I keep saying this… it was another long day.
In what seems like Groundhog Day, everything that was approved and voted upon on Monday also had to be voted upon on Tuesday. The same people voting on the same things… twice.
By now, you probably have read what happened:
- The petitions related to the pension plans passed.
- The traditional plan passed (405-395). There were a few amendments made but It still seems problematic.
- The “Taylor” Disaffiliation Plan passed.
The question for us all, now, is “what does it all mean?
Before we adjourned, the Traditional Plan was referred to Judicial Council. That referral for declaratory decision (is it Constitutional) will happen April 23-25, 2019. The Committee, Chair, and Parliamentarian refused to let the Traditional Plan be divided for approval (divide the question). When it comes time to be reviewed by Judicial Council that becomes a pretty good argument for making the entire Traditional Plan inseverable. If any of it is unconstitutional, all of it is.
I cannot help but imagine that the disaffiliation plan that passed will be brought before Judicial Council, too.
All that means that we’ve probably just spent somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 million to learn a few things:
- It is becoming increasingly difficult to operate in a global context without every part of our church having the freedom to adapt for context.
- Our polity was written to keep us together, not break us apart. It was also written in a time that assumed a US-majority church with minor global representation.
- It also assumes that people would come to the table with good intentions and a desire to move forward, together.
- The people who have been bringing the major petitions for the past quadrennia–traditional plan, Plan UMC, etc keep having their plans ruled unconstitutional. Maybe it’s time to read our polity, especially our constitution, before submitting major changes to our polity. Also maybe it’s time to pay attention to the names that keep appearing on petitions that wind up unconstitutional.
- Finally, for the record, we need to own that a flawed, incomplete plan for unity that could not make it through the Commission nor the Council of Bishops on its own merits is what became the petition that passed (and presumably will be declared unconstitutional a 4th time). It’s well-documented elsewhere how this sketch was included as a third proposal from the COWF.
So, what’s next? I think we wait and see, from a denominational perspective. There’s a conservative group that is meeting in a week. They said prior to St. Louis they are exiting unless the traditional passed unamended. It passed but amended and with questionable constitutionality. We’ll see. The Western Jurisdiction read a statement that says a lot without saying anything definitive other than they will continue doing ministry as they have been. Adam Hamilton has also said via Twitter that he is speaking with Bishops and other church leaders about what happens next. He suggested a meeting would happen after Easter.
I also think it is worth watching what the church does with the referral motion regarding alleged unethical activity–vote buying and bribery. I’ve heard rumors of this off and on since I was in seminary. Is there evidence? Can any connections be made? Who knows.
From a local church ministry perspective, all I can say is continue to serve God, see the world as your parish, and care for each other. Love and worship God. Tend to those who are hurting, especially those who sting a little more sharply today. Also, pay attention to help any who feel vindicated by the decision of this week–that we help remind folk of our essential unity in Christ. There were no winners this week.
Our bishop said it better than I: https://vimeo.com/320071023
Also, I witnessed and was moved by this singing last night. Check it out.
Finally, watch how you are investing your time. A dear clergy colleague had a birthday yesterday. While I missed that we were having a delegation meal, I went with others and celebrate her life and ministry after we concluded. It was life-giving.