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#GC2019 Primer no. 3

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

Read earlier installments here: Primer no. 1, Primer no. 2

Those first two weeks, I really focused on bringing us up to speed on all the terminology, proceedings, decisions, proclamations, and plans in and around #GC2019. That meant providing a whole lot o' links. I hope you read most of them. If you haven't read at least a few of them, I fear much of what follows won't make much sense. I'll try to limit the homework this time. 

We are now just four weeks away from #GC2019. Let's take a little closer look at the three main plans: the One Church Plan, the Connectional Conference Plan, and the Traditionalist Plan (which I think is more accurately labeled the "Traditionalist" Plan*). 

The one main proposal from the Commission on a Way Forward is the One Church Plan. One Church Plan makes no changes to structure of the UMC, i.e., no new division of the UMC's Annual or Central Conferences. The One Church Plan eliminates all the expensive, embarrassing, and destructive church trials by:

  • Removing language stating that “practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching," without replacing that language with any specific affirmation.
  • Neutralizing language in the Social Principles concerning civil marriage so that the UMC globally neither prohibits nor affirms same sex marriage.
  • Removing prohibitions against ceremonies celebrating civil unions or same sex marriage.
  • Removing prohibition against gay ordination. Rules may be set by Boards of Ordained Ministry and Clergy Session suitable to each Annual Conference.

While this plan does not achieve justice for our LGBTQ+ community, it takes steps in the right direction. I don't know if that is enough. But this plan seems to me to be the most honest about where the global UMC stands now. 

The Connectional Conference Plan is...the most complicated one. It completely recreates the structure of the UMC. With this plan, Annual Conferences would be organized around ideology rather than geography.

Each of the three new Connectional Conferences would make their own rules regarding human sexuality, marriage/civil unions, and ordination. A "Traditional" Conference similar to the new "Traditionalist" Plan; a Unifying Conference would be similar to the One Church Plan; and a Progressive Conference would provide full affirmation for ordaining and marrying LGBTQ+.

A sorting process would place Annual Conferences, Local Churches, Bishops, and Clergy into a Connectional Conference that matches their belief. At least this would almost certainly reduce the number of church trials. The three Connectional Conferences would be separate legal entities (501(c)3organizations) but deemed part of one UMC.

Finally, the "Traditionalist" Plan maintains current anti-LGBTQ+ language and practices, while seeking to further punish any and all who violate that language or practice:

  • The UMC would continue to proclaim that “practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”
  • The current definition of “self-avowed practicing homosexual” would be further detailed so as to tighten up enforcement.
  • Establishes minimum penalties for pastors to be suspended for one year on first violation and expulsion for a second violation.

This plan wants to make sure that LGBTQ+ are unwelcome and not in any way affirmed by the UMC. There would almost certainly be more church trials with this plan. The plan does allow provisions for those who cannot abide by this cruelty to leave and create their own denomination. Those that did so would maintain a token representation at future General Conferences. But all the land, money, and power would be maintained by the official (and then officially anti-LGBTQ+) UMC.

Once again, my thanks to this excellent comparison of the three plans.

What questions does this raise for you? Leave them in the comments below and I'll address them as much as I am able in a future post  

*I concede that, in the strictest sense, maintaining the virulently anti-LGBTQ+ language continues the tradition of the United Methodist Church. However, from the beginning of the Jesus movement, a gender fluid person was baptized and welcomed as a disciple of Christ without hesitation or question (e.g. Acts 8). That scripture is obviously much, much older than the "tradition" of the UMC (and the incident itself even older still), so why isn't welcoming and affirming our tradition? Why does the plan that excludes and cruelly punishes get to claim "tradition"?


Posted by Pastor Dave Buerstetta with

#GC2019 Primer no.2

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

Find Primer no.1 here.

Last week we linked to the three main plans sent to #GC2019 by the Commission on the Way Forward, noting that the One Church Plan is the primary and preferred plan. But earlier this week, the UMC announced that a total of 78 plans will be considered. 78!

You see, last May the Judicial Council ruled petitions could be filed by any organization, clergy or lay member of The United Methodist Church if the business proposed to be transacted is in harmony with the purpose, which is “limited to receiving and acting upon a report from the Commission on a Way Forward based upon recommendations of the Council of Bishops.” 78 such petitions were ruled to be in harmony. Click here for a flowchart on that process.

Ugh. That's a ton of material to sort through. So, as I prefer to do in times like these, let's turn to the wisdom of our young people. I find they often see through most of our older adult nonsense and cynicism to the essence of the issues. Here's what UMC Youth People have to say. There's a tremendous wealth of insight at that link, I really hope you'll take the time to read through it. 

They conclude with a Statement of Unity, from which we all could learn:

We, as the Young People of the United Methodist Church, agree to be united in Spirit as one body of Christ, despite the diversity of culture, tradition, political ideologies, language, beliefs, nationalities, and personal identities, as we believe that we are all God’s creation and our primary identity is being God’s children.


As young people, we love The United Methodist Church, the unity it offers, and how it welcomes all people, regardless of who they are and what they do in life.


We recognize and celebrate the diversity that comes from being in a global United Methodist connection. We view each person as an essential part of the body of Christ, which is the Church, and that God loves each of us far beyond what we can imagine.


With that, we believe that God's love is engrained in us and part of our identity as United Methodists.

We stand against the spirit of hatred, judgment, and discrimination which creates division instead of unity.


We pray that through the Holy Spirit we can remain united as a body that continues to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Leave your questions about any of this in the comments below and I will do my best to respond to them in a future post.