I have written a couple pieces on The UMC, issues of human sexuality, branding, unity, schism, and how we might move forward as a denomination (You can read them here, here, here, and here). There have been plenty of different suggestions, ideas, and opinions on how to best move forward. Another one was published this morning from David Watson (@utsdoc) and Bill Arnold (@BillTArnold). You can read their suggestions here. In their proposal, they offer 7 different suggestions of how The United Methodist Church might move forward while also staying “united.” I thought I’d share my initial thoughts…
I appreciate that they state these proposals will not solve all of our differences or change the structure of our denomination but they offer these while trying to see the big picture.
- Suspension of the Trust Clause: I think providing a 4yr window for local churches to leave The UMC who cannot in good conscience live within the parameters of our Social Principle on human sexuality with their property, is a gracious and respectful option. I believe this would honor the specific call a local church might have to be in ministry with, and to, the LGBTQ community that they feel the current Social Principle is an obstacle to. This allows the church to keep their space and their identity in a specific community while being true to the call of ministry they perceive.
- Church Conference as a venue to vote to leave The UMC: This empowers each local church to vote on leaving the denomination, relating specifically and exclusively to the Social Principle on human sexuality and Qualifications for Ordination, for reasons of conscience, and keep their property. They also assume any responsibility of debt if there is any for the building. As I mentioned above, I find this to be a gracious and respectful option.
- Allow clergy who cannot in good conscience abide by our Social Principle on human sexuality to leave with full benefits: By empowering the General Board of Pension & Health Benefits to release clergy with full benefits is another meaningful way of honoring an individual’s call to his or her ministry as it relates to the LGBTQ community and supporting him or her as s/he pursues that call.
- Refine the definition and practice of “just resolutions:” This is about clearly defining a process and making sure the process is followed when issues arise. Attempting to find resolution apart from an agreed upon process or failing to follow said process is impossible. Clarifying that process reminds us all to be on the “same page.”
- Electing a “set-aside bishop” to hold the Council of Bishops accountable: It is slightly disappointing to need someone to “regulate the regulators” but that is exactly what The UMC needs. Those who have been charged with providing accountability are in need of their own accountability. This should not be a surprise to us, as we are all human, and happens to be very Wesleyan in nature and practice. On the other side, it almost sounds like a pope…
- Giving the “set-aside bishop” and Council of Bishops the authority to hold each other accountable: Responsibility without authority kills an organization. The bishops must have the ability AND authority to hold each other accountable, with action items in place if accountability is ignored.
- Creating a “bishop emeritus/a” status for retired & inactive bishops: This honors the voices of retired and inactive bishops while also providing them accountability to their vows of consecration. The ability for retired clergy, especially bishops, to act and speak out against the Discipline because they have little to lose (or accountability) is dangerously harmful. This gives them an “official” voice while also providing accountability and consequences if ignored.
- Let there be root beer floats for all!*
Let me know your thoughts and where I might have misunderstood something. Overall I find these suggestions to be gracious, respectful, and honoring of particular calls to ministry.
*#8 was my addition because “The A&W Plan” reminds me of root beer floats, for obvious reasons.