UMC: They Owe Us Something

Having just read Thomas Lambrecht’s “Methodism at the Crossroads” article (Good News magazine, January-February 2016), I am moved to make an appeal.

Each of the major proposals regarding the future of the UMC with respect to human sexuality appears (at least as presented by the article) to stand alone and in ideological isolation from the others.  That does not strike me as either a prudent or wise way to leave them as we approach General Conference.  The more plans available increases the difficulty of discerning our future, leaving delegates with a potentially competitive process (or worse) based on a “pick-and-choose” factionalism.  That not only seems too much to ask delegates to deal with in ten days, but also not the making for an atmosphere where Christian Conferencing can be done well.

Each of the major proposals is championed by identifiable persons.  My appeal is for these persons to gather and see if there is anything that they can give us other than isolated and conflicting proposals.  Given they have had the will, even the courage, to make their proposals–I believe they owe it to the rest of us to get together for their own version of holy conferencing.  If the Holy Spirit can do something in and through them, it would stand the whole denomination in a better place come May 10th.

The gathering should be caucus-group free, with only the leading champion of each proposal present.  The playing field keeps moving, but as far as I know, this would mean: (1) Amicable Separation–Maxie Dunnam, (2) Jurisdictional Options–Chris Ritter, (3) Local Option–Adam Hamilton, (4) Connectional Table—Bruce Ough, and (5) Covenant Unity Plan–Bill Arnold.

I am fully aware that this proposed makeup lacks global, racial, gender, and orientation diversity–the lack of which, in-and-of itself may tell us something.  But I nevertheless believe that the proposals’ champions owe us the courtesy of getting together soon.  Otherwise, they end up asking General Conference delegates to attempt something they themselves have been unwilling and unable to do.

I know of some previous attempts at this, but the gatherings I have heard of were not limited to the proposal champions themselves, so far as I know.  I appeal to these five people–all of them longstanding and respected leaders in the UMC–to do us this service.  Surely those who know each plan best are in a position to discuss each one in the most mature and considered way.  And if there are any possible places for synthesis, surely they are the ones best able to see them.

No matter what happens at General Conference, this before-conference meeting is “leading by example”–something we all need to see, for the good of the UMC.  And it is, I continue to believe, the kind of gathering in which God can work to put us in a better place than we are now (Jeremiah 32:27).

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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6 Responses to UMC: They Owe Us Something

  1. Ole Birch is correct. The Connectional Table proposal is likely the most global and diverse proposal of the five noted in Lambrecht’s article. The fact is, all five proposals were group projects. I even had a small hand in one myself. My point was only to suggest that Bishop Ough, as Chair of the Table would be the person best able to join the others and advocate (not negotiate) the Table’s proposal.

  2. Dan Gangler says:

    Bishop Job helped facilitate a similar group of divergent views in the mid 1990s. I believe they were convened for three sessions. Maybe it’s wise for such a meeting of minds and hearts again. As a reporter covering one of the events, I was surprised how those leaders had seldom talked with each other. They really didn’t even know each other outside of editorials and news stories. Each session began with worship and ended with worship.

  3. Ole Birch says:

    The proposal of The Connectional Table is not for any one person to negociate about. It is the work of a global body of the UMC. It is not just a group’s or a persons opinions.

  4. Mike Tupper says:

    Your wisdom is on target. I call it a peace with justice summit to end our 44 year war. I was hoping our bishops could moderate, but maybe you are the one who can bring these key leaders together. Maybe God is calling you to contact each of these leaders and bring them together.

  5. Thanks, Jared. As I said in the blog, I was taking note of the plan in Lambrecht’s article. I admit the five may not be all that have been proposed, but I make no claim to know what all the others are. Perhaps the five leaders I name would know of others who should be present. My only attempt at limiting the meeting is to suggest that only the main champion of a particular view attend. I am not 100% certain that I named the right people, but I trust them to get the right person there.

  6. Jared Gadomski Littleton says:

    I’m curious why you don’t include the NE Jurisdiction plan as one of the people who should be at the table.

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