Commentary: One Church Plan is extraordinary legislation

KANSAS CITY — This is not an ordinary General Conference. This is not ordinary legislation. If we always do what we have always done, we will have what we have always had: division.  We cannot go down the divisive legislative path of the last several decades.

The 2016 General Conference voted for a Way Forward out of the legislative stalemate around human sexuality. For the first time in the history of our church, we the delegates asked the bishops to lead. The bishops graciously accepted and formed the Commission on a Way Forward.

The One Church Plan is the fruit of this labor. It has been recommended by nearly two-thirds of our active bishops. Its constitutionality has been unanimously upheld by the Judicial Council (with three minor sentences slated for deletion). Now is the time to adopt this gift.

The Rev. Mark Holland. Photo courtesy of the Rev. Mark Holland.
The Rev. Mark Holland
Photo courtesy of the Rev. Mark Holland
Beyond the minor changes required by the Judicial Council, we should vote for the document as a whole.  If we amend the One Church Plan to pick up five votes from the “left,” we will lose 10 votes from the “right.” Conversely, if we amend the One Church Plan to pick up five votes from the “right,” we will lose 10 votes from the “left.”  The Commission on a Way Forward represented ALL of us. The balance they have struck is the balance that we must adopt. Going down the path of amendments is going down the path of division.

Further, there are small splinter groups that have already stated that there is no version of the One Church Plan that they will accept. They are making plans to leave no matter the outcome of the special session.  These groups have already removed themselves from any helpful discussion at General Conference.
  
There is no reason to accept amendments from those who are leaving, especially when those amendments will affect the United Methodists who stay. The president of the Wesleyan Covenant Association presented a petition to dissolve the United Methodist Church. This group has lost all credibility to offer amendments to the One Church Plan.

We have another General Conference in 2020. Any perfecting of the document can come after a year of cooling off.  The four days we have in St. Louis simply do not allow time to wordsmith the document anew.  No piece of legislation has ever come to the General Conference as carefully prepared as the One Church Plan. It is time to vote “yes”!

It is important to remind everyone that under the One Church Plan, ¶ 161.C) Marriage honors the traditional understanding of marriage between one man and one woman and protects the conscience of every pastor. It will read:

“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. 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. 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.”

It is also important to remind everyone that under the One Church Plan same-sex marriage is only allowed “where permitted by civil law.” This makes the issue moot for central conferences in countries where homosexuality is illegal.  

The One Church Plan stands in stark contrast to the Modified Traditional Plan. The Modified Traditional Plan seeks to certify, punish and evict all who disagree. It is a mean-spirited attempt to push others out of the church. 

The One Church Plan inserts grace in the place of judgement and punishment. The One Church Plan inserts grace in the place of trials and removal from the church. The One Church Plan says there is room in the church for all of us.

Finally, the “exit first” position that splinter groups are bringing to General Conference betrays their true intentions.  These groups want control of the denomination to impose their world view on everyone else. The Wesleyan Covenant Association and others are using homosexuality to drive a wedge between the U.S. churches and those around the globe.

If they cannot control the United Methodist Church, then they want control of their own denomination. If a group is interested in leaving, it has more integrity to bring a request to leave before the General Conference, rather than inserting permanent departure language into the Book of Discipline. All exit provisions should be sent to General Conference 2020 for careful, prayerful consideration.

The One Church Plan inserts grace in the place of this control and division. The One Church Plan believes that we can be united in Christ and give permission for every pastor, every church, every bishop and every annual conference to faithfully reach their mission field. The One Church Plan embodies the grace of Jesus Christ for the United Methodist Church.

Holland is a clergy delegate from the Great Plains Conference and executive director of Mainstream UMC, which has worked for passage of the One Church Plan.
 
News media contact: Vicki Brown at (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests.

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