Special General Conference Recap

Yesterday the Special General Conference of The United Methodist Church concluded after 4 days of conversation and debate that resulted in the delegates from around the globe voting to pass an amended Modified Traditional Plan 438 to 384. Along with this, they passed a “disaffiliation clause” or better known as a “Gracious Exit” option, which would give local churches the option to leave the denomination at a cost determined by the Annual Conference but that petition was declared unconstitutional by the Judicial Council. How that petition plays out will more than likely be seen at the 2020 General Conference.

After conversations and reading, here is my current best understanding of what this all means and what was passed and considered constitutional: Overall, this vote affirms The United Methodist Church’s current position on issues of human sexuality while adding levels of accountability for clergy leaders (while also highlighting deep division and hurt within our denomination).

More specifically…

  • The definition of “self-avowed practicing homosexual” now includes individuals living in a same-sex marriage, domestic partnership or civil union, or is a person who publicly states s/he is a practicing homosexual. (Petition 1, 90032)

  • Bishops are not allowed to consecrate individuals as bishops who are self-avowed homosexuals even if they have been elected. Bishops are also not allowed to commission or ordain individuals as deacons or elders if the Board of Ordained Ministry has determined that said individual is a self-avowed practicing homosexual. (Petition 5, 90036)

  • Members of the Board of Ordained Ministry must certify to the bishop that they will uphold the Book of Discipline in its entirety including but not limited to all qualifications for ordination. (Petition 6, 90037)

  • The minimum penalty if a clergy-person is convicted of conducting ceremonies or same-sex weddings is a one-year suspension without pay for the first offense, and loss of credentials for the second offense. (Petition 11, 90042)

  • The District Committee on Ordained Ministry and conference Board of Ordained Ministry cannot approve or recommend individuals who do not meet the qualifications for ordination after full examination and the bishop must rule any unqualified candidates so recommended out of order. (Petition 12, 90043)

  • Bishops are only able dismiss complaints against a clergy-person if the complaint has no basis in law and the reason for dismissal must be shared with the individual(s) filing the complaint. (Petition 13, 90044)

  • Just Resolutions must state all identified harms and how they will be addressed by the complainant. (Petition 14, 90045)

  • The individual(s) filing the complaint to be a party to the just resolution process and every effort must be made to have the complainant(s) agree to the resolution. (Petition 15, 90046)

  • The church can appeal a case against a clergy-person based on egregious errors of law to the Committee on Appeals and then to the Judicial Council. If there is jury nullification, the church has recourse to prosecute. (Petition 16, 90047)

As I mentioned, this is my best understanding of what came out of the Special General Conference in the past few days. Please feel free to let me where I misspoke or misunderstood. I will be writing another piece later today from a more personal place of response to the last couple days. Regardless of where you stand on this issue, I pray you know that you are deeply loved and valued by the One who gave himself for us.

Matt Lipan1 Comment