2018-JUL-28/29: "For Everyone Born" conference includes a panel disussion on the Way Forward report and its One-Church model:
A UMC panel discussion in St. Louis, MO, exposed a conflict within the LGBT community and its supporters about the One-Church model. Some favor the model because it allows UMC conferences, churches, and pastors flexibility on handling homosexual topics. But others oppose the model because it allows the same people to choose to continue to discriminate against the LGBT community. 1
The "For Everyone Born" weekend conference was sponsored by the Love Your Neighbor coalition. The latter's name is derived from Matthew 22:36-40 in the Bible where Jesus instucts Christians to:
" ... love God with all our heart, soul (being) and mind" and to "love one's neighbor as one's self."
The coalition is a "... partnership of 13 United Methodist Church related Caucus groups working for a just, inclusive and grace filled denomination."
Their stated mission is:
"... to assure [that] The United Methodist Church is fully open to the presence, love and grace of God offered to all people." 2
2018-AUG-20: The Hispanic/Latino Caucus supports the one-church model:
The group "Methodists Associated Representing the Cause of Hispanic/Latino Americans" (MARCHA) met for four days at Charlotte, NC, starting on 2018-AUG-02. They discussed the three LGBT models proposed as paths forward for the United Methodist Church to handle their LGBT minority. MARCHA delegates voted in favor of the One-Church plan.
Eunice Vega spoke in favor of the One-Church plan. She said:
"We have brought this proposal because this is the model that — we believe — provides more possibilities for the coexistence of different theological positions. ... [It] gives space to local churches, conferences, clergy and laity, to be able to assume their positions conscientiously, and accordingly with their contexts."
She noted that the UMC has often held conflicting opinions in the past, particularly over matters like slavery and the ordination of women. She continued:
""On the other hand, the other [two] plans (Traditionalist and Connectional Conference) do not make clear the future of the general agencies. As a Hispanic-Latino caucus, whose mission is to advocate for the rights of the United Methodist Hispanic-Latino people, we believe that the existence of agencies is a fundamental tool for this mission."
She feels that many of the agencies and UMC organizations:
"... would probably disappear with the adoption of any of the other two models."
Rev. Rosita Mayorga, North Central Jurisdiction, argued against supporting the One-Church Plan. She said:
"This resolution will have a negative impact on our congregations, since most are charismatic. Although I do not think they are fundamentalists, but most of them are certainly conservative. ... The situation is painful, because it has taken a lot to build congregations, which could leave the denomination if this model is adopted at the special General Conference in 2019." 3
2018-AUG-22: African leaders support the Traditional Plan:
The UMC is growing in Africa. About 30% of the delegates to the General Conference come from African countries.
Rev. Jerry Kulah is the dean of Gbarnga School of Theology in Liberia, and a Conference delegate. He organized the Africa Initiative which trains delegates about how the Conference works and how to participate.
"It’s not an issue of the church law remaining the same. It’s an issue of what the Bible teaches, and the Bible teaches one man, one woman for life, as far as marriage is concerned." 4
While it is true that the Bible regards marriage as a heterosexual institution, polygamy was one of eight marriage types mentioned in the Bible. Solomon holds the record among polygamous marriages. He had 700 wives of royal birth along with 300 concubines.
African delegates to the 2019 General Conference are expected to vote for the Traditional Plan -- the most conservative of three plans created as options by the UMC Council of Bishops, that would continue the UMC's discrimination against the LGBT community. 4,5
2018-DEC-28: Council of Bishops’ letter to the global LGBTQ community:
An unofficial LGBTQ advocacy group called "Love Prevails" presented a letter at the fall meeting of the UMC Council of Bishops at St. Simon’s Island, GA. It said in part:
"As the special General Conference approaches, our lives and worth come under ever more vicious and sustained scrutiny. No matter which plan is passed or if no plan is passed in February 2019, the lives and the loves of queer people will be fought over without us having much voice or vote in that process."
At their meeting, the Council of Bishops took the unprecidented step of approving that a letter be sent to the UMC membership concerning the concerns of the LGBT community. It begins:
"... the convening of the Special Session of General Conference creates a time and space of harm for you and members of your family. To be the focus of attention, discussion and debate is hurtful.
Demeaning and dehumanizing comments and attacks on LGBTQ persons in conversations related to the upcoming February Conference are a great tragedy and do violence to hearts, minds, and spirits. When you suffer, the whole body of Christ suffers. Together, we need to work to resist hate, violence, and oppression of persons. In these attitudes and actions, great harm is done throughout the community, [both] to the offended and the offender. ..."
"We confess, as Bishops of The United Methodist Church and as we attempt to honor our convictions, that our actions and words have not always been life-giving or honoring of the LGBTQ community. Amid our sorrow, we seek to learn and grow in grace. To that end, we commit ourselves to helping people who disagree with each other to have conversations that include, honor, and respect people with different convictions." 6
Response toward the letter within the LGBT community was mixed.
Rev. Pamela R. Lightsey -- an elder, academic, and member of the LGBT community -- posted a message on Facebook which commended the bishops for writing the letter while expressing disappointment in its contents. She said:
"I don’t look for the council as a whole to say what it cannot. Many of the very persons complicit in our oppression sit on the council. I do, nonetheless, hope that active members of the episcopacy who have been quiet in their support of the rights of LGBTQ UMC members will now step forward and boldly say the denomination must end its discriminatory practices." 7
Pastor Mark Wingfield wrote an article in Baptist News Global that said, in part:
"Sadly, we have been trained to worship the received interpretation of Scripture rather than the overarching narrative of Scripture embodied in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Just as we have been trained to worship the Bible as the word of God more than Jesus as the divine Word of God. Is our faith so fragile that to admit we have been wrong in one area necessarily pulls a string that undoes all the rest of our faith? Is our faith really a house of cards?" 7
Dennis Akpona, a gay United Methodist member from Nigeria, who has sought asylum in the U.S., views the church as a refuge. He said:
"Though the letter was not perfect, I believe this is the first step to redemption and there is still a lot to be done by the bishops, especially in the African central conference. ... I look forward to a time where LGBTQ+ family in Africa will feel comfortable approaching their clergy and bishops to discuss issues affecting them without any fear of discrimination from the church." 7
The Bible has been interpreted in many ways. At one extreme, every word in the original autograph copies of its books are regarded as having been inspired by God. At the other extreme, the contents of Biblical books are viewed as having been greatly influenced, negatively, by the pre-scientific beliefs and cultures at the time they were written. The end result is a continuing conflict between science and religion. Some conflicts have taken many generations to resolve, including the morality and legality of human slavery, and whether profoundly deaf couples should be allowed to marry. The conflict about whether women should be allowed to vote has been resolved in the U.S. and other developed countries. The debate whether women and men should should have equal rights is largely settled. A partly resolved conflict is over the origin & cause of homosexual orientation and how people within the the LGBT community should be treated. Recently emerged is a controversy over transgender persons whose current gender identity differs from their gender determination at birth. All of the resolved conflicts have eventually resulted in equal rights for all. I expect that this will continue in the future with women, the LGBT community, and transgender persons. Unfortunately, the resolution process is incredibly difficult for those being discriminated against, and painfully slow. A solution is dialogue. However, little of that has been historically present.