There are many proposals coming before the 2016 General Conference to be held in Portland, Oregon, May 10th through 20th regarding the inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer (LGBTQ) persons in The United Methodist Church (The UMC).
At their root, all of these proposals—popularly called “plans”—are attempts to rescue the institutional church from 40+ years of discriminatory harm committed against LGBTQ United Methodists.
Many of these plans are unnecessarily complex and would fundamentally alter our unique connectional system as Wesleyan people. It is certain that some of the plans would face judicial challenges if adopted. At least one of the “plans” would begin a new era of denomination-wide witch hunts and may indeed anticipate schism. These plans are so complicated that an entirely new process for conducting business was developed for the General Conference.
All these plans fail to address the root problem.
The plans attempt to rescue a compromised institution that has sadly prioritized self-preservation over the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Delegates to General Conference will consider all of these plans, but the reality is that there is a much simpler way for the church to regain its credibility, vitality, and effectiveness in the mission field while saving the lives of baptized children of God who are harmed by current policy.
The “Simple Plan” doesn’t involve complicated new procedures, it doesn’t require churches or annual conferences to engage in additional procedural steps, it doesn’t require constitutional change and ratification, it doesn’t sever connectional relationships, and it can be accomplished within any procedural order.
The Simple Plan equally honors all children of God – children of all sexual orientations and gender identities. It removes institutional-level mandates that prohibit ministry with same-sex couples seeking Christian marriage and allows clergy to be faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Simple Plan removes institutional-level mandates that prohibit equal treatment of LGBTQ persons who are called to ordained ministry and allows boards of ordained ministry to consider each candidate based on their gifts and graces. The Simple Plan removes the discriminatory language from the Book of Discipline. Reconciling Ministries Network wholeheartedly endorses this plan and passionately implores the whole people of God to join together for the passage of this plan at General Conference.
To enact this plan delegates would merely need to act on the following:
1. Paragraph 161.F. Remove the “incompatibility clause” and expand understandings of marriage as limited to heterosexual persons. The petition that best achieves this is #60819 found on page 302 of the ADCA
2. Paragraph 304.3. Delete the prohibition of “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” for ordained ministry. The petition that best achieves this is #60780 found on page 769 of the ADCA
3. Paragraph 806.9. Delete the “funding ban.” The petition that best achieves this is #60771 found on page 698 of the ADCA
4. Paragraph 161.B. Expand the meaning of the covenant of marriage. The petition that best achieves this is #60786 found on page 301 of the ADCA
5. Paragraph 341.6. Delete the prohibition on “homosexual unions.” The petition that best achieves this is #60787 found on page 1130 of the ADCA
6. Paragraph 2702.1. a) Delete the description of marriage as “heterosexual, and b) remove the prohibition against being a “self-avowed practicing homosexual” and the prohibition against performing “same-sex” unions or marriages. The petition that best achieves this is #60762 found on page 1019 of the ADCA
In addition to simplicity, this plan is fully consistent with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Anything less than the full- inclusion of LGBTQ people in The UMC sacrifices the integrity of our faith and will undoubtedly result in greater division and unrest throughout all levels of the denomination.
Reconciling Ministries Network stands in full support of The Simple Plan and calls the whole church to faithfulness, love, and justice for the sake of The UMC and
the life of the world.
#ItsTime for the delegates at General Conference to make the only choice, the simple choice, and remove all institutionalized discrimination from the Book of Discipline.