February 28, 2019
May the peace of Christ that surpasses human understanding be with you!
I am still recovering from all that has happened and hasn’t happened at the Special General Conference this week. I can only imagine how frustrated, dismayed, hurt, confused, and concerned you are whether you agree with the decisions made at GC 2019 or not. I have received a number of requests asking for clarification and guidance to help our beloved United Methodists in your community process on Sunday and beyond. I am not in a place to give you a comprehensive and accurate report on what exactly the decisions of GC 2019 mean on what effects. Here is some basic information and guidance I can think of to help all of us to process our reactions and responses in prayerful and reflective ways. The New England delegation and the conference are preparing more comprehensive and accurate reports, which will be available soon.
- The Amended Traditional Plan was adopted with only a 54 vote margin out of 822 votes, delegates with 53.2% voting for and 46.8% voting against. This means if 27 delegates had changed their votes, the outcome would have been different.
- Many of the proposed and modified Traditional Plan petitions, more than 60 % of them, were declared unconstitutional by the Judicial Council of the UMC. A small number of petitions of this plan were amended and adopted.
- The request for declaratory decisions about these petitions after the adoption of the Amended Traditional Plan means the Judicial Council will review and rule on the constitutionality of the amended Traditional Plan adopted by this General Conference. Their ruling is expected after the Judicial Council’s scheduled meeting this April.
- We believe about 65% of US delegates preferred the One Church Plan- the plan that was supported by the great majority of Way Forward Commission members who were entrusted to find a way forward for the UMC and of the Council of Bishops. About 85% of the delegates outside the US approved the Traditional Plan. We need to understand that 58.3% of the General Conference delegates come from the US, 30% from Africa, 5.8% from Philippines, 4.6% from Europe, and the rest are from Concordat Churches
- The decisions of GC 2019, if found constitutional, will be in effect January 1, 2020.
So what does these all mean?
- None of the plans that all of you read and saw in the comparison chart last year and this year were fully adopted. Much of what the Traditional Plan proposed in that box such as asking clergy, bishops, and the Jurisdictional and the Annual Conferences to sign a covenant paper or out was not adopted.
- The global UMC’s stance on human sexuality and the ban on the full inclusion of LGBTQ persons such as ordination, marriage, and weddings will become more exclusive and more punitive. These were deemed unconstitutional before the General Conference and still will be reviewed by the Judicial Council.
- The global UMC as a denomination has not chosen to become even little bit more inclusive toward more people and honest about our differences for now. This is one thing that is very clear. Advocacy for this change, and for the Simple Plan, was powerfully shared and provided time at the conference.
- The UMC is a deeply and almost evenly divided church on the biblical interpretation of homosexuality. We made the one of the most important and historic decisions with less then 53% approving! Even if the One Church Plan had been adopted, the margin would have been the same if not thinner! Wisely most of our church councils do not make any decision of importance with such a small margin.
- We will not know fully and clearly about the validity and effect of the decisions of GC 2019 at least until the end of the next Judicial Council Meeting this April.
So what can and should we do now?
- First stop whatever you have been thinking or doing and take all to God in prayer…and pray more…We need God more than ever before. Help your people do the same.
- Please provide a safe space for all who are deeply hurt and struggling to be heard and prayed with and for.
- Where possible, help them understand the General Conference is a global body representing diverse cultures facing different challenges then we as Americans can understand and that even US culture is still divided on this matter.
- Remind people that this decision does not keep them from loving God and loving one another as they have faithfully been doing. This makes the Church the body of Christ, not the decision of the GC whether you agree or not.
- Please share that we can take breath and time. One of most important instructions given during this GC was “These are urgent matters. Work slow!” Remind them there will be many opportunities to share, process, and pray together for each to process one’s own response whether as individual, a congregation, and etc.
- Please find ways to let the people in your community know that the mission and ministry of the UMC has far less to do with this recent public and global decision and much more to do with helping the poor, healing the sick, comforting the lonely, advocating for the marginalized. If your church welcomes people regardless of all categories, consider putting signs out emphasizing your welcome of LGBTQ persons and their loved ones. All people are seeing in media now is that how exclusive the UMC has become. Let’s find ways to undo this perception.
- Please encourage people in your pews to participate in Courageous Conversations in your district in March. This will be a good opportunity for a prayerful and honest sharing. You can also learn how you can use this format in your church for further conversations.
- Some of what I have shared is preliminary. Please wait for more information.
- Lastly…Please stop whatever is in your mind for now and take all to God in prayer…and some more until the Peace of Christ rule in your heart…
We Chang, your District Servant
A Message from Beth DiCocco
Director of Communications
Reporters may come unannounced to visit local churches on Sunday to get reaction to the General Conference decision. Now that the overall news has broken, they will be seeking the “local angle.” Here is my advice on that:
Pastors can refer comment to me as Conference Spokesperson or comment as they see fit. They should be clear that they are speaking for themselves, and not as representatives of the Conference or the denomination (e.g. my opinions are my own) but I strongly encourage pastors and congregations to be as gracious to the press as they would to any visitor to the church whether they want to offer comments or not. You do not have to tolerate disruption to your worship (you can limit when/where/if they take photos for example) or rude behavior, but if they’re nice, be nice too.
Pastors cannot control whether reporters ask congregation members to speak or the members themselves, nor should they, but I suggest that pastors try to identify a couple people ahead of time that they think will be good speakers/and who are willing to do so and steer reporters to them. This will helps keep people from feeling harassed or put on the spot and still puts us in the story.
Basically, if you help reporters get their story, they more likely you are to get the story you want to have told.
Beth DiCocco,Director of Communications
New England Conference of The United Methodist Church
411 Merrimack Street Suite 200, Methuen, Mass. 01844
Office 978.682.8055 ext. 150
MBH District Courageous Conversations
Please plan to attend the MBH “Courageous Conversation” to unpack the events of General Conference 2019 and to process our feelings and experiences together.
Sunday, March 10, 2019: 4:00 - 6:00 pm
Parkway UMC, 158 Blue Hills Parkway, Milton, MA, 02186
District Resource Day: Together - Community as a Means of Grace
Saturday, March 9, 2019; 9:30 am – 2:00 pm
Belmont-Watertown UMC, 421 Common St., Belmont, MA 02478
All MBH clergy are required to attend this event.
Church leaders are invited and encouraged to participate.
Cost (includes lunch): $10/person
Childcare available (indicate with registration).
Register by Monday, March 4.
- Led by Rev. Larry Duggins, Executive Director of Missional Wisdom Foundation.
- Missional Wisdom Foundation is engaged in creative, alternate, yet authentic ways of exploring new expressions of faith and faith community.
- This workshop will provide opportunities for us to rethink the ministry in 21st century and to learn new frames with which we can strengthen as well as reimagine the ministry for growth and vitality.
- This workshop will help us reimagine the ministry of community both within and outside of the traditional church and its building.
- For more information about MWF, click here.
- Click here to see coverage from Fox Business news about the work of MWF.
- Church leaders are invited and encouraged to participate in this conversation.