One Church Plan Critique – Petition #4

From Wesley White’s Critique of the One Church Plan

Qualifications for Ordination – Par. 304.3

Here is an attempt to put the political weight of a bishop behind the pressuring of a Board of Ordained Ministry to turn a blind-eye to the removal of the “incompatibility” clause and carve out an annual conference exception.

Amend ¶ 304.3 as follows:

  1. While persons set apart by the Church for ordained ministry are subject to all the frailties of the human condition and the pressures of society, they are required to maintain the highest standards of holy living in the world. The responsibility for determining how standards, including standards related to human sexuality, may apply to certification or ordination in a given annual conference falls to the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry and the clergy session of the annual conference. The bishop may choose to seek the non-binding advice of an annual conference session on standards relating to human sexuality for ordination to inform the Board of Ordained Ministry in its work. The practice of homosexuality incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexual persons are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as minister or appointed to serve in the United Methodist Church.
  • While it is good to see the weed seed of our current division over human sexuality dug out of our Book of Discipline, it remains immensely disappointing that the bargain being struck for its removal is a local option to keep nurturing its discord at every level of the church.
  • Given the action to remove the “incompatibility” clause and its extension into ordination standards, the only reason for bishop-sponsored advice to a Board of Ordained Ministry is to reinstate a ban on LGBTQ+ ordinands informally.
  • This reveals that “religious liberty” is not just a matter of individual conscience but part of an organized attempt to keep the Grace of a good gift from G*D at bay within the institutional church.
  • I recommend simply striking the last two sentences from the current ¶304.3 so it would read:
  1. While persons set apart by the Church for ordained ministry are subject to all the frailties of the human condition and the pressures of society, they are required to maintain the highest standards of holy living in the world.
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One Church Plan Critique – Petition #3

From Wesley White’s Critique of the One Church Plan

Social Principles – Par. 161G

This is the cleanest and clearest petition in the One Church Plan. There is no attempt to carve out a place where clergy and congregations can receive permission to subvert the plain meaning of the Discipline. The other petitions all have some form of special pleading for those who “do not condone” LGBTQ+ persons as worthy of a marriage relationship or ordination.

Amend ¶ 161.G as follows:

  1. G) Human Sexuality—We affirm that sexuality is God’s good gift to all persons. We call everyone to responsible stewardship of this sacred gift. Although all persons are sexual beings whether or not they are married, sexual relations are affirmed only with the covenant of monogamous heterosexual marriage between two adults. We deplore all forms of the commercialization, abuse, and exploitation of sex. We call for strict global enforcement of laws prohibiting the sexual exploitation of children and for adequate protection, guidance, and counseling for abused children. All persons, regardless of age, gender, marital status, or sexual orientation, are entitled to have their human and civil rights ensured and to be protected against violence. The Church should support the family in providing age-appropriate education regarding sexuality to children, youth, and adults. We affirm that all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God. All persons need the ministry of the Church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship that enables reconciling relationships with God, with others, and with self. The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching. We affirm that God’s grace is available to all. We will seek to live together in Christian community, welcoming, forgiving, and loving one another, as Christ has loved and accepted us. We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.
  • The originating heresy of nearly 50 years of aggression toward “homosexuality” is, at long last, removed.
  • Delegates need to note that language in the next-to-last line needs updating to include what is referenced in the short-hand of “LGBTQ+ persons”.
  • However, the One Church Plan does not remove every subsequent restriction that grew out of the “incompatibility” clause. That is work it leaves for subsequent General Conferences.
  • Delegates could add the petitions from the Simple Plan to those of the One Church Plan and have a more comprehensive and coherent result from the 2019 Special General Conference. But even that would not take care of the oversight that there is no acknowledgment of wrong and harm having been done since 1972.
  • My hope is that this petition will be adopted and all the rest of the One Church petitions will be defeated as they all carry the seeds of greater difficulty for General Conferences and the church at large in the years after 2019. Additional adjustments to rectify the deficiencies of the other 16 petitions will need to begin in 2020.

One Church Plan Critique – Petition #2

From Wesley White’s Critique of the One Church Plan

Social Principles –  Par. 161C

The backstory is that language about “union of one man and one woman” and “fidelity in marriage and celibacy in singleness” were deliberately added to The Book of Discipline to be an additional guard against same-sex relationships. This is the confession of Bishop Tuell, a principal author of the legislation (see Steinwert, p. 67). The One Church Plan does not deal with all the places discriminatory language about LGBTQ+ persons occurs. At best this petition tinkers with legislation about marriage without addressing the core issue of human relationships, the connection between spirituality and sexuality, or healthy and unhealthy sexuality, regardless of the orientation of those participating.

Amend ¶161.C as follows:

  1. C) Marriage—We affirm the sanctity of the monogamous marriage covenant that is expressed in love, mutual support, personal commitment, and shared fidelity, traditionally understood as a union of one man and one woman between a man and a woman.
  • There needs to be a larger conversation about monogamy, particularly in the context of a denomination increasingly weighted toward an African presence.
  • For now file “monogamous” as a code word of unknown intent that is spreading through the Discipline for no apparent reason. It adds nothing here. It is best to say it simply: “We affirm marriage that is expressed in ….”
  • This attempt at softening language by adding a fudge word of “tradition” provides comfort for those who “will not condone” a marriage relationship for LGBTQ+ persons and who attempt to keep them on a tighter and tighter leash.
  • Many will see a “tradition” of an exclusive man/woman context as more important than the qualities of marriage just listed—“love, mutual support, personal commitment, and shared fidelity.” This means ground has been laid for next debates, disputes, and despair about this “tradition” being the norm for all times and places.

We believe that God’s blessing rests upon such marriage, whether or not there are children of the union. We reject social norms that assume different standards for women than for men in marriage.

  • Note there is room here to add language such as: “…different marriage standards for women than for men and for heterosexuals than for those of other orientations.”

Where laws in civil society define marriage as union between two adults, no United Methodist clergy shall be required to celebrate or bless a same-sex union. We support laws in civil society that define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

  • This legislation is oriented toward those who “do not condone” LGBTQ+ persons and their relationships. It carves out an exception to pastoral ministry that restricts G*D’s good gift of sexuality.
  • Marriage is no longer based on “love, mutual support, personal commitment, and shared fidelity” but on one’s sexual orientation. This is a debasement of marriage and pastoral ministry.

I hope a delegate will move to amend ¶161.C by substitution:

  1. C) Marriage—We affirm the sanctity of the marriage covenant that is expressed in love, mutual support, personal commitment, and shared fidelity. We believe God’s blessing rests upon such a relationship, whether or not it bears children. We reject social norms that assume different marriage standards for women than for men or heterosexuals than for those of other orientations.

Rationale: This returns the gift of mystery to marriage and emphasizes the qualities of the relationship over any other legal or social construct. It confirms that pastoral involvement with every marriage is to be based on the same criteria. Other parts of the Discipline allow for pastoral discretion as to whether or not to officiate. That is sufficient. Any spelled-out exception casts doubt on marriage as a blessing.

One Church Plan Critique – Petition #1

From Wesley White’s Critique of the One Church Plan

Our Theological Task – Par. 105

The location of ¶105 is not an appropriate location for this petition. It interrupts the flow of the paragraph anywhere it might finally be lodged. ¶105 says, “…theological reflection is energized by our incarnational involvement in the daily life of the church and the world…” This petition seeks permission to allow some to be exempt from Jesus’ direction to “love one another” by their “not condoning” LGBTQ+ persons.

Amend ¶ 105 by adding new sub-paragraph as follows:

We agree that we are not of one mind regarding human sexuality.

  • United Methodists do claim to be of one mind about human sexuality, “We affirm that sexuality is God’s good gift” (¶161.f).
  • That affirmation is now being constrained to privilege heterosexuality over all other expressions of God’s good gift.
  • What we are not of one mind about is how to engage our spiritual lives with our sexual lives. Like the Sabbath, a gift of healthy sexuality is made for humans and, like spirituality, needs to be grown into.
  • At this point, an emphasis on unity keeps us from disarming the harm caused to LGBTQ+ persons by an intentional dismissal of their good gift.

As we continue to faithfully explore issues of sexuality, we will honor the theological guidelines of Scripture, reason, tradition, and experience, acknowledging that God’s revelation of truth and God’s extension of grace as expressed in Jesus Christ (John 1:14) may cause persons of good conscience to interpret and decide issues of sexuality differently.

  • ¶105 is about the “critical and constructive” and “contextual and incarnational” natures of Our Theological Task and this petition puts all that under a new and problematic category of a stand-alone “revelation”.
  • It is not different interpretations that cause our current impasse. It is the claiming that one interpretation is “revealed” as true and right, now and forever, world without end. Amen.
  • The first part of this sentence is a restatement of ¶105 that doesn’t need to be repeated.
  • At issue is acknowledging an undefined “revelation” that uses scripture, reason, tradition, and experience to justify that “revelation”, not clarify it or repent it if we got it wrong.
  • We are asked to believe that revelation is a source of critical difference that creates the very differences it is called on to resolve. This sort of revelation eats at the very core of United Methodist heritage and sets a predetermined truth above the freedom of grace.
  • The proof-texting of John 1:14 fits none of the categories of the use of Scripture, reason, tradition, or experience. Its only purpose as a reference seems to be to make a bare assertion sound authoritative and does not justify the bad ecclesiology that “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”
  • It is not “good conscience” that is at stake here but the values of engagement and partnership with a Living G*D. A conscience that denies any truth or evidence but its own must live in constant fear of change (or a new revelation).
  • Note: There was a General Conference mandated study about human sexuality (1988–1992) and General Conference refused to act on it because it raised questions about the accepted “revelation” of the time.

We also acknowledge that the Church is called through Christ to unity even amidst complexity.

  • Everything on either side of this statement leans toward an excuse for shunning or an exemption from welcoming a portion of church members.
  • This statement does fit ¶105, but is a redundancy and is better stated by the current section on “The Nature of Our Theological Task.”

We affirm those who continue to maintain that the scriptural witness does not condone the practice of homosexuality.

  • This overly bold statement cannot stand examination. We can also say a “scriptural witness does not condone divorce” or any number of other items. This is merely a sneaky way to attempt to appease those most opposed to the reality that LGBTQ+ persons are as gifted by G*D as they are and insist on everyone believing what they believe or they will leave. It has no place in this important paragraph of the Discipline (¶105).
  • There has been no groundwork laid for this naked “affirmation.”
  • This affirmation can be extended to those who insist that handling poisonous snakes is part of good liturgy. Affirming the stage a person is at does not mean they can avoid being challenged. Support and correction are needed in every life.
  • This presumes scripture only has one voice, has no historical basis, and is oriented toward purity codes that have always been used as wedge issues.
  • There is no room here for growth of understanding through the movement of a Spirit of a Living G*D and the Blessing of Neighb*rs different from one’s self.
  • This is the beginning of a false equivalency that builds in a false choice that can only be met by segregating members from each other by a majority vote based present understandings.

We believe that their conscience should be protected in the Church and throughout society under basic principles of religious liberty.

  • This petition goes far beyond ¶105. It subverts and refutes the paragraph by claiming a right to close one’s eyes and ears and heart to the lives of others. It implies that those who claim this protection are too weak to engage with differences honestly and must either be left alone or given-in to.
  • A basic principle of “religious liberty” is that it cannot be given to another. “Religious liberty” can only be lived and face the consequences of its actions.
  • Here, those who desire “not to condone” LGBTQ+ persons in the specifics of marriage and ordination are given permission to do so with no consequence. This is coddling.
  • “Religious liberty” is a code phrase that says, “I am an island and rule all I see—I am not connected with others in the community, extreme individualism rules.” It is an excuse to be exempt from common human decency and love of neighbors who are different in one way or another.
  • “Religious liberty,” asks to be affirmed but always in the context of specifically and intentionally not affirming others. To claim a religious liberty is an act of privilege.
  • There is no “religious liberty” exemption available when wrestling with the Theological Tasks of ¶105. We are to do our work with assurance while in the midst of complexity.

We also affirm those who believe the witness of Scripture calls us to reconsider the teaching of the Church with respect to monogamous homosexual relationships.

  • This is the false equivalency meant to justify the above claims of both “revelation” and “religious liberty.” It does not accurately describe the motivation of those opposed to the “incompatibility” clause and its descendants in the Book of Discipline.
  • This is a terrible attribution of intention to those desiring to remove the heresy of “incompatibility” from the Discipline. Simply put, “incompatibility” is harmful and hurtful to those who employ it and those against whom it is used. It is a portable harm that can be applied to any current out-group that can be blamed for whatever is imagined. As John Wesley didn’t rely on the witness of scripture in his opposition to slavery, it is not needed to consider how “incompatible” language is actual, factual, harm being done to real, live, persons.
  • Whoever wrote these phrases thinking they were comparing apples to apples profoundly misunderstands fair play. These descriptions of a false equivalency are loaded and lean toward the language patterns of Good News and Wesley Covenant Association.
  • “Teaching of the Church” is an unfortunate phrase. “Incompatibility” legislation was falsely presented as settled teaching in 1972 and is now in the current Discipline. Opponents of this legislation do not ask for a “reconsideration” of “church teaching.” The obviousness of harm having been done needs no “witness of Scripture” or other reconsideration before it is recognized as real and changed.
  • Note in passing the introduction of the descriptor “monogamous.” It has the feel of a code word attempting to replace the current “one man, one woman” language now employed to be a barrier against LGBTQ+ persons.
  • Note, also, there is no subsequent rationale why “reconsideration” of church law that is harmful, hurtful, and killing should take place. This absence points to the bias of all 17 petitions.
  • The previous sentence of this petition ends with the justification of “religious liberty,” but there is no such language here to indicate why changing a hurtful law would be worthwhile, only a mention that some people would like to make this change.  The religious freedom to welcome all, and the right of all to be welcomed into a religious community, is not mentioned.

One further note is a quote from ¶105 in the section “The Present Challenge to Theology in the Church.”

United Methodists as a diverse people continue to strive for consensus in understanding the gospel. In our diversity, we are held together by a shared inheritance and a common desire to participate in the creative and redemptive activity of God.

This petition says that, in practice, we prefer choosing single-issue advocacy as our defining focus, painfully splitting over human identity issues. This contrasts poorly to our professed “common desire” for the “redemptive activity of G*D,”.

If a petition of an additional affirmation of individual differences within a larger context of United Methodist unity is felt as needed, I propose the following:

Amend ¶126 by adding a new sub-paragraph as follows:

After years of discord over the varieties of human sexuality, we affirm that sexuality is God’s good gift and our differences with one another will not keep The United Methodist Church or its members from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

One Church Plan Critique – Petition #16

From Wesley White’s Critique of the One Church Plan

Pension Liabilities – Par. 1504

The Commission on a Way Forward was formed to heal an internal divide regarding human sexuality. The first 15 petitions were about moving on from being held back by a fifty-year-old understanding of sexuality that there is only heterosexuality and aberrations from it.

Early on the bishops shifted from Human Sexuality to an emphasis upon “Unity.” Here we move into unity issues and find that they are really about pensions, not theologically grounded in relationships with G*D and Neighb*rs.

Amend ¶ 1504, effective as of the close of the 2019 General Conference, by adding a new subparagraph 23 to read as follows:

If a local church or charge in the United States changes its relationship to The United Methodist Church through closure, abandonment, or release from the trust clause pursuant to ¶ 2548, ¶ 2549, or otherwise, notwithstanding whether property with title held by the local church is subject to the trust (under the terms of ¶ 2501), the local church shall contribute a withdrawal liability in an amount equal to its pro rata share of any aggregate unfunded pension obligations to the annual conference. The General Board of Pension and Health Benefits shall determine the aggregate funding obligations of the annual conference using market factors similar to a commercial annuity provider, from which the annual conference will determine the local church’s share.

  • We now know the value of the “trust clause”—the market value of commercial annuities.
  • This indicates we stay together for financial, not theological, reasons. This is our bottom-line. This is as close as we will get to selling our possessions and giving the proceeds to the poor (Mark 10:17–27).
  • This petition is driven by the possibility of removing the “incompatibility” clause.
  • Language about “or otherwise…” refers to churches removing themselves from the denomination in reaction to removal of official support for their desire to “not condone” marriage and ordination of LGBTQ+ persons.
  • It is best for delegates to amend this petition with specific language limiting the time of this particular scheme of a “pro rata share” to some limited amount of years—perhaps 4 years. After a quadrennium, everyone would be expected to remain under the traditional trust clause.
  • Leaving an open-ended process for a United Methodist congregation to leave invites other reasons for discontent to pop-up and to cause unnecessary periodic angst over one pet prejudice or another. This needs additional clarification.

One Church Plan Critique – Petition #10

From Wesley White’s Critique of the One Church Plan

Ordination by Bishops – Par. 415.6

Ahh, a bishop’s conscience! What a wonder to behold.

Bishops are quick to claim they are “bishops of the whole church.” This allows them to look away when a difficulty comes up and abrogate their prophetic function in the face of potential financial loss (expressed as loss of members) if they were to make a theological determination that the weight of G*D’s Love was actually on one side or the other.

Bishops want to be bishops of the whole church, except in one particular situation where they can carve out a purity exception for themselves and exempt them from expressing explicit pastoral support for LGBTQ+ persons. Such purity does not keep moral injury at bay.

Bishops who would use this out from their responsibilities and keep the tension over LGBTQ+ persons at the highest possible level might consider the advice they would give to a current LGBTQ+ clergyperson who came out of the dungeon constructed by the church for them—resign. Resignation would help keep them from being a wimpy bishop (one who won’t ordain but will appoint, have power over).

Amend ¶ 415.6 at its conclusion as follows:

No bishop shall be required to ordain an elder or deacon, commission a deaconess, home missioner, or missionary, or license a local pastor who is a self-avowed practicing homosexual. The jurisdictional College of Bishops shall provide for the ordination, commissioning, and licensing of all persons recommended by the Board of Ordained Ministry and the clergy session of the annual conference in the bounds of its jurisdiction. All clergy with security of appointment shall continue under appointment by the bishop of the annual conference.

  • A hired-gun bishop can be brought in to do the ordaining of a clergy person who happens also to be a LGBTQ+ person, but it is the bishop who “does not condone” LGBTQ+ ordinands who will be expected to appoint them and be their pastoral leader. Seems unworkable.
  • This petition brings back in what Petition 4 just removed—language about “self-avowed practicing homosexual”. It is a cancer that grows while justifying to itself that it is more important to the body than any other part. It shows no growth of understanding of orientation.
  • Deletion of this petition might help bishops grow up and actually be a bishop of a church that contains LGBTQ+ persons, being at least as considerate of them as the bishops have been of those who “do not condone” LGBTQ+ persons.

 

 

One Church Plan Critique

Love Prevails’ comrade Rev. Wesley White has written the most comprehensive critique of the One Church Plan available. It is long, it is detailed, and it is the one thing most worth reading. Petition by petition (17 in all), it lays completely bare the institutional motivations and devastating outcomes for LGBTQ+ persons of the One Church plan. We’ll be sharing petitions in posts leading up to General Conference – the whole text is provided here.

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One Church Plan Critique