5 simply says "self-avowed" and now in petition 7 we have only
"practicing." Inconsistent language confuses the issue instead of bringing the desired clarity.

9. Petitions 8 and 9 are fascinating (these petitions have identical language applied to two different paragraphs). "Every Annual Conference shall certify that the bishop has nominated only members of the Board of Ministry..." consistent with petition 7. This is an enforcement mechanism for petition 7. And if the Annual Conference doesn't do this then the entire Annual Conference is kicked out of the UMC. Let me rephrase this. I'm not on the Board. I don't know if my bishop has asked the proper questions. For that matter, I don't know if the nominees have been truthful. But I'm expected to vote to affirm nominees without any way of knowing if those nominees actually qualify. And if as an Annual Conference we don't vote to affirm that all nominees for the BOOM believe something that we cannot verify, if we don't vote to affirm that the bishop has done something that we cannot verify, then we as an entire Annual Conference are kicked out of the denomination. That is a remarkable vote to ask for.

10. Petition 10 is the big one. It's titled "Implementing Gracious Accountability." Gracious is in the eye of the beholder. In summary, the 13 page petition creates a new paragraph that "provides a mechanism for ensuring that annual conferences and bishops will uphold the Discipline, while also providing a gracious exit for those conscious-bound not to do so." To accomplish this, every annual conference must vote by the end of March 2020 to affirm the new statements contained in all the other petitions that we've covered so far. There is the possibility of an extension for Central Conferences. Failure to affirm these statements means the entire Annual Conference is kicked out of the denomination. And that vote must be taken within 13 months of this proposal passing. One of the most critical votes an annual conference will take must happen within 13 months of learning that the vote will have to be taken. Bishops have until June 30, 2020 to sign the same kind of statement for themselves individually.

That's the Accountability part. The Gracious part is, I think, what follows. Every annual conference that chooses not to sign off on the statement above now has an opportunity to becoming "a self-governing Methodist church." This is the gracious exit strategy that many are concerned the One Church Plan doesn't have. It also allows any 50 or more congregations to form a new self-governing Methodist Church with no financial ramifications other than helping to fund any unfunded pension liabilities. To be clear, these churches are very definitely no longer United Methodist. I would note two items here. First, many churches that choose to leave the denomination are already leaving under these same basic terms. The reality is most annual conferences are not going to want to deal with a rural congregation's church building or a suburban/urban church building with substantial debt. In almost all these cases the local church holds the cards and the annual conference will ultimately allow them to leave. Second, under this plan any church can exit for any reason. We know that there are some within the WCA and other conservative caucuses who believe that the best option is to dissolve the denomination. The WCA president has submitted the necessary legislation. The traditionalist plan is supposed to hold the church together, but in reality it makes it very simple for any local church to leave.

I'm not addressing petitions 11-17. A couple of these, particularly petition 11 (which contains harsh minimum mandatory sentences) are likely going to be ruled unconstitutional. The others could be appropriate changes regardless of where we end up with the traditionalist plan overall. But I'm not done with concerns about the plan. I'll have one more post still that looks at some big picture pieces. I'll also compare some of the arguments against the One Church Plan (OCP) with the Traditionalist Plan. I think we'll see that many of the concerns about the OCP, both legitimate and illegitimate, are not care for any better with the Traditionalist Plan.

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