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.

 

 

2018 Fundraising Letter

untitled

December 6, 2018

Dear Friends in the Struggle:

Everything Love Prevails has ever said or done boils down to one message: Take all of the anti-queer, homophobic, cis-gendered language out of The Book of Discipline. This is simply the only way for justice, love, and inclusion to be made real in the United Methodist Church.

Like many of you, we have felt discouraged and stymied over the past couple of years. Despite repeated pleas from Love Prevails, the Commission on (Not) the Way Forward carried on its work without significant input from a diverse representation of United Methodist queer folks. The release of the Traditionalist Plan has revealed the vicious intent to purge the church of an LGBTQ+ presence. And the hearts of our Bishops have remained hardened against us as they prioritize the maintenance of the institution over the well-being of God’s queer children.

We have shared the shock of just how bad this denomination feels right now and how much worse it might actually get for queer folx and their allies in February of 2019. As we approach the Special Session, we are horrified that the majority United Methodists seem to believe that the One Church Plan is a step in the right direction.

Love Prevails remains committed to the defeat of the One Church Plan. The effect of the One Church Plan would be the functional abandonment of our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters in certain geographic areas, while others enjoy newfound privileges. The United Methodist Church certainly does not need pockets of prejudice and discrimination which will continue to infect the rest of the Body of Christ.

Additionally, while it is true that the One Church Plan would remove the costly public spectacle of church trials – it will do so by transferring all that violence to our Annual Conferences and local churches, where LGBTQ people will not have access to representation or due process. Instead of creating One Church that is faithful to the gospel, this plan will essentially place targets on the backs of LGBTQ people and make every one of us more vulnerable to the worst of United Methodist harm. The One Church Plan will set us all back by making every decision-making body of the church, at every single level, a place where LGBTQ people will be debated and wounded, punished and pushed out.

In the midst of all this, Love Prevails continues to offer our critical analysis and prophetic witness. Our core team meets by phone and video conferences every three weeks and we have podcasted our most current thinking. Some of us continue to travel to meetings at the general church level – where we are often met by local police and hired security, avoidant glances, and tired excuses. We have been faithful to loving one another through difficulty of continued exclusion.

And, we will show up at the General Conference in St. Louis, offer the faithful witness that only we can, and demand again that General Conference remove the discriminatory language and make no provisions for codified, localized injustice.

To do this, we need your support. We humbly ask you to make an end-of-year contribution to help our team travel to and from St. Louis. Please consider a donation to Love Prevails by going to our website www.loveprevailsumc.com/donate or by sending a check to Love Prevails c/o Kairos CoMotion. P.O. Box 45234, Madison, WI 53744-5234

With Advent Hope,

The Members of Love Prevails,

 Rev. Amy E. DeLong     Rev. Will Green       Laura Ralston         Dr. Mary Lou Taylor   

Rev. Dr. Julie Todd       Brenda White          Rev. Wesley White

PDF of 2018 Fundraising Letter

Getting Played for the Okey-Doke

Rev. Dr. Julie Todd

13064667_10153997621681005_1496842297994785205_oI learned this phrase yesterday from our Soulforce comrade and nonviolence trainer Haven Herrin, which they learned from their colleague DJ Hudson. The way I understand this, “getting played for the okey-doke” means that when you are on the brink of real possibility for resistance and transformation, institutional power will respond by poking a hole in the fully drawn sail that is catching the winds of change and building momentum. The wind comes out of the sail and the momentum for change is lost. That is what happened to us yesterday. We got played for the okey-doke.

The passage of the bishops’ not-unanimous proposal, “An Offering For a Way Forward” (also known as the Howard Motion), surprised our movement for LGBTQ justice and inclusion. It poked a hole in the sail. Because we never win any votes. I know it disoriented me. I didn’t know how to feel.

Some claimed it as a victory, a step in the right direction. I don’t see it that way. To me, in that moment, we lost some of our collective outrage at the pain of so many years of exclusion and struggle. We ate the crumbs thrown on the floor for us at the General Conference.

This is not to say that what happened was not important. Certainly our pressure before and during GC has prevented worse legislation for LGBTQ United Methodists and their allies from coming before the General Conference for a vote. Votes we would have lost. The collective resistance of our entire movement brought us to this moment. It is good to celebrate that we are a force to be reckoned with. But we need to be clear that we have not won. It is important that we not claim victory.

The status quo of categorical discrimination against LGBTQ persons remains in The Book of Discipline. Nothing has changed. The last paragraph of the bishops’ Offering read, “We will continue to explore options to help the church live in grace with one another – including ways to avoid further complaints, trials and harm while we uphold the Discipline.

Our movement seems to be focusing on the first part of this sentence and ignoring the second part. The original draft of this statement from the bishops did not include these last words. Early in the morning, these words entered this document as an official part of this statement. Nothing has changed. Those bishops who choose to pursue complaints and charges against LGBTQ folks and their allies will continue to do so. Those bishops who choose to avoid charges and complaints instead of taking a risk to challenge the status quo, will continue to do so. Nothing has changed.

We have been played for the okey-doke. Our belief in the system, that those entrusted with power have integrity and will act for good over against the maintenance of the institution, poked a hole in the sails of change. Our progressive movement is delusional if we believe that either this Commission or our Bishops will function to serve the well-being of LGBTQ, much less serve that which makes for justice.

13233099_890710957705668_4985865991270562402_nMany progressives will hear this as pessimism and cynicism. That may be true, but it is born of experience and knowledge of our movement’s history.

Recall that in 1988, the General Conference created the Committee to Study Homosexuality, which made very strong suggestions for LGBTQ justice and inclusion to the 1992 General Conference. Here is a description of what was proposed in 1992 (the entirety of this history can be found at http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_umc6.htm):

The * committee was able to reach a consensus on four items:

·      The 7 references to homosexuality in the Bible represent ancient culture and not the will of God. They cannot be taken as definitive.
·      Homosexuality is a normal human sexual variant, which can be healthy and whole.
·      Covenantal, committed, and monogamous homosexual relationships should be affirmed.
·      These conclusions are supported by God’s grace, which is visible in the life of lesbian and gay Christians.

A majority report recommended:

“The present state of knowledge and insight in the biblical, theological, ethical, biological, psychological, and sociological fields does not provide a satisfactory basis upon which the church can responsibly maintain the condemnation of all homosexual practice.”

The committee recommended that Paragraph 72 of the Social Principles be augmented to include:

  1. G)Rights of Homosexual Persons.Certain basic human rights and civil liberties are due all persons. We are committed to support those rights and liberties for homosexual persons. We see a clear issue of simple justice in protecting their rightful claims in same-sex relationships where they have: shared material resources, pensions, guardian relationships, mutual powers of attorney and other such lawful claims typically attendant to contractual relationships which involve shared contributions, responsibilities, and liabilities, and equal protection before the law. Moreover, we support efforts to stop violence and other forms of coercion against gays and lesbians.

The homosexual report was “received” by the General Conference, but was not approved. 

The last sentence of that description is the most telling and relevant to our current situation. Since 1992, the discrimination and punishments for queer folk and their allies in The Book of Discipline have only gotten worse. The only year this was not true was at the 2012 GC, when Love Prevails held and occupied the floor of GC, resulting in negotiations by which the anti-LGBTQ legislation was pushed to the end of the formal agenda, from which it would not be resurrected. The Book of Discipline, however, remained the same.

Here we are again. The events of yesterday caused us to believe that some positive change took place. Yet The Book of Discipline remains the same. The perceived yet delusional feeling of victory poked a hole in the winds of creative tension and resistance that were mounting in the plenary yesterday. We could have pushed for more. We could have rejected their crumbs. We got played for the okey-doke.

Now we hear progressive voices believing there is a real shift in the institution, signaling hope that justice for LGBTQ folks is possible through this Commission. We hear that our bishops should be applauded for their leadership. We hear that certainly the acceptance of LGBTQ candidates and the end of church trials is on the way.

10615386_622181251225308_1699391787083688447_nHaving traveled around the country with Love Prevails these last four years in order to Disrupt the Council of Bishops’ and Connectional Table meetings, I can report first-hand that the dysfunction, fear and lack of leadership in moral courage and parliamentary procedure on display at General Conference is replicated at these meetings. The very bishops and other leaders that we believe to be on our side lack the guts to create change.

The problem is the failure of moral courage of progressive United Methodists, bishops and others, to disrupt the status quo. The Council of Bishops is a complete disaster area. I have never witnessed anything like it. They are neither willing nor able to act quickly or decisively on mundane matters, much less the matters of justice of almost any kind. This will not change with this Commission. The assumption of personal and collective integrity is mistaken.

Simply speaking, the order and peace of the institution is prioritized over justice for LGBTQ people. The painful truth of the matter is that they really just don’t care that much. When they demonstrate care, it is because we have cajoled and forced them to do so. That is my testimony.

I am angry with myself because in the moment that the bishops’ proposal passed, I also got played for the okey-doke. The wind came out of my own sails. I did not know how to feel or to act yesterday. I temporarily gave away my power and outrage. I have repaired the tear in my own sail today.

I heard many liberals yesterday say that they were prepared to force the issue for the next four years. They say they are ready create continued pressure, commit to hold our bishops accountable, and disrupt the ongoing unjust status quo.

Honestly, I doubt this is true. I hope to see people in this movement proving me wrong. Otherwise, we will have truly and lastingly been played for the okey-doke.

*Editor’s note: This previously said (presumably 100% heterosexual) which was language taken from the cited website. Here is a comment from Jeanne Knepper about the committee: The lesbian on the committee was Jeanne Barnett, of Cal-Nevada. Her partner, Ellie Charlton traveled with her to every meeting after the first because it was so brutal. The gay man appointed to the study left early on. Jeanne spoke in a prepared presentation of the report at the 1992 General Conference, the first time an identified LGBTQ person had spoken to General Conference since Keith Spare had 3 minutes in 1976. Your analysis is accurate and persuasive, but I would not like to lose Jeanne Barnett’s heroic work from our collective memory. We are grateful for the memory shared and apologize for sharing the misinformed citation.

Reflections on Day 3 of General Conference

by Will Green

Will GIMG_6105reen (left) shared the following reflections about General Conference after Day 3 on his Facebook page. We share his thoughts here with his permission to show you what is happening from a Love Prevails perspective.

Post 1: Remember in seminary when “Covenant Groups” were just a time for some students to complain about their classes, but those same people never wanted to carry any water or take any risks to change the school? Ever been to a clergy gathering where it was all about listening to someone complain about how “their church doesn’t let them do anything” and how nobody understands how hard it is for them? If so, then you know what it is like to go up to a Bishop at General Conference to talk to them about how GLTBQ people are getting slaughtered and ALL THEY CAN SAY is how “dysfunctional the council of bishops is” and how you can’t imagine how bad it is to be a bishop. My response in these conversations is, “I do know, I can tell. Let’s do something about it.” Of course they don’t know how to do something about it. That is why they have risen to the positions they have risen to. They are well trained and well practiced in how to survive and advance in the system that exists. Tonight every time I said, “Let’s do something about it”, the response was “I want you to know that I am personally very sorry for what is going on.” We have lots of sorry, sorry people in our denomination. We need more people who are ready to do something about it.

20160513_112608Post 2: trigger warning: child abuse, violence, homophobia, transphobia – an update from the United Methodist General Conference ‪#‎UMCGC GLBTQ people don’t just get beat up on the plenary floor at General Conference. We get massacred in every subcommittee in the convention center. As many people know, a successful strategy for many years has been to insert as many discriminatory statements in as many parts of the Discipline as possible. This way it isn’t just the Social Principles that deal with our lives. It is all over the place. But this little update just comes from the Church & Society B, Human Sexuality Subcommittee. To get to the point, we are going to lose every single vote in this subcommittee this time: every single vote. For example, today they voted down a resolution on culture and identity (petition no. 60114) that affirmed human diversity is a reflection of God… because, to directly quote a delegate who spoke, “the only culture that matters is Biblical culture”. They voted down a resolution on “Reducing Harm for LGBTQ Children and Youth” (petition no. 60841) because, to directly quote a delegate, “He that does not punish the child, does not love the child.” (To be clear, the group voted with those who said – out loud – that disowning, beating and punishing children for being GLBTQ is not something the church should be against because it is a way of disciplining children and does not harm them at all.) They voted down the compromise resolution from the Connection Table called “A Third Way on Human Sexuality” (petition no. 60820) that states there is disagreement over how United Methodists understand sexuality because, to directly quote a delegate, “Jesus is Lord. We must follow Jesus.” It is unclear whether they will tighten the church’s current sexuality statement (which of course says “The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”), or if they will simply let it stand as is. One thing I will say about the UMC in 2016 is that perhaps we have finally become so anti-GLBTQ that even the conservatives do not feel they have anything left to prove. They already know they run the church and can pass whatever they want. Liberals have been wasting time talking about process and tinkering with new rules that would allow us to share our stories in “safe” (sic) space. Since those conversations are now clearly and cleanly out of the way, they are now proceeding with destroying us.

On the Body Being Broken

by Rev. Dr. Julie Todd of Love Prevails

There was a regularly scheduled communion at every lunch break in the plenary hall at General Conference 2004 in Pittsburgh. On the day the votes went badly yet again for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people, we decided as a movement to go to that communion service, where we could stand in the presence of the broken and resurrected Body of Christ. We did this as a means of re-asserting our presence in that Body. We did this as a means of resistance against the false institutional proclamation of one cup, one Body, and one baptism, when clearly the actions of the General Conference actively sought to harm and exclude members of that Body. All forms of our resistance and disruption are embodied statements that the unity of the church cannot continue to come at the cost of LGBTQ lives. These same acts of resistance are theological affirmations that the resurrected Jesus lives on in our whole and beloved queer bodies.

There was weeping and there was anger at communion. There was a need for a deep and spiritual release of the violence that had just been done to the queer body of Christ. Because when votes are cast against the very existence of LGBTQ lives, that is what is happens: violence. Christ’s body crucified again. To not act in the face of such violence does further violence.

A communion chalice, broken in protest of the United Methodist Church's stance on homosexuality, is returned to the altar during the 2004 General Conference in Pittsburgh. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS

A communion chalice, broken in protest of the United Methodist Church’s stance on homosexuality, is returned to the altar during the 2004 General Conference in Pittsburgh. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS

When the sacrament was over, Rev. James Preston grabbed a chalice from the communion altar and smashed it on the floor. The smashing of the chalice was not a planned disruption. While there were many interpretations of that moment of breaking the chalice, in fact there was no chaos, no storming the altar, no desecration of the sacrament. There was a holy anger that took shape in a prophetic act. A movement of the Spirit interceded to express anguished sighs too deep for words. In the breaking of the cup, Christ spoke to the real brokenness of the moment.

The bishop who presided at the communion table was distraught by the destruction of the cup. He got down on the floor and started gathering up the pieces. Others joined him in the gathering.

I had an instinct to take a piece. I had some internal resistance to making the moment feel better than it was. I didn’t want all of the pieces to be gathered up. I pushed toward the front of the group, bent down, picked up a piece off the floor, and put it in my pocket. At the time I had no idea that later they would try to reconstruct the chalice from the broken shards.

 

I Julie's piece of cuphave always had that piece of the cup. I rarely speak of it or even look at it. It sits in the same box with other sacred items from across the years. I know exactly where it is in my home. It is in my consciousness. When a recent article came out in the United Methodist News Service surveying the history of LGBTQ protest at General Conferences, I saw a picture of the reconstructed cup and I remembered my piece. I went to the box, took it out and held it for a while. Twelve years later. Things are still so broken and bad in this church for queer people. It is so devastatingly sad and wrong.

The LGBTQ participants in the communion service in 2004 were accused of breaking the church body and fomenting division. This accusation, which will no doubt be leveled at pro-LGBTQ forces at this 2016 General Conference, is completely ludicrous. The Body already was and is broken. The piece of the cup I possess stands as a symbol of this. In the church there simply must be some recognition that parts and pieces of the LGBTQ Body of Christ in the United Methodist Church have been not only broken, but lost. Left. Dead. Gone. Taken. Parts that aren’t coming back to be made part of the whole. Irretrievable by choice or by force.

Despite accusations to the contrary, many of our actions as pro-LGBTQ organizations and as a movement at our General Conferences are Holy Spirit led. This was true of this moment of communion in Pittsburgh in 2004. This will also be true of the disruptive actions of pro-LGBTQ forces at this General Conference. You may not experience it this way, but we ask you to be open to the possibility that this may be true. The LGBTQ body may be broken but the Spirit of Christ is alive in us. All forms of our resistance and disruption are living, embodied statements that the unity of the church cannot continue to come at the cost of LGBTQ lives. Jesus the Christ is working through our movement to speak truths and to resurrect the parts of the broken body that remain.

Episcopal Address Response: Rev. Wesley White

The Episcopal Address 2016 focused on humility. St. Bernard of Clairvaux once summarized the four Cardinal virtues as, “Humility, humility, humility, humility”. This is a pleasant hook with which to begin a sermon/Episcopal Address.

Examples of humility were related back to liturgical formulations that presuppose a community’s virtue to be held by each individual within it and that an individual’s humility is sufficient within a larger community that defines certain people out, regardless of their humbleness.

First, a collect for purity: Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known and from you no secrets are hidden. Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you and worthily magnify your holy name, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Any number of people can say these words and remain desiring and subversive of communal values that they might have the community reflect only their desires. Humility aspired to is not humility in deed. The limit of this intention comes when we get to the details of life, not its theory. As code language we can claim anyone as prideful if they experience and complain that the community has cleansed them from presence at the table (on either or both sides of it).

Second, a prayer of confession: Merciful God, we confess that we have not loved you with our whole heart. We have failed to be an obedient church. We have not done your will, we have broken your law, we have rebelled against your love, we have not loved our neighbors, and we have not heard the cry of the needy. Forgive us, we pray. Free us for joyful obedience, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

As noted in the sermon, the focus here is communal. Unfortunately a communal confession needs a communal repentance. Our usual process is to confess and confess for decades or a century before actually doing something about the pain inflicted on those who were powerless to effect an earlier change. The injured and their allies, not the community, are the humble. The application of communal confession to humility is very dangerous in allowing the community to be righteously blind about their doing harm. Confession does not do away with a need to change divisive legislation.

Confession does not protect from “mutually assured destruction” when it covers the harm being done by intentionally denying God an ability to distribute gifts and graces to the youngest and the furthest outcast as God sees fit. Legislatively limiting God is certainly not a humble act and continuing it because the limits were repeated and hardened is no act of humility.

Third, a Commendation and Welcome in the Order for Baptism and Reception: Do all in your power to: Increase their faith, Confirm their hope, and Perfect them in love.

Who is being spoken to here? If it is General Conference in regard to current church members or a parent/sponsor in regard to an infant, there is no way to increase, confirm, and perfect without acknowledging that the mystery of spiritual gifts and personal identity is not in anyone’s control. They cannot be constrained to a desired outcome. It takes much humility to know the limits of what can be increased, confirmed, and perfected before these become requirements for one more closet.

The address ended with a hymn, “God forth with God”. In addition to going forth in peace, love, strength, and joy. There is a question left about how humbly we will leave this General Conference. This question extends to what increase in peace, love, strength, and joy others will have as a result of our actual humility and not the use of humility as a further constraint on those without power to offer their gifts in a larger community of United Methodism or the use of humility as an accusation to make against those who would offer their gifts to transform the land, beginning with the church.

What then is a legislative expression of humility at this General Conference regarding those lives have been injured through previous legislations? In particular, how might the presumption behind “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” finally be brought to its knees at this late date of 2016?