General Conference ended last week with a vote to support the Traditional Plan over the One Church Plan. The Traditional Plan was adopted by a 56% to 44% margin. While the One Church Plan had overwhelming support from the Council of Bishops, the delegates of the global church voted to go in a different direction.
The ruling from last week’s conference disappointed a number of people across the spectrum. Even though the Traditional Plan came out on top, many conservative delegates came away with an unclear path forward. Their fear, along with many evangelical congregations, is that nothing has changed. Needless to say, the Centrists and Progressives came away stunned by the results of the vote. So initially it seems that no one came away happy with the results, particularly in light that delegates came from all over the world at the expense of over 3 million dollars in order to hold the event.
At this point, no one really knows what the future of the United Methodist Church will hold. Questions abound. Who, if any, will break off from the larger church? Reconciling Ministries Network? Wesleyan Covenant Association? What would be the logistics of a break? It is clear that the General Conference of 2019 did not settle the matter in question once and for all. Progressives and Conservatives will continue to battle with each other over their positions. Some progressive clergy will continue to defy the Book of Discipline while conservative clergy will continue to press for compliance. The beat goes on . . .
What seems clear to me is that our larger church, like our country, is not of the same mind. There are those who will argue for law and order and there are those who will argue for change. As with the Bible, there were those who made a case to follow the Law of Moses and then there were those who sought to follow the New Covenant of Jesus Christ. Each side of this discussion had points to consider. Paul’s position on this matter is that the New Covenant compliments the Law. The two work together.
Why can’t the two sides of our United Methodist Church work together? This is the question that seems to be elusive at best. There seems to be no clear answer. In the meantime, the church should continue to be the church. The church should continue to spread the love of Christ in all corners of the world. The church should continue to be the “hands and feet” of Christ wherever it is led. While we may not agree with one another, we should all try to work together to make disciples of Jesus Christ.
Friends, our larger church is wounded from the outcome of last week’s meeting. It is my hope, however, that we can all find the common ground of pursuing what God expects of each of us. This is my hope and my prayer.