UMCNext Concludes Meeting with Four Commitments

PRESS RELEASE
May 22, 2019

(Leawood, Kansas) -- More than 600 United Methodists gathered in Kansas this week for UMCNext, a conversation in response to the adoption of The Traditional Plan by the 2019 Special General Conference. The participants depart today from an event that has been remarkable for many reasons.

"Every movement has a tipping point, a game changer, a watershed moment; this is one of them," said convening team member Rev. Junius Dotson. "In a moment none of us have experienced before and could never have fully anticipated, we have come together and held many important things in tension. We have managed ambiguity, and cared for the waves of our own emotions and reactions. It has been intense, challenging, powerful, beautiful work we have engaged together."  Read complete press release.


Council of Bishops Affirms Connectional Table’s Work on U.S. Structure

The Connectional Table
The United Methodist Church


IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 15, 2019

Chicago, IL—The Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church approved a motion to work with the Connectional Table (CT) on proposed legislation for General Conference 2020 to create a regional structure similar to that of a central conference for churches in the United States. 

The proposed legislation, developed this quadrennium by the CT’s U.S. Contextual Ministries Advisory Group, puts forth a two-stage process for creating the regional conference:  Read press release

 

Recent News on the Church's Way Forward
Judicial Council Meeting Results

 

Sisters and Brothers,

Grace and peace to you in the name of our Risen Lord.  As I have shared during my episcopal visits following the special-called General Conference 2019, two critical matters approved at this General Conference had been referred to the Judicial Council for declaratory rulings:  Whether the approved Traditional Plan was constitutional and whether a disaffiliation petition (90066) also approved, was constitutional, according to the Constitution of The United Methodist Church.    The Judicial Council has been meeting this week and this morning released its decisions.

The Judicial Council determined that parts of the Traditional Plan were constitutional, but as in previous determinations of the Judicial Council, much of the enforcement sections of the Traditional Plan as approved by the General Conference 2019 were again determined to be unconstitutional (Judicial Council Decision 1378).  On the disaffiliation Petition 90066 that provides an exit plan for local churches to leave the denomination, the Judicial Council ruled that it is in line with the Constitution of The UMC while also clarifying that the annual conference must approve the disaffiliation of a local church (Judicial Council ruling 1379).    

In the preliminary work of analysis done by our Council of Bishops with legal counsel the following important rulings were highlighted:

  1. The question of local churches exiting from the denomination is one that is determined by votes in the local church and at the annual conference. This retains the value of our connection.
  2. The practice of certifying Board of Ordained Ministry members on whether they would follow the Book of Discipline in its entirety, including on matters of human sexuality/LGBTQ identity, was found unconstitutional. Current language around sexuality and restrictions on same-sex weddings and ordination of self-avowed practicing homosexuals was not in question and is retained.
  3. Accountability for bishops continues to be lodged in the jurisdictional college or central conference.
  4. Exiting churches must pay their fair share of pension liability. Exiting clergy retain their pension but it is converted to limit further liability to the conference.
  5. Seven petitions in the Traditional Plan were found to be unconstitutional, consistent with two previous Judicial Council decisions, and eight petitions were found to be constitutional.

There is no surprise in what the Judicial Council has determined.  It is clear that the Judicial Council worked hard to provide the declaratory rulings requested of them.  They are the interpreters of the law not the makers of the law.  The General Conference makes the law.  And, for too long the General Conference has chosen to act like the pharisees who were committed to the legalism of their own creation rather than the laws of grace, mercy, and love for all God’s children that Jesus came proclaiming.  The preservation of those pharisees’ self-righteousness was more important to them than the vulnerability required by the commandments to love God and to love neighbor as we love ourselves, and it so appears to be the case with our General Conference as well.

There are those among us who are saying that the Judicial Council decisions now free us to move ahead.  The decisions have been made, accept it and move on they say.  These friends tend to be the same persons who unequivocally state that The United Methodist Church has been in decline for generations because of the debate over the full inclusion or the exclusion of our LGBTQ children and siblings.  That we have been in decline is true, but it is not as simple as some would assume.  Conservatives have left because they don’t want to be part of a church where they have to deal with gay persons.  Gay persons have also left because who would want to be part of a church where you are told in so many ways that you are unacceptable, less-than, incompatible with the very Word of God that they have placed their faith in!    Many of their family members have left with them.  Somehow, we forget to count them in the numbers of those who have departed, pushed out of the church.  Post General Conference 2019 there are now those who consider themselves centrists who are also leaving.  They are leaving because they are tired of a church that has made who one loves the litmus test of faithfulness. 

Can we not see it?  Our decline is not because of the long struggle over the matter of human sexuality.  I believe it is because of the lack of commitment to the greatest commandments to love God and to love our neighbor.  How can love for God be true when we reject those whom God has also created and called good?  And how can love for neighbor be authentic when we say to our LGBTQ children and siblings that they are not worthy of the fullness of love just as God has created them?   The exclusion of LGBTQ persons is but one broken place in the life of our church, but it reveals to the core of our life together our lack of love for God and neighbor.  Truly loving God and authentically loving neighbor is what will reverse our decline and allow us to grow into the faithful and fruitful church that God calls us to be.   

I keep praying that we will not be torn asunder by the pettiness of what seems to be our present inwardly focused missional direction that sounds like this:  Let’s exclude all LGBTQ persons and their supporters unless they conform to our punitive laws.  Let’s judge the righteousness of our LGBTQ children and siblings based solely on their sexual orientation or gender identity.  Let’s not hear the witness of their faith in Christ because it would make things much too complicated for us.  Let’s make God’s love small and limited to only some, and certainly not to LGBTQ persons, so that we can control it.  What happened to being the people called United Methodist who dared to make Matthew 28:19-20 its mission and the transformation of the world its bold vision? 

I believe that the full inclusion of ALL God’s children is the necessary first step to being the Church God calls us to be.

Your Sister in Christ,

 


Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño

April 26, 2019 
 
A STATEMENT FROM THE WESTERN JURISDICTION COLLEGE OF BISHOPS 

Greetings to you in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, 

The Judicial Council of The United Methodist Church has ruled on the constitutionality of the plan known as "The Traditional Plan" that was passed at the Special Called Session of General Conference 2019 (St. Louis, Missouri). In its ruling, some of the petitions were ruled constitutional while others were ruled unconstitutional, and a petition related to a plan for churches to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church was ruled constitutional. With humble gratitude, we acknowledge the diligent and faithful work of the Judicial Council. The decision, made during the Council's April 23-26 meeting, means that less than half of the Traditional Plan will take effect in the U.S. on January 1, 2020, with Africa, Europe, and the Philippines taking effect twelve months after the next General Conference. The petition on a gracious exit goes into effect immediately. You may review the Judicial Council’s Ruling No. 1378 at http://bit.ly/JCR1378 and No. 1379 at http://bit.ly/JCR1379. An explanation of both rulings is available at http://bit.ly/UMNSApr26. 

While graciously received, the intent of the Western Jurisdiction remains the same as was stated on the floor of General Conference 2019: to live in the spirit of “One Church.” The Mission Cabinet and the delegations of the Western Jurisdiction endorsed the One Church Plan before the Special Session, believing it to be the best option for allowing faithful United Methodists of differing theological perspectives to be in ministry together. We believed the One Church Plan was an expression of Wesleyan values that we practice in the West. In the wake of the Judicial Council decisions, we continue our commitment to live into Beloved Community as one church in each of the conferences of the Western Jurisdiction. 

Even now, efforts are underway to coalesce our plans and energy to help forge the future of our church.  If you are interested and energized in assisting, we invite you to visit the Western Jurisdiction website to volunteer and join this movement. (http://westernjurisdictionumc.org/ahomeforall

We commit to be true to John Wesley's tradition of the entire world being our parish. We will continue to relate with one in another in such a way that all people may find our United Methodist Church to be their spiritual home. We will remain united in our determination to make our Jurisdiction a home for all. 

Next month, on May 17-18 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and May 20-22 in Leawood, Kansas, persons of courage and faith from the Western Jurisdiction will participate in discussions that are happening and are connecting with representatives from Conferences around the world about the next steps for our Church. Those discussions will continue as annual conferences convene this summer and when our Western Jurisdiction leadership gathers in the fall. 

The ruling by our Judicial Council will spark new discussions in our churches and in our Annual Conferences and across the connection. We anticipate that difficult decisions will take place during General Conference 2020.  Thus, the road ahead may feel like a wilderness. But we, your bishops, are prayerfully in conversation in many places, with many individuals and groups about your hopes and your vision for being church in this challenging time. We remain committed to ministry as one church for all and we ask for your prayers for the church and for the future of the love and grace as we travel this road together, not knowing where it will lead us, yet, but confident in God’s presence with us. 

Faithfully, 

The Bishops of the Western Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church
SPECIAL PRESS RELEASE NOTE:  The Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops (WJ COB) has published an open statement in response to the Judicial Council rulings made on April 26, 2019. At the request of Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño, the press release has been made available to the California-Nevada Annual Conference and can be found below.
CA Conf Logo
ishop Signature
Area United Methodist Ministers Response to Special General Conference Results
We the undersigned are ordained clergy members of the United Methodist Church. We are either currently appointed as pastors in Nevada County churches or are retired clergy now residing here.
The official legislative body governing our global church is the General Conference, comprised of officially elected clergy and lay persons from around the world.

The issue of homosexuality has long been a matter of conflict within the United Methodist Church, particularly as to whether persons who openly identify themselves as LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual) can be ordained as clergy and whether United Methodist clergy can preside at wedding services for persons so identified.

Given this division, a special General Conference was convened from Feb. 23-26 in St. Louis to address this controversy and determine "a way forward" for the denomination. More than two thirds of delegates from the United States voted for a more inclusive plan, but the United Methodist Church is a global church, made up of people from varied cultures, and is diverse theologically. After much debate, a plan was adopted by a slim margin to strengthen prohibitions on ordination and marriage ceremonies as mentioned above and to add severe penalties for any violations.

We deplore this decision, which toughens prohibitions against LGBTQIA clergy and all clergy who officiate at same sex weddings. We are concerned on many levels:

- This decision is heartbreaking and painful to our LGBTQIA sisters and brothers. This is contrary to Wesleyan theology as we know and practice it, especially to do no harm. It gives support to those who would bully, reject or harm these beloved children of God.

- This decision damages the church, both laity and clergy, by setting up retributive sanctions without due process. It also increases the forces of division among members of the same congregations, members of the same regional areas, and members of the Body of Christ.

- This decision is based on a position that has already been ruled unconstitutional by the United Methodist Judicial Council. It will set in motion continued acrimony rather than offer an opportunity to celebrate diversity. It does not resolve the conflicts among us, nor move us forward toward reconciliation.

- This decision throws the entire denomination into upheaval as Annual Conferences (regional bodies), local churches, and individuals are forced to face the unhealthy prospects of schism. Attention and energy that could be put to the pressing issues of our day will be spent on institutional preservation and/or separation.

For these reasons we pledge the following:

- We will continue to support and serve as allies to our LGBTQIA sisters and brothers, to affirm the sacred worth of every in­dividual as a beloved child of God.

- We will continue to baptize all who come seeking to live in the grace of Jesus Christ.

- We will continue to perform wedding ceremonies for all who seek a service of Christian marriage.

- We will pursue a path within the institution that ensures full equality of participation and leadership for our LGBTQIA sisters and brothers at every level of church life.

- We will lead our congregations, with God's grace, toward a whole and just world.

We affirm the leadership of the bishops of our Western Jurisdiction, comprised of Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon, Wyoming, Washington, Montana, Idaho, Utah, Hawaii and Alaska, who articulate and defend our traditional Wesleyan values in support of a diverse and inclusive church.

With sadness, yet in hope of a church made new, we sign below in affirmation that what God creates and calls good cannot be denied or voted away. We shall not back down but will stand for what is right and good in God's embracing love through Jesus Christ. We do not stand alone, but with people around the world who desire to be part of an inclusive Christian fellowship that honors and loves them as does God.

We will work for an outcome that includes justice, mercy and inclusion for all.

Rev. Don Baldwin (retired), Rev. George Carter (retired), Rev. Terry Deland (retired), Rev. Sharon Delgado (retired), Rev. Ron Dunn (retired), Rev. Judson Gears (retired), Rev. Rebecca Goodwin (active), Rev. Susan Kemper (retired), Rev. Don Lee (retired), Rev. David Leeper-Moss (retired), Rev. Tana McDonald (retired), Rev. Joan Pell (active), Rev. Kristin Sachen (active), Rev. Patricia Spooner-Walther (retired), Rev. Harold "Bud" Tillinghast


See Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops statement here.
German church won’t impose Traditional Plan bans
Stipulations in the Traditional Plan approved by General Conference 2019 are unacceptable, said the executive committee of The United Methodist Church in Germany, and the church in Germany will not impose the stricter penalties laid out in the plan.

The committee is also forming a roundtable to search for ways to preserve unity.

On the final day of the special session of General Conference in St. Louis, delegates voted to adopt the Traditional Plan, which reinforces the church’s bans on same-gender unions and “self-avowed practicing” gay clergy. It also boosts penalties and accountability for transgressions of those bans.

“Regardless of our own content-related convictions, we have reached the unanimous opinion that the stipulations of the Traditional Plan are not acceptable for our church in Germany,” the group said in a statement released March 9. “The Germany (United Methodist Church) will therefore not follow the chosen way of controlling people in their disposition and imposing stricter penalties.”

The members of the German church’s executive committee emphasized that while democratic decisions must be respected, the far-reaching consequences in this case would not allow the adoption and execution of the decision by the United Methodist bodies in Germany.

The group made the unanimous decision during its regular spring session March 8-9, where General Conference’s actions dominated discussion.
Read More

      Bishops offer pastoral word; make key decisions at May 2019 meeting

CHICAGO – (May 09, 2019) The Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church completed its May 2019 meeting held outside Chicago with a pastoral and prophetic word in response to the decisions of the Special Session and the codification of some of those decisions in the Book of Discipline.

“Bishops are not judges or legislators. Bishops are preachers, teachers, shepherds, mediators, and missional strategists who appoint clergy and lead annual conferences to make disciples for the transformation of the world,” the statement said. “We offer this reflection as an expression of our pastoral and prophetic witness. The prophetic gift to our church calls for a confession of the harm that has been done, an acknowledgement of grief and support of a vision of God’s promise to do a new thing (Isaiah 43).”

Click here to read the full statement, “A Common Word from the Council of Bishops”

Bishop_1 Conf

During the May 4-9 meeting, the bishops’ conversation was focused on the following questions:

The bishops prayed, met in covenant groups, received Holy Communion, experienced examen in the Ignatian tradition, and renewed their baptismal vows.
 
The bishops of the UMC took the following actions during their meeting:

Bishop_2 Conf