2 bishops offer plan for denomination’s future

By Sam Hodges
July 10, 2019 | UM News

Two bishops propose turning The United Methodist Church into an umbrella organization for new, self-governing church groups that would offer different approaches on ordination of gay clergy and same-sex unions.

Michigan Conference Bishop David Bard and Texas Conference Bishop Scott Jones began collaborating on a plan after the rancorous 2019 General Conference and shared it with United Methodist News this week.

“We both envision a future where the church will focus on its mission of making disciples and spend less time and energy debating issues of human sexuality, which means we need to bless different parts of The United Methodist Church to be about the mission in their own ways,” Jones said.

The denomination has faced conflict for more than four decades over theological differences regarding homosexuality. The 2019 General Conference, held Feb. 23-26 in St. Louis, reinforced restrictions on LGBTQ ordination and same-sex unions, but also led to protests and resistance by many churches across the U.S.

Bard and Jones’ plan comes as various groups of church leaders discuss options for the denomination, including schism. A Sept. 18 deadline looms for petitions to be submitted for the 2020 General Conference in Minneapolis.

Though bishops don’t vote at General Conference, Bard and Jones said they feel an urgency to stimulate debate and action.

“We’re offering this plan as a thought experiment that we hope others will take seriously and consider as they are making decisions about the future of the church,” Jones said.

Bard added, “Scott and I acknowledge that there’s room for other ideas to be incorporated.”

Under the Bard-Jones plan – titled “A New Form of Unity: A Way Forward Strategy 2019-2022" – an annual conference would choose to join one of three groups the bishops are tentatively calling the Traditional Methodist Church, the Open Methodist Church and the Progressive Methodist Church.

The Traditional Methodist Church would begin with a Book of Discipline that includes the Traditional Plan, which passed by a vote of 438 to 384 at the 2019 General Conference and strengthened enforcement of restrictions on LGBTQ ordination and same-sex unions.

The Open Methodist Church and Progressive Methodist Church would begin with a Book of Discipline modified to include the Simple Plan as presented in St. Louis. That plan called for eliminating restrictions on same-sex unions and ordination of gay persons as clergy, as well as removing the church’s official position that homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching.”

Under the Bard-Jones proposal, the Progressive Methodist Church’s Book of Discipline would be further modified to affirm clearly the full inclusion of LGBTQ persons in marriage and ordination candidacy.

The Open Methodist Church and Progressive Methodist Church might choose to be one group, the bishops say.

The two or three churches would each decide on a name (“Methodist” isn’t required to be part of it), and each would hold its own General Conferences, with complete freedom to revise its Book of Discipline. Each would fund its bishops and decide on approved seminaries.

The two or three churches would share in governing the General Council of Finance and Administration, Wespath, the United Methodist Publishing House and the General Commission on Archives and History. They would contribute proportionally to the Black College Fund and Africa University.

Other general church agencies would have their own boards and be accountable to the Open Methodist Church but would provide services as requested to the other churches.

The United Methodist Church would no longer have individual members but would continue to exist “as an umbrella to facilitate this new form of unity,” the plan says.

The churches would be in full communion, and each could use the cross-and-flame logo of The United Methodist Church.

Though specific in many ways, the plan leaves unanswered big questions, such as the global nature of The United Methodist Church.

“Churches in Europe and Asia could form their own Methodist Churches or belong to one of the two or three churches, with the precise nature of the relationship to be determined,” the plan says. “There would be a United Methodist Church in Africa, the precise affiliations to the two or three churches to be determined.”

‘A New Form of Unity’

Bishop David Bard and Bishop Scott Jones have offered a plan that would dramatically reshape The United Methodist Church. Read the full plan. 

Asked about the ambiguity, Bard said, “While we’ve had conversations with our colleagues from other parts of the world, we didn’t want to go too far in defining what they may wish to do.”

Another unknown: Would these new churches have a Judicial Council?

“Each of the new church groupings would determine whether or not to form a Judicial Council or similar body,” Bard said.

The Connectional Conference Plan that failed at the 2019 General Conference would have realigned the denomination according to perspectives on LGBTQ inclusion, as does Bard-Jones.

But the Connectional Conference Plan required constitutional amendments, a lengthy process involving votes throughout the annual conferences. Bard and Jones believe their plan could be launched by General Conference action only.

“The key is the proposal to allow U.S. annual conferences to leave the denomination,” they say in the plan. “It was contained in section 9 of petition 90041 of the Traditional Plan. This section of the petition was ruled constitutional by the Judicial Council. Because the petition died in the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters, section 9 would need to be reintroduced and passed in 2020.”

The Bard-Jones plan foresees churches that disagree with their annual conference’s affiliation decision having the right “to transfer conferences with their assets, thereby joining a different church.”

The plan also lays out an implementation timetable, with the 2020 General Conference approving the major steps, followed by annual conferences choosing their affiliations with one of the two or three new churches in 2021 and the first General Conferences of those churches in 2022.

Bard and Jones have known each other since long before they were episcopal colleagues, having crossed paths at Southern Methodist University, where they both earned Ph.Ds.

They said they have shared their plan with fellow bishops as well as with groups discussing the future of the church. The stakes are high, and the two bishops hope to have an influence.

“Our plan offers a vision for keeping as much unity as possible and a pathway for decisions to be made,” Jones said.

Hodges is a Dallas-based writer for United Methodist News. Contact him at 615-742-5470 or newsdesk [AT] umcom [DOT] org. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests. 


Conference adopts vision naming commitment to LGBTQIA+ inclusion

By: Christa Meland

After spending much of Wednesday discussing The United Methodist Church’s changing landscape and engaging in respectful conversations, Annual Conference members voted 491-86 to adopt a vision for Minnesota that names a commitment to the full inclusion of LGBTQIA+ people in the life of the church.
“As a diverse body of Christ, we are called to be faithful to the example of Jesus’ ministry to and with all persons,” the vision says. “Consequently, we are committed to inclusiveness in all aspects of the life of the Church, by embracing the richness of diversity found in sexual orientation, race, physical or mental ability, national origin, marital status, gender identity, ethnicity, economic status, and age.”
The vision expressed a commitment to value, amplify, and center marginalized voices in denominational and local church conversations—and to affirm each clergyperson’s prayerful discernment about whether to officiate same-sex weddings. (View full resolution.) It was written and submitted as a piece of legislation by Minnesota Methodists, a grassroots movement of Minnesotans working toward the full inclusion of LGBTQIA+ people in the life of the church.

“I’m just so pleased to see this vision adopted by the Minnesota Annual Conference today,” said Rev. Carol Zaagsma, a member to the Minnesota Methodists Steering Team who submitted the vision for consideration. “With such broad support for it, now we can begin the work of actually living into it together. I think there are exciting times ahead for the Minnesota Annual Conference.”
Zaagsma, who serves Portland Avenue UMC in Bloomington, pointed out that a collaborative process produced the vision, which in recent weeks was shared at a series of gatherings across Minnesota to introduce it to voting members and invite their feedback about it before coming to St. Cloud. That feedback was incorporated into the vision as adopted.
Before voting on the vision, trained facilitators from the Minnesota Council of Churches led attendees in a “Respectful Conversations” process to engage in conversation about how the full inclusion of the gifts of our LGBTQIA+ siblings in all aspects of life and ministry of the church fits into a shared vision for our annual conferenceThe process was designed to build empathy and understanding, and to give people an opportunity to share their perspective without trying to convince or persuade others. In small table groups, those gathered explored and were invited to share what in their life experiences and deeply held beliefs informs their perspective on the vision presented, and to name their hopes and fears about the conference affirming that vision.
Attendees then engaged in a process of “holy conferencing” about the vision. Holy conferencing is a means of grace that involves entering into community (in this case, conversation) with the purpose of thoughtful, prayerful, respectful discourse and discernment while seeking spiritual encouragement and instruction.

Responding to the Traditional Plan
Separate from that vision, members also voted 446-108 to adopt a resolution that rejects the Traditional Plan that the 2019 Special Session of General Conference approved in February. That resolution “formally recognizes” that the Traditional Plan “does great harm to the witness of The United Methodist Church” and vows that “the Minnesota Annual Conference will not perpetuate this harm in any form.” (View full resolution.)
The resolution indicates support for the Minnesota Conference Board of Ordained Ministry, which recently named its commitment to examining all ordination, licensing, and candidacy applicants solely on the basis of nine characteristics of faith and leadership. It also affirms that Minnesota United Methodists commit to avoiding trials related to any aspect of ministry with and for LGBTQIA+ siblings. 

“Silence is often harmful and serves to perpetuate discrimination,” the resolution reads. “We will no longer remain silent. We say to our LGBTQIA+ siblings: you are beloved children of God, and you are beloved by us. We celebrate the many gifts and graces you bring to the church. We humbly seek forgiveness. We commit ourselves to creating the inclusive church God intends us to be.”

Love first
Setting the stage for these conversations and votes was a morning presentation that reminded participants of our shared journey to be a “love first” conference and that provided some background on the current state of The United Methodist Church.
“Jesus’ love—that is a love that goes to the edges, is a love that is radically inclusive,” Bishop Bruce R. Ough told those gathered. “It is love that seeks out the lost, the least, the lonely, the left out and the left behind. It is love that listens and learns and commits to doing no harm. It is a love that admits we do not always get it right and says ‘I am sorry’ and works to do better.”
Bishop Ough asked attendees to name the one thing they wanted people to know about Jesus and to share it through an interactive platform they could access on their computers or mobile devices. A word cloud containing all the responses appeared on screen—and the words love, grace, compassion, and forgiveness were most prominent.
Dave Nuckols, a 2019 General Conference delegate and the conference’s lay leader, described several strategies emerging across the country in response to General Conference 2019. Among them: amicably dividing and forming one or more new expressions of Methodism, trying one more time to re-structure the denomination to create more regional autonomy, and staying and continuing to work to define the ethos of The United Methodist Church.

While we don’t yet know the way forward for The United Methodist Church, leaders and ministry teams within the Minnesota Conference are monitoring the situation, doing research, and preparing for whatever may be next. (Read about the preparation taking place.)

Given where things stand, Rev. Cindy Gregorson, the conference’s director of connectional ministries, described the key question for the conference during this in-between time as this: “How, then, shall we live?”
“If God is love, and if God loves all people, and if the church is to be the visible body of Christ in the world, then how do we be a love boldly church?” she asked. “What will we commit to [in order] to actually live that out?”
Her conviction: “If we are going to be a love first, love boldly church, conference, movement, it starts with how we are with one another. It does not matter what we tell the world about God if in us they do not see God. That is what I want more than anything: I want a church that does not just talk about love, but commits to living love with one another!”
The morning session ended with each person picking up a wristband containing the words “Love Boldly” and placing it on the arm of the person next to them while saying, “I see you. You are a beloved child of God. Together, we will love boldly!”

Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Find the original article here: https://www.minnesotaumc.org/newsdetail/members-adopt-vision-naming-commitment-to-lgbtqia-inclusion-12837105 



Centennial UMC intends to remain fully inclusive of all our LGBTQIA members, friends, and neighbors as beloved in Christ.  Our commitment is to keep our congregation’s members and friends current on what is happening in our United Methodist denomination after the February special General Conference decisions.  See senior pastor Brian Hacklander’s sermon below from March 3 on these decisions. 


Alive in the Adventure with Jesus:

A Reflection on Life Together in The United Methodist Church

After General Conference 2019

Delivered March 3, 2019

By Brian C. Hacklander, Senior Pastor


**I was 22 and just starting seminary at Duke Divinity School when I started serving as a pastoral intern in various churches in North Carolina.  I served two churches out in the country near Raleigh.  I served a medium-sized church just west of Charlotte.  And I served a large church just north of Charlotte.  I had young supervisors, I had middle-aged and older supervising pastors. 

  • Now during my college years, I had frequented a number of churches of various denominations who made sure that someone believed just like they did before they would ever consider doing their funeral.  So when I started serving internships in churches, it came as a shock when I learned that as United Methodists, we would do the funerals of anybody in the community. We believe that everybody deserves a dignified, loving service celebrating their lives and sharing the pain of sorrow. We believe that anyone and everyone is a child of God.  What it comes down to is that we believe in embodying the love of Jesus, who had a place for everyone at his table.
  • After I was ordained as a United Methodist pastor, I served for 5 years down by Winona, and then was appointed to serve as pastor in south Minneapolis.  Now this was the late 1980s, so it was a very different time.  And one of the active members of the church came to me to ask if I would do the funeral of her uncle.  He had not been active in the church for a long time, and he was gay.  His family was very tentative about asking me, but I said I would be honored to officiate his funeral, and we honored his life with all the dignity and all the love we would give any of our loved ones, any child of God, because he was a child of God.


**Our United Methodist movement is a movement that goes back to John Wesley in 18th century England, John Wesley being so filled with the love of Christ for everybody that he preached from factories and mines and wherever he could gather a crowd.  He opened Holy Communion to anybody who wanted to turn toward God, because he believed that the loving, living God was at work through the sacrament.  Ours is a movement that has always proclaimed that Christ’s infinite love is for all, not just for some. 

  • I come to you heartbroken today.  This past week, the special United Methodist General Conference in St. Louis, with delegates from around the world, voted down the One Church Plan.  The One Church Plan hoped to keep as much of the United Methodist Church together as possible.  It sought to give express approval for churches and clergy, as our consciences lead us, to open our doors to our LGBTQ loved ones, friends, neighbors, and brothers and sisters and siblings in Christ.  But all of this was turned down by a 53% to 47% vote by the 800+ delegates, and the language that says that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching was retained.  This language is hurtful to LGBTQ persons, and we need to acknowledge this.  No person is “incompatible with Christian teaching.”  As our bishop says to our LGBTQ fellow Christians, You are not the problem.  The church is the problem.  It remains to be seen how much of the General Conference’s actions will be deemed unconstitutional.  But this is a heart-rending time for our denomination.


**But I am also hopefulAs Pastor Whitney and I have shared in our sermons at our two campuses through the years, we are passionate about sharing Christ and Christ’s love and about being a truly inclusive church. 

  • Remember that the General Conference is only a part of the church.  We are the church on the local level, right where we live.  Our ministries of youth work, children’s ministries, worship & music, adult classes, small groups, and serving at Ronald McDonald House and Dorothy Day still go on.  Our caring ministries for our homebound members, and in times of illness and crisis still go on.  Our women’s circles and United Methodist Women’s activities and men’s ministries still go on.  The love with which we hold each other as sisters & brothers in Christ still goes on. 
  • We stand by our Reconciling and Welcoming Statement as Centennial United Methodist Church, which was approved by a 90% to 10% vote in February 2015 after 3 years of a wide variety of congregational conversation events: Centennial United Methodist Church has a place for you. We believe God welcomes all people. We value diversity and recognize the sacred worth of each person, regardless of age, race, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical or mental ability, economic means, marital status, education, or faith history. With open hearts and minds, Centennial United Methodist Church is a Reconciling-Welcoming Congregation. If this is your first visit, welcome. If you are returning, welcome home.
  • As I said during our fall sermon series to our LGBTQ brothers & sisters—I say now: "I want every adult, every child, every youth that is a part of our church to know that we have your back, that we love you, that we walk beside you, that as a church we love you unconditionally, that Jesus loves you infinitely."


**No doubt we will have much conversation and prayer in days to come as a

congregation. But we are people of the Resurrection.  We believe in God who

brings new life, and led by the Spirit, we will find a way to grow in Christ’s ministry and mission. We will be developing plans for more information, prayer, and conversation, as there is much we don’t know yet.  But we do know that we can reach deep within our hearts and souls to embody the Christian virtues of a humble mind, a tender heart, and mutual affection.  May it be so. 


New informational item as of May 2, 2019 about a national gathering: Centennial UMC intends to remain fully inclusive of all our LGBTQIA members, friends, and neighbors as beloved in Christ.  Our commitment is to keep our congregation’s members and friends current on what is happening in our United Methodist denomination after the February special General Conference decisions.  As we have shared at the Centennial all-church forum on March 19, there are many conversations going on about whether to stay in the United Methodist denomination and resist, or to help form a new progressive Methodist denomination.  These conversations, large and small, are happening here in Minnesota and throughout the United States.  Here is an update about a gathering at the largest United Methodist church in the US, at Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City.

UMC Next Gathering receives over 2,600 nominees

As members of the convening team plan for a major May gathering for UMC Next at Church of the Resurrection, they invited leaders to nominate themselves or others. They received over 2,600 nominations from around the country for the 600 available spots. These leaders were from over 2,000 different churches. Uniting these leaders was their support of the One Church Plan or Simple Plan and their desire to work for a better way forward for the United Methodist than what was passed at the recent General Conference.

The goal for the upcoming event, being held May 20-22 in Kansas City, is to convene a meaningful conversation about the future of the United Methodist Church from a wide array of leaders from across the entire United States, and to discern what comes next for United Methodist centrists and progressive churches. From the nominations, ten persons were invited from each US annual conference. Future conversations will expand to include international partners. These ten were selected from the nominees by seventy people who attended smaller gatherings in Dallas and Atlanta last month.

While this gathering is limited to 600 to allow for conversations around tables, participants are asked to return home to work with others who were nominated to organize similar conversations in their annual conference. The May gathering will include 600 clergy and laity as well as bishops and general secretaries. 18% of the invitations were sent to young people, 18% to people of color and 12% to LGBTQIA+ persons.

At the event, conversations will include discussions of the hopes and dreams for United Methodism’s future, the theological and missional character of the church, and strategies for how to create this church given the current gridlock at General Conference and the recent approval of the Traditional Church Plan. Among the strategies being considered is one called, “Remain and Reform” and described as the Roman Catholic approach to reformation – reforming the church from within. The second strategy is to create a mechanism for thousands of churches that do not identify with the Good News/Confessing Movement/WCA coalition to form a new United Methodism. This has been described as the Protestant Approach to reforming the church.

For many United Methodists, laity and clergy, it is difficult to imagining leaving their church to form a new one. While there is an urgency following the General Conference, and a desire on the part of some in the Good News/Confessing/WCA coalition to quickly reach some agreement, most UM’s have not spent the years the WCA has in creating plans for leaving, which leads many to suggest that if a division of the church is to happen, with centrists and progressives leaving, it will not be viable before 2024 or possibly 2028.

Eight new members have been invited to join the leadership team of UMC Next to assure diverse representation from across the church. We are seeking a future that reflects a vibrant, vital and missional United Methodist Church, one that is passionately Wesleyan and authentically Christian, evangelical and fully inclusive, seeking to pursue justice and while drawing people into relationship with Jesus Christ.


About: UMC Next Conversations were originally convened by Rev. Adam Hamilton, Bishop Mike McKee, Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson, Rev. Tom Berlin, Rev. Junius Dotson, and Rev. Jasmine Smothers to begin discussions with a wide range of stake-holders to move the UMC forward in a faithful, prayerful, Christ-centered, and Wesleyan way.

Contacts: Rev. Jasmine Rose Smothers and Rev. Tom Berlin 404.524.6614 ext. 1000 and 703.793.0026 ext. 104 jasmine [DOT] Smothers [AT] ngumc [DOT] net and TBerlin [AT] florisumc [DOT] org umcnext [AT] gmail [DOT] com

New informational item as of May 2, 2019, from Minnesota Methodists: Centennial UMC intends to remain fully inclusive of all our LGBTQIA members, friends, and neighbors as beloved in Christ.  Our commitment is to keep our congregation’s members and friends current on what is happening in our United Methodist denomination after the February special General Conference decisions.  As we have shared at the Centennial all-church forum on March 19, there are many conversations going on about whether to stay in the United Methodist denomination and resist, or to help form a new progressive Methodist denomination.  These conversations, large and small, are happening here in Minnesota and throughout the United States.  Here is an article from Minnesota Methodists which (1) is an update about the decisions made April 26 by the Judicial Council of the denomination, which is like the supreme court, ruling on the constitutionality of the decisions made by the February special General Conference; and (2) updates you on many conversations going on around Minnesota. 


The Judicial Council has ruled.  

What is next for Minnesota?

The Judicial Council's Two Decisions

Yesterday, the Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church made two rulings regarding the legislation passed at the Special General Conference held in St. Louis two months ago.  The Council ruled portions of the Traditional Plan constitutional and ruled a disaffiliation petition creating a "gracious" exit constitutional.

What do these new rulings of the Judicial Council mean for the United Methodist Church? 

Traditional Plan Ruling

  • Self-avowed, practicing homosexual is now more specifically defined to include anyone living in a same sex marriage or civil union or anyone who has made a public statement that they are self-avowed, practicing homosexuals.
  • Bishops can't declare LGBTQIA+ Bishops and can't commission or ordain LGBTQIA+ clergy.
  • Establishment of minimum penalties for clergy who officiate same-sex marriages (one year suspension for the first offense and a loss of credentials for the second offense).
  • A changed just resolution process now requiring agreement to be made with the accuser (this means anyone who accuses clergy of an LGBTQIA+ offense must agree before a just resolution can be signed).
  • The United Methodist Church can now appeal trial courts that fail to punish LGBTQIA+ offenses sufficiently.

Disaffiliation Petition Ruling

  • Starting January 1, 2020 congregations who choose to leave the United Methodist Church before December 30, 2023 will be able to keep their church property if they pay two years of apportionments, their prorate share of aggregate unfunded pension liabilities, and any other debts, loans, and liabilities to the Annual Conference.  

For the full decisions of the Judicial Council, please see here (Traditional Plan) and here (disaffiliation petition).  

What does this mean in Minnesota?

We have heard you!  Your call for a Methodist faith that does not discriminate is loud  in Minnesota.  As you can see, supporters range from Moorhead to Harmony, and communities between. 

You have told us we collectively build more disciples for Jesus Christ to transform the world when no one is excluded.  And this is where we need your help. 

  • Please ask everyone in your congregations to sign onto the letter from Methodists in Minnesota, showing God loves all people, and so do we here in the land of 10,000 lakes!  Please sign here.  And then ask your friends and congregations to sign.  We know with your help we can have more than 2,000 signers in the next week.  The power of each signature shows this movement matters.  Together we can show the world Minnesota does not stand for discrimination. 
  • Want to share your view?  We once again invite you to share your vision for what an inclusive church could be. 
  • Give feedback!  UMC Next is hosting an event to convene a meaningful conversation about the future of the United Methodist Church.  The UMC Next planning team has invited the following United Methodists from Minnesota: Becky Boland, Walker Brault, Shirley Durr, Laurie Kantonen, Dave Nuckols, Cindy Saufferer, Tyler Sit, Mariah Tollgaard, Judy Zabel, and Carol Zaagsma.  An email address has been set up to communicate with and share feedback with that team.  You can contact everyone on that team at UMCNextMN [AT] gmail [DOT] com.  
  • Want to know more?  The Strategic Road Map for Minnesota Methodists has been posted here.   


  • TOMORROW, April 28: Town Hall Forum at Detroit Lakes United Methodist Church, 5:30 p.m.  More information here.  Or call the church at 218.847.4818.
  • May 1: Town Hall Forum at Path of Grace United Methodist Church in Maplewood.  More information here.  
  • May 7: Town Hall Forum at Centenary United Methodist Church in Mankato.  More information here.
  • May 10: Benefit Concert featuring Jumpin' Jehosafats at Peace Community of Faith in Shoreview.  More information here.
  • May 17-18: Our Movement Forward at Lake Harriet United Methodist Church in Minneapolis.  More information here.
  • September 28: save this date for a youth and young adult rally at Anoka United Methodist Church.

Judicial Council Ruling Resources

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