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:
- 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:
- 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.