Agencies affiliated with UMC begin responding to GC2019 fallout


Before and after the votes were tallied at the Special General Conference of The United Methodist Church in St. Louis, agencies and organizations affiliated with the church were quick to share their opinion and desire to distance themselves from the damage they think the Traditional Plan will inflict on the future of United Methodism, while others are still pondering.

“My heart grieves for my Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual (LGBTQIA+) siblings who experienced the harm of continued rejection, insensitive and bigoted rhetoric, and emotional and spiritual disregard. I acknowledge your dedication to the church in spite of the oppression you face and respect any feelings of anger or betrayal that may lead some of you to walk away,” writes General Committee on Religion and Race General Secretary Erin Hawkins. “I also grieve for those traditionalists whose willingness to be in authentic dialogue and relationship was overshadowed by forces that corrupted the work of the General Conference.”

The Association of United Methodist Seminaries all signed on in support of the One Church Plan because the implication it has on developing future disciples willing to serve the church. The group cited public opinion polls in the U.S. which demonstrate younger people in the U.S., including those who consider themselves deeply devoted Christians, do not want to organize their spiritual and church lives around the exclusion of LGBTQ persons.

“If the Traditional Plan passes, we may very soon lose an entire generation of leadership here in the United States,” wrote the presidents and administrators of the 13 United Methodist seminaries in the U.S.

“I am heartbroken for the alumni/ae, students, and would-be students of Claremont School of Theology. This conference was supposed to lead a divided church on a path forward, but instead we took a giant step backward,” wrote Jeffrey Kuan, president of Claremont School of Theology and a delegate to General Conference. “I am angry about the politics that were employed before and during this conference. I am angry about the ways the Bible has been, and continues to be, weaponized against people of God.”

The United Methodist Women, both globally and locally, have also voiced their opposition to the passage of the Traditional Plan.

“For 150 years United Methodist Women have worked for inclusion, affirming the sacred worth of each individual,” writes Oregon-Idaho UMW President Becky Warren. “We shall continue that work, pray for the leadership of the Western Jurisdiction, and discern a way forward for United Methodist Women in the Oregon-Idaho Conference, for our sisters in faith across the United States, and for our missions that encircle the globe.”

The General Board of Church and Society has stated it will remain committed to inclusion and justice and General Secretary Susan Henry-Crowe said we must pray for repentance and seek forgiveness for the harm caused not just by General Conference 2019, but for the continued denial of the full inclusion of LGBTQ persons within the life of the church.

“We must call on Christ to heal all of the brokenness we have imposed on the body,” Henry-Crowe writes. “I will pray for forgiveness in my part of having participated in a church that has excluded, pushed out and damaged many faith-filled LGBTQIA people. For all the families and young people wounded by these exclusions, we must always pray. We must also put our faith into action and continue to work for LGBTQIA equality.”

In addition to the Western Jurisdiction of the UMC stating it will continue to be inclusive of LGBTQ individuals in leadership and laity throughout individual churches and Conferences, The United Methodist Church of Germany has now said it won’t impose the Traditional Plan bans placed on LGBTQ+ individuals and clergy who perform same sex marriages.

While some have been quick to step out, others are still discerning how their agency will proceed with The United Methodist Church post-General Conference.

The General Board of Discipleship’s General Secretary has decided to make a statement at this time, according to spokesperson Steve Horswill-Johnston.

Neither has the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

“The agency serves the church, and we continue to do so by helping nurture the principled Christian leaders needed by the church and world,” writes agency spokesperson Victoria Rebeck.

There are still a lot of questions left about what’s next for the churches, agencies and organizations dissatisfied with the General Conference outcome. Many are waiting on what will come from the Judicial Council meeting in April where the constitutionality of the Traditional Plan will be examined. There are also annual conference sessions, jurisdictional meetings to be held, and of course, General Conference 2020 where this debate could continue.