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#GC2019 Primer #5

This is the fifth in a multi-week series to help us be informed about -- and prepared for -- the Special Session of the General Conference (aka #GC2019) to be held February 23-26, 2019 in Saint Louis, MO. 

Read previous entries in this series here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4. 

Those initial installments have (or at least link to) all the background information about how the United Methodist Church found itself in the position of needing the Commission on a Way Forward and #GC2019. 

Today, I’ll follow up (as promised in last week’s post) on a way in which our Northern Illinois Conference (NIC) is leading the denomination in preparing for #GC2019. Plus, I received my first question about this series! So I’ll respond to that as well. 

Speaking of questions…you too can submit a question about any of this and I will respond in a future post. Either put your question in a comment below or email your question to me directly. 

Here’s what a parishioner asked:

What can I (or we) do about #GC2019 as a lay member of a UMC congregation? How can we make our voices heard to encourage our denomination to move toward full inclusion of LGBTQ+ people?

 The first and best response is: Pray.

Pray for the twelve delegates from our Northern Illinois Conference.

Pray for all the delegates who will attend #GC2019.

Pray, in the words of our Bishop, the Rev. Dr. Sally Dyck, “May all hearts and minds be open to God’s Holy Spirit in this time of discernment.” Read Bishop Dyck’s full statement here.

Unlike with legislation before Congress, there is no mechanism for direct lobbying of the delegates. We cannot call them or write them as we would our Senators and Representatives. However, the NIC delegates to #GC2019 do have a Facebook page. You can “like” that to follow them there and post words of encouragement. 

What to know more about our NIC delegation to #GC2019? They published a FAQ statement. Read that here. 

As for the way in which our NIC is leading the denomination…we are doing so by taking a deep, deep dive into the potential impact the “Traditionalist” Plan would have on clergy and annual conference compensation and pensions. The NIC Conference Board of Pensions offers this analysis. 

They are the first to publish such a comprehensive look at the financial effect of the plan. Doing so became necessary when, as their post details, supporters of the “Traditionalist” Plan claimed their plan would “avoid any disruption or confusion with clergy benefits.” That claim is simply not true. Instead, the “Traditionalist” Plan could cost clergy six-figure retirement benefits. Whatever else that plan is, it is not financially neutral as was claimed. 

Just two more weeks until #GC2019! Keep reading and please keep praying for the UMC to find a just way forward.

Posted by Pastor Dave Buerstetta with

#GC2019 Primer no. 4

This is the fourth in a multi-week series to help us be informed about -- and prepared for -- the Special Session of the General Conference (aka #GC2019) to be held February 23-26, 2019 in Saint Louis, MO.

Click here to read the previous entries in this series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Those initial installments have (or at least link to) all the background information about how the United Methodist Church found itself in the position of needing the Commission on a Way Forward and #GC2019.

This week I want to focus on two topics:

  • a fourth plan, which I personally believe to be the best option;
  • a way in which the Northern Illinois Annual Conference (that's our Annual Conference!) is leading the denomination. 

Last week (in Primer No. 3), we took a closer look at the most important aspects of the three main proposals for A Way Forward. Now let's look at The Simple Plan and why it is the best option for all of us. The Simple Plan truly lives up to its name. As the Rev. Jeremy Smith writes in his excellent post

This proposal requires neither constitutional amendments nor hundreds of pages of technical translations. The Simple Plan proposes to “simply” remove the language from the Book of Discipline that excludes LGBTQ people from full participation in the church. It is the shortest legislation of the four plans.

The first rule in the Wesley tradition is "do no harm." The Simple Plan excises the incredibly harmful, exclusionary language first added to the Book of Discipline in 1972. This plan removes the wording that prevents LGBTQ+ persons from full participation in the life of the church. However -- and this is huge -- it does not add any affirming language. While I believe that we need to take that next step further and fully affirm all LGBTQ+ people for full inclusion in civil and church life, I am all too well aware that many others in the UMC are not there yet. The Simple Plan does not force any pastor or congregation or Annual Conference to accept anyone. It simply removes the institutional system of harm that LGBTQ+ experienced for over 40 years. 

Again, Rev. Smith puts it well

"the Simple Plan seeks to include both the silent service of LGBTQ clergy and the outspoken Traditionalist pastorswho are unwilling to affirm LGBTQ inclusion. By removing the restrictive language and not adding in affirming language, the Simple Plan allows the Discipline to be followed by progressives and conservatives alike. When all clergy candidates are asked:

Have you studied our form of Church discipline and polity?
Do you approve our Church government and polity?
Will you support and maintain them?”

Since there is nothing excluding or explicitly including LGBTQ persons, then both sides can say yes with integrity."

 

The Simple Plan would not create full justice for LGBTQ+ people. We cannot stop seeking that justice. However, given all the present acrimony, finding a solution that maintains everyone's integrity seems to me to be the very best solution available to us. Plus, the Simple Plan puts an end to the ridiculous, harmful, expensive, terrible, awful church trials of clergy who celebrate same-sex weddings or are themselves not straight and cis-gender.

As the main focus of the "Traditionalist" Plan is to increase such punishments and trials, I'm sure the Simple Plan will have a very tough time getting passed. But we must try.  

Alright, this post seems long enough as it is and with plenty of homework further reading available through the links, so...I will put the good news about our NIC in a future post. If you want to read ahead, here's a post from the Northern Illinois Conference Board of Pensions about the impact of the "Traditionalist" Plan

What questions does this raise for you? Leave them in a comment below -- or email me directly -- and I'll do my best to address them in a future post. 

 

Posted by Pastor Dave Buerstetta with

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