Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Baltimore-Washington WCA Misrepresentation

 The Baltimore-Washington chapter of the WCA has published eight statements that they believe are important to remember. Facts need to be checked. As always, please read the original and let me know if you see an error in my response. I've responded to items 1-4 even though I'm not sure any of the inaccuracies there are relevant, so if you want to skip to what is most important begin with the second half of point 5.


 1. GC2016 narrowly and controversially approved the Commission on the Way Forward. This is true.

2. Immediately following, the Western Jurisdiction elected Karen Oliveto to be a bishop and, "She is still illegally a bishop." The timeline is basically correct (it was in July so one could argue the word "immediately" as a technicality. It is not entirely accurate that she was elected and still serves "illegally." What constitutes (using our current, hopelessly outdated language in the Book of Discipline) a "self-avowed, practicing homosexual" has always been a source of contention. Bishop Oliveto did not clearly meet the standard until a Judicial Council ruling in April, 2017. Their decision goes on to read, "Self-avowal does not nullify the consecration and cause removal from episcopal office but is a sufficient declaration to subject the bishop’s ministerial office to review." In other words, Bishop Oliveto could be charged and stand trial, but it is not "illegal" for her to remain a bishop in the meantime. Having said all that, I understand why the WCA would see Bishop Oliveto's election as ecclesial disobedience.

3. The Commission on the Way Forward (CWF) developed three plans but the bishops rejected the Traditional Plan and an ad hoc group had to finish developing it. The CWF did not develop the Traditional Plan at all and had no obligation to do so. The WCA says the Traditional Plan was "restored" only with "much difficulty" by an ad-hoc group. That could be true. We don't know. Because what is definitely true is that the Traditional Plan is the only legislation to find its way to General Conference with completely unknown authors (unofficially we know which bishops were involved in the writing, but none of them have had the courage to come forward).

4. "Convinced that the One Church Plan was a slam dunk to pass, the Council of Bishops threw all their effort, time and energy into selling it..." The second half of this sentence is partially true. Not all bishops supported the One Church Plan, but the majority did and some spent time on it. Those of us leading the charge on the ground were disappointed that there wasn't greater, public support by the bishops. The first half of the sentence is not true. Those of us leading the charge, and I think the bishops as well, believed we had enough votes, but just barely, and there were nervous conversations all the way up to the start of General Conference. The amount of support for the Traditional Plan was a surprise. Evidence that the first half of the sentence is wrong comes from the existence of the second half - leaders don't waste any of their political capital on something that is a slam dunk.

5. "After an extremely ugly debate that awakened the One Church Plan supporters that their plan had no possible way of passing, the Traditional Plan passed. Those who couldn't live with it had the ability to exit via ¶2553, after that narrowly passed.  ¶2553 was not the desired outcome of the Traditional Plan supporters..." The writing was on the wall after the first vote at GC19 before almost any debate had taken place. Regarding 2553, my single most emotional response on the floor of any General Conference came after I spoke in favor of it when a traditionalist told me they were passing it for people like me. Here's the thing - don't give someone a gift they didn't ask for. The idea is that 2553 was passed for progressives when progressives were the ones who were not supportive of it. I truly did support it, and still do, for those churches who feel they can't stay in the denomination. I was in the minority of progressives/centrists at GC19 on that vote. Finally, as I've shared before, 2553 was brought to the floor as a minority report (think substitute motion) by traditionalists. In our rules, a minority report can be vastly different from the resolution it is replacing. It is true that the original resolution was not written by a traditionalist. It is also true that traditionalists could have made the final resolution nearly identical to whatever they would have preferred. 

6. "Instead of abiding by the will of the General Conference, progressive United Methodists (including Bishops) began a massive campaign of disobedience and purposeful spurning of the Discipline." This is blatantly false. It is true that there was a grassroots uprising against what was perceived as a mean-spirited plan passed by General Conference. Lay members of churches who had never been active beyond the local church reached out about how they could help right the wrongs. I remember receiving a text message from a friend while I was on vacation - "XX Conference just elected a full slate of progressive/centrist lay delegates." I literally replied, "You must have misheard. That wouldn't happen." Organizing happened among the moderate middle that had never happened before - and the WCA and friends didn't like it. In no way was there a massive campaign of disobedience.

7. "Traditionalists decided that it was no longer worth fighting the battle to reform the UMC, and accepted the idea that they could leave. In good faith, they negotiated the Protocol for Reconciliation and Grace..." I will assume that traditionalists negotiated the Protocol in good faith. Note that traditionalist leaders like Rob Renfroe* have since said that progressives and centrists did not negotiate in good faith. From multiple conversations with nearly all the progressive/centrist signers, I can promise you he is wrong. *I am not able to find a quote from Renfroe specifically saying this. He has implied it in videos like this. 

8. "When it was obvious that the new denomination, the Global Methodist Church, would take a large portion of churches from the UMC (if they were allowed to go freely), progressives and institutionalists who negotiated the Protocol had buyers’ remorse and did everything in their power to either sink the Protocol or postpone General Conference..." There is not even a shred of truth here. First, note that traditionalists who are leaving the denomination gloat when they find a conference with even 15-20% of churches leaving. The vast majority of United Methodist Churches will still be United Methodist Churches in 2024. Second, many, possibly even a majority, of churches that leave are choosing to be independent rather than part of the GMC. We can't say for sure because the GMC has not released any information about churches or pastors who have joined. Third, I was in conversation with the progressive and centrist signers before they pulled their support. What they said in public is exactly what they said in private. The Protocol was no longer a viable path forward. What they did not say (but I wish they had) is that traditionalist leadership had already rejected the Protocol, just not by name.

6 comments:

  1. 1. So glad you recognize that the denomination almost busted on the floor in 2016. Perhaps it would have been better if it had.
    2. From Judicial Council Decision 1341:
    "Paragraph 304.3 prohibits the consecration as bishop of a self-avowed practicing homosexual. A same-sex marriage license issued by competent civil authorities together with the clergy person's status in a same-sex relationship is a public declaration that the person is a self-avowed practicing homosexual for purposes of ¶¶ 304.3 and 2702.1(b)."
    *You admit that she falls under this category.
    Again, 1341: "Under the long-standing principle of legality, no individual member or entity may violate, ignore, or negate Church law. It is not lawful for the college of bishops of any jurisdictional or central conference to consecrate a self-avowed practicing homosexual bishop."
    *Therefore her consecration was illegal, and she is serving because of an illegal consecration.
    3. Commission on the Way Forward created a "sketch" of the Traditional Plan along with the other two "sketches." After sharing them with Council of Bishops, Council of Bishops trashed the Traditional Plan "sketch," and authorized legislation for the other two plans. There were objections. An ad hoc group of Bishops and others created legislation for the Traditional Plan. Your argument is weak. The COB basically rejected the plan that was ultimately passed by a majority of the GC.
    4. "Those of us leading the charge, and I think the bishops as well, believed we had enough votes, but just barely"
    Perhaps that is true, but it wasn't obvious to those of us who watched this take place. Based on the behaviors of the Bishops and OCP advocates, we saw that they thought there was going to be overwhelming support for the OCP.
    Either way, the "surprise" support for the Traditional Plan was only a "surprise" to people who backed the OCP. The Renewal and Reform Coalition knew the votes for the Traditional Plan were there all along.
    5. "It is also true that traditionalists could have made the final resolution nearly identical to whatever they would have preferred."
    You are naive if you believe that we could get whatever we wanted passed. By the time we got to Disaffiliation Plans, had the minority report attempted to put anything that looked like it came from a conservative on the floor, you would have slow walked and stalled it. The reason Beth Ann Cook used the Taylor plan was because we had almost no time left and very little ability to amend anything thanks to organized centrist/progressive action on the floor.
    "Here's the thing - don't give someone a gift they didn't ask for." It wasn't meant to be a gift. It was meant to divide the denomination into progressive and conservative churches. The whole point of the Traditional Plan was to separate the denomination. The goal of traditionalists from the very beginning was to reform the UMC and make the traditional, orthodox position on everything actually have teeth so that we actually had a traditional Christian church. The point of the effort has always been to make the UMC faithful to the Discipline and orthodoxy with accountability that was effective.

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  2. 6. "Blatantly false." Hardly. Groups took out entire newspaper page ads basically excoriating the denomination for what it did in St. Louis. Bishops in the Western Jurisdiction still refuse to process charges against Bishop Oliveto. Large groups of progressives began a resistance campaign led by the UMNext caucus. It wasn't an "official" campaign to resist, but it was large and organized.
    7. "Note that traditionalist leaders like Rob Renfroe have since said that progressives and centrists did not negotiate in good faith. From multiple conversations with nearly all the progressive/centrist signers, I can promise you he is wrong"
    Then they would still be promoting the Protocol, because the agreement to the Protocol included the promise to promote it. There was no "escape" clause. Nothing has functionally changed since the Protocol was adopted. We are still in the position we were in 2016 when we should have had a schism on the floor.
    8. "There is not even a shred of truth here. First, note that traditionalists who are leaving the denomination gloat when they find a conference with even 15-20% of churches leaving. The vast majority of United Methodist Churches will still be United Methodist Churches in 2024. "
    We never expected a majority of American churches to move to the GMC, and the claim was not that a "majority" of American churches would leave. 10% of American churches is still a huge number, and if the Protocol passed/passes, then we still expect the majority of Central Conferences to leave. They cannot use 2553 and are STUCK until that time.
    "What they said in public is exactly what they said in private. The Protocol was no longer a viable path forward."
    We do not believe your report. It's a simple as that.
    The Protocol is what traditionalists have advocated for since the beginning, and until it passes, those traditionalists left in the denomination will continue to advocate for traditional positions. Why shouldn't we? The Discipline has not yet changed, and the Protocol did not promise that we wouldn't.

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  3. "It is also true that traditionalists could have made the final resolution nearly identical to whatever they would have preferred." David, you know that that is blatantly false. The minority report made some modest changes, but only passed by the narrowest of margins. Traditionalists would ideally have liked to have then offered additional amendments from the floor and seen what more could have passed. But your friends like Mark Holland from your annual conference engaged in what the UM News Service called "hours of delaying tactics" so that we ran out of times. Surely you have not forgotten your friend from your conference vowing to filibuster until the monster trucks rolled in. Before accusing others of misrepresentation, you may want to examine the logs in your own eye, Pastor.

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    1. John, I stand by my statement. As you know, the minority report was not written in the heat of the moment in the waning minutes of GC19. It was written the day before, with plenty of time to make any changes you would have liked before it was presented. And significant changes were made from the original Taylor petition, including adding the provision that traditionalists who are leaving rail against the most today - that the unfunded pension liability needs to be paid up front.

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  4. David, Rob Renfroe did not say the centrist and progressive signers of the Protocol negotiated in bad faith. He has said that those signers acted in bad faith when they pulled their support. Traditionalists were virtually the only ones promoting the Protocol for the past 2 years. Centrists and progressives have been nearly silent. We still have not given up on supporting the Protocol, although the chances of it passing have greatly diminished.

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    1. Tom, one of the things that you and other traditionalist leaders are really effective at is plausible deniability. I'm not finding the literal words from Rob that the signers acted in bad faith. He has repeatedly said progressives and centrists can't be trusted and he did say that progressive and centrist leaders, which includes the signers, have "backed away from every deal they've made with us." As to your support for the Protocol, can you show me anything in the last six months where you and/or Rob endorse the abeyance and/or say you won't stand in the way of regionalization? Did you speak out at the WCA gathering when they repudiated the abeyance in May?

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