This is a continuation of the commentary that starts here. If you are reading this before reading the first and the plan it is based on, it may not not a lot of sense. It may not make sense anyway, but there is a better chance if you start at the beginning.
Picking up where I left off on page 2 of “A – Legislation and Concept Proposal”.
“The Task Force worked with other groups across the denomination which were also addressing aspects of the global structure: the Connectional Table, the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters, and jurisdictional groups in the Western and North Central Jurisdictions. The Task Force distributed two preliminary proposals to these groups and to each of the Annual Conferences within the NEJ, seeking their consideration and feedback. Revisions were made based on input received. ”
Based on this, I again have serious questions about the motivations of the group. These are not accusations, that is to say I am not stating that this is the case, rather, they are questions that can not be answered by the proposal. AGain, there was working with other groups, which is good as a general rule. The connectional table has made it’s goals clear, the Western Jurisdiction is, by and large, a more liberal leaning jurisdiction than the current BoD reflects (this is not necessarily bad, just a statement of fact), as well as the jurisdiction this originated in being known as a more liberal jurisdiction. The NEJ has offered up statements in the past in defiance of the BoD as has the Western Jurisdiction.
“Leaders of the conferences that comprise our jurisdiction, including cabinet members, bishops and members of boards and agencies of the annual conference, while bound to the Book of Discipline, are also bound to exercise their consciences and are bound by Jesus’s commandment to stand with the marginalized and the oppressed in our midst when called upon to enforce unjust laws, policies and procedures to the detriment of gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender individuals wishing to participate fully in the life of The United Methodist Church and those who minister faithfully to them; and be it further resolved, that the jurisdictional conference recognize that individuals who take punitive actions against others for offering the sacraments and rituals of the church on an equal basis do so contrary to the highest ideals of the United Methodist Church at the risk of causing grave harm to LGBT persons, their loved ones, their sisters and brothers in Christ, faithful clergy and the United Methodist Church itself.” (NEJ statement from 2012) The Western Jurisdiction has made similar statements as well. Given that this plan comes in the midst of all of the chaos surrounding the questions of sexuality that the denomination faces, I find it only proper to question the motives of those involved, especially as those involved all seem to come from one stance on the issue. As I continue to read down and continue to see those involved, it is difficult for me to shake the feeling that this is an attempted end around if you will in order to bring about their stated and desired goals. Again, I say this not as an accusation, but as a question that this proposal can not answer thus far. I also say it as a confession of sorts as to the thoughts I have while reading it.
“In summary, this proposal recommends that: The General Conference be renamed The Global Connectional Conference, which will be similar to General Conference, except that it will ONLY deal with global issues and will be responsible for a Global Book of Discipline. The UMC will be organized into four continent-wide “connections”: Africa, Asia, Europe and North America. Each of the four connections will have the option of organizing into regions. Each connection will be responsible for its own, connection-wide book of discipline, relevant to matters that are not global. Annual Conferences will remain the same.”
The obvious question is what is a global issue. My understanding is that question has been forwarded to the general boards, including the oft mentioned connectional table to decide. It is difficult for me to have a solid opinion absent all the facts. As I think about the issues facing the church, especially the ones causing such strife currently, I don’t see many issues that the BoD deals with that are not global in their reach and scope. If we are speaking of the current dust up over human sexuality as being a non-global issue, then it would conceivably set up a structure where sex with a person of the same gender and marriage to a person of the same gender is just fine on two continents but is sinful on two others. If that is a possibility for any issue of what is or is not a sin, then I could not in good conscience support this as it sows confusion in what constitutes personal holiness (the attempt to not sin) instead of defining and leading people toward it. Beyond that, how could we reasonably expect anyone to trust the church when sin could theoretically be defined by geography and not by scripture. Without knowing what constitutes a global issue, I can not rule that out as a possibility. I recognize that many view the BoD as simply a book of rules, but it is not only that, it also contains statements of faith for the church so it does express parts of our doctrine. No, it is not the equal of the Bible as is the common statement, specifically toward me, but it does contain parts of our understandings of the Bible. “The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church outlines denominational law, doctrine, administration, organizational work and procedures.” From the UMC website. Because it contains part of our doctrine, essential to my thoughts on this is if the Global BoD contains the doctrine of the church or if each region gets to decide what the doctrine of their churches is.
I know it is slow going and tedious, but the attempt is to comment on, and hopefully raise questions about, a well thought out plan that is going to come up at GC. As it has the ability to profoundly influence our church, it is correct to examine and ask these questions. Stay tuned tomorrow for more…that is if you are not already asleep.