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The United Methodist Church General Conference 2019 (Day 3) – The Debate over the Plans

Written by Daniel P. Dalton on February 25, 2019 Category: Church Property Disputes/Denominational Splits

Observations from the Day

Today was a long day of many, many mini-sermons. Depending on what you believe, the voters who approve the Traditional Plan are “evil, unbiblical and prudent,” while those who support the One Church Plan are, “immoral, selfish and self-righteous.”

In other words, if you are Methodist, you are in trouble.  

  • Exit plans.Today was also a day of surprises with respect to voting. The Traditional Plan and two disaffiliation plans were moved forward with over 50% of the vote.  The importance of this is that there is now three plans to be voted on tomorrow that allow for an exit plan for local churches.
  • No Unity. It is confirmed that the United Methodist Church is united in name, only. Those opposing the Traditional Plan claimed it to be un-biblical – even though the plan affirms the statements of faith of the Methodist Church for nearly 300 hundred years.In other words, the opponents affirm that they were never aligned with the faith of the denomination and castigate others as “evil” who affirm historical theology.  Meanwhile the proponents of the Traditional Plan seem to be trying to do their best to save the plan after it parts were found to be unconstitutional. There is no uniform theology in the United Methodist denomination.
  • Roberts Rules of Order. This conference has made it very clear that one attending and being a part of the General Conference needs to understand and follow Roberts Rules of Order.  It is interesting how a person can bring a conference to a dead halt through delay using the Rules of Order.  The bottom line is to make sure you have a working knowledge of Roberts Rules of Order prior to attending the meeting.

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The Plans, with Amendments, are Debated    

The Traditional Plan

After starting with worship, the day quickly moved to an attempt to delay the debate about the Traditional Plan to the end of the day. This motion was sought by the proponents of the One Church Plan to stop the momentum of the Traditional Plan. The end result was vote to deny the motion to delay discussion of the Traditional Plan and move forward with the discussion. Other procedural attempts to delay the votes occurred, all of which were denied with a similar vote of 55%.  The discussion then turned to the merits of the Traditional Plan. Discussion ensued for the following two and a half hours, with the motion to approve sending the Traditional Plan, with amendments to adjust it based on the judicial conference decision, to the General Conference for vote tomorrow for a vote by 56.22% of the voters. The significance of this vote is that there is an increase of voters favoring the Traditional Plan.

The First Disaffiliation Plan (Taylor)

Next up is the first disaffiliation from the denomination plan was discussed. Proponents noted that this plan works for those who cannot live within the denomination and essentially provides for an exit of local churches who wish to leave the denomination. The idea is that the annual conference should not use property as a weapon to force people to remain within a covenant they can no longer support.  Amendments that would require a Church to pay 33% of the value of their assets to leave was rejected by 62% of the voters.  On Sunday, voters moved 49.51% to advance it for discussion. On Monday, voters moved the proposal 52% in favor to advance it for a floor vote on Tuesday.

The Second Disaffiliation Plan (Boyett)

The next plan discussed was the Boyette disaffiliation plan. This plan provided that churches should not be constrained to remain part of The United Methodist Church. For those who believe the best way forward is to disaffiliate, a path must be created to disaffiliate without the loss of property and in a ministry affirming way. The plan was advanced plan by the voters on Sunday with 49.48% of the vote.  The plan was advanced for a vote on Tuesday with 52% of the vote.

The One Church Plan

This plan, pushed by Church leadership, was forced unity through a connection. The Plan did not allow a local church to leave the denomination.  And not surprisingly, the plan was rejected by voters by a margin of 52%.

The Remaining Plans

After the rejection of the One Church Plan, the remaining plans were rejected by the voting body.  The day concluded with stunned leaders and disappointed progressive attenders.

Concluding thoughts

A couple of observations are starting to come together based on the vote of priority of legislation that is to be discussed today and tomorrow.

  • First, there are now three viable exit plans for the local church. This is unexpected. It is my hope that one exit plans are passed to allow local churches to leave.
  • Second, it appear that there is more support for the Traditional Plan than originally thought. That is, voters remain committed to the current language of the Book of Discipline with respect to marriage, with respect to an exit plan and with respect to the accountability of Bishops. The supporters of the Traditional Plan seem to have the votes to adopt the plan as of this moment in time.
  • Third, the attempt to grind the conference to a halt through using Roberts Rules of Order has been avoided. The Chair of the Conference has a very good handle on the order of debate.
  • Fourth, this is not the end of the discussion. The delegates noted that regardless of what happens on Tuesday, the next General Conference of the United Methodist Church is in 2020.  That means all of these issues can be discussed, and reversed, next year.
  • Finally, even though they have not accepted defeat, progressives are now looking for a place to go if the Traditional Plan is passed. The current discussion is a return to the Episcopal Church.

The margin of voting is around sixty (60) votes.  It was announced this morning that thirty (30) voters from Asia were not present at the General Conference as they could not resolve passport issues that would have allowed them to enter the United States. Most of the voters were considered to be Traditional Plan voters, but one does not know if that is true or not.

I have no idea what will happen but the feel of the conference now is that the Traditional Plan will pass by a very slim margin as well as one of the disaffiliation plans. Therefore, if it passes, the local church should strongly consider taking advantage of the Exit Plan to retain its property. That way, if the winds change in 2020, they can keep its property.

If you, or your church, has any questions about its relationship with the United Methodist Church and how to retain its property, please contact a professional at Dalton & Tomich PLC.

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