Now that I am back home from the For Everyone Born convocation of the Love Your Neighbor Coalition (LYNC) in St. Louis, my eyes are set on returning to St. Louis in February for the 2019 special session of General Conference (GC2019), where the United Methodist Queer Clergy Caucus’ (UMQCC) Simple Plan legislation has the power to influence the elimination or reduction of discriminatory policies against LGBTQIA+ people. In additions to its own merits, the Simple Plan sets the tone for debate around the Council of Bishops’ recommended One Church Plan. The Simple Plan lays bare the misrepresentation of the One Church Plan as a progressive plan.
There are mixed opinions within the UMQCC and LYNC about whether the best legislative strategies for reducing LGBTQIA+ harm center around the One Church Plan or the Simple Plan. There is no confusion, however, about which plan best aligns with the values of the UMQCC and LYNC. The concessions in the One Church Plan to woo support from moderate conservatives and conservative institutional preservationists may be necessary to draw votes away from so-called Traditionalist Plan’s proposed purge of LGBTQIA+ United Methodists and our allies. Such concessions are not, however, our understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The One Church Plan removes anti-LGBTQIA+ language from the Book of Discipline (BOD), The United Methodist Church’s governing document, but it also retains the ban on using denominational or conference money to support LGBTQIA+ concerns. It also codifies parameters within which discrimination will be allowed to continue in conferences and congregations that claim a “contextual” desire to do so. The Simple Plan simply removes discriminatory language from the Book of Discipline.
Vocal support for the Simple Plan between now and February will provide delegates the best opportunity to reach an outcome least harmful to LGBTQIA+ people. Even if the Simple Plan does not win, its popularity among progressive United Methodists will foster the best possibility of amending the most harmful aspects of the One Church Plan. While we demonstrate our ability to compromise, the supporters of the so-called Traditionalist Plan have declared that they will leave the denomination if they don’t win the right to attack LGBTQIA+ Methodists with greater impunity. In fact, the Simple Plan already compromises our desire for repentance for past harm and affirmation of the worth of LGBTQIA+ people after decades of slander.
While legislative strategists and delegates must work out the realities of vote tallies and the degree of need for compromise, those of us who don’t have to negotiate such complexities must voice our values and our hopes for a fully inclusive church. We need to be very vocal about the harm that the plans in the Commission on a Way Forward report would perpetuate. Telling your delegates that you support the Simple Plan is a clear indication that you support the end of sanctioned discrimination by the UMC. Delegates will do the work of negotiating what can break this stalemate, but faithful supporters of LGBTQIA+ people’s worth in the UMC must now focus on John Wesley’s simple message to “do no harm.”
I pray you will amplify that message in the coming months and help us demonstrate God’s love for LGBTQIA+ people at GC2019. I hope to see you in St. Louis. It’s important that we show up, queer and ally alike.