Thursday, January 17, 2019

The CCP Is (and should be) DOA

In the lead up to General Conference we've seen renewed interest in the Connectional Conference Plan (CCP). It should be noted that virtually every person who has written favorably of the CCP is publicly associated with the Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA), Good News, or both. Every indication points to the Traditional Plan leadership understanding that they do not have the votes to pass their plan or the (largely identical) Modified Traditional Plan. Advocating for the CCP appears to be an attempt to siphon votes and momentum away from the One Church Plan (OCP). You shouldn't fall for it.

But first, an argument in favor of the CCP. I genuinely appreciate the Commission on a Way Forward spending time and energy on a creative plan that deliberately avoids any perception of winners and losers. At a different time I think I could have advocated for this plan. I appreciate that, like the OCP the CCP gives space for differences of opinion. I appreciate that it gives us more flexibility from an unfortunately large and burdensome Book of Discipline. Following, though, are some fatal flaws that make it Dead on Arrival at General Conference.

1. The CCP Simply Cannot Pass
On the day in 2016 when General Conference broke I'm convinced that nothing of  substance could get a majority vote. Time has passed and now I do think a majority could vote for the right plan. But the CCP has 8 constitutional amendments that require a super-majority. That's just not going to happen. But what if somehow it did? For the CCP to take effect it has to be approved not only by General Conference, but by a 2/3 aggregate vote of the annual conferences. Remember that in 2016-17 we couldn't get a 2/3 vote on women's rights. If we can't get 2/3 agreement on that it is unfathomable that we would get a 2/3 vote on all of the CCP amendment.

2. The CCP Has Not Been Fully Vetted
Last October the Judicial Council ruled on the constitutionality of both the OCP and the TP. Their rulings are one reason why the TP now is struggling so much. They did not, however, review the CCP. As mentioned above, the authors of the CCP have identified 8 constitutional amendments that are needed. There is no guarantee, however that those are the only amendments needed. It is very conceivable that if the CCP somehow got the requisite vote at General Conference the Judicial Council would then rule it is still unconstitutional. We've then completely wasted time and money and are back to drawing board in 2020.

3. The CCP Timeline Is Unworkable
 The published timeline for implementation of the CCP shows that it will not be fully implemented until 2025. We have two general conferences between now and then. We have six more years for voting patterns to shift and for culture to shift. The WCA has vowed to leave if anything other than the Traditional Plan passes. If they stay true to that then we could have a very different church in the next 6 years. At a time when most of us recognize that institutions need to be more nimble the CCP locks us into one mode for the next 6 years.

4. It Is the Separation Before the Divorce
This has been my chief complaint from the beginning. The thesis of the CCP is  that we have so many theological differences that the only way forward as one denomination is to separate ourselves into three mini-denominations segregated by theology. Note first that this is precisely the same way that American society has segregated itself politically. The result of our political segregation is political extremism and animosity towards those who we disagree with. The CCP institutionalizes echo chambers that we speak into at a time when we especially need to listen to those we disagree with. The echo chambers will simply reinforce what we already believe, reinforce our stereotypes, and ultimately drive us further away from each other. 

In his 2008 book Staying at the Table, Bishop Scott Jones wrote that "liberals need conservatives and conservatives need liberals." He's right. This is what the One Church Plan provides. The CCP isolates us from each other before an inevitable divorce. Don't let that happen. 


  1. Full of insight. Thanks, David, for a very helpful statement.

  2. First, the women's rights amendment did not pass because of an error that added controversial wording that had absolutely nothing to do with women's rights. That wording has been removed, the amendment has been resubmitted and the expectation is it will pass with flying colors.

    Second, if you want to truly impact individual lives then theology does matter. I spent my entire life in a muddled gray area because The United Methodist Church no longer possesses a single robust theology about anything. And to embrace the One Church Plan is tantamount to saying that God does not know what he believes about sexuality.

    Third, every other mainline denomination that has implemented plans similar to the One Church Plan has only succeeded in accelerating their numerical decline. The only churches and denominations in America that are growing are those that have maintained the classical understanding of marriage. The UMC itself confirms that trend: The geographical areas of the American United Methodist Church that are the most liberal progressive have the fastest rate of decline.

    Fourth, I have a major problem with restructuring an organization to give space for those who refuse to abide by the current way things are designed to function.

    Fifth, it is progressives who need to grow up and learn to live with those who disagree with them. I am more than willing to allow them to live and teach as they see fit. Problem is, they do not know how to return the favor. It is progressives who have made sexuality the do or die issue for the UMC.

    Finally, I discovered that the classical theology that brought Methodism into existence and enables it to make a robust contribution has absolutely nothing in common with modern fundamentalism which is its own aberration of historic Christianity.