Does the so-called One Church Plan create a “home for everyone” in the United Methodist Church? That’s the question in this second installment of #OneChurchPlanMyths. The claim comes in this video where the suggestion is made that the so-called One Church Plan makes a home for everyone by removing language in the Book of Discipline that says same-sex practices are incompatible with Christian teaching. The idea is that the removal of that sort of language also removes a barrier to some from full participation in the life of the Church. With this post I argue that the removal of one barrier actually creates another, which means the so-called One Church Plan doesn’t actually create a “home for everyone.” That claim is a myth.
Except for them
The problem with the myth in question is the untold numbers of people who’ve said they won’t be at home in a denomination that makes such a change. Many who affirm the current stance of the Church have being saying for decades that they will be forced to leave the UMC, if it were to change its position, a position that (as is noted in the video) has been in place almost 50 years. I vividly recall as a ministry candidate twenty years ago how other traditional folks were saying that if the Church changes its position on sexuality, they could not stay. Their conviction was that such a change would mean the UMC could no longer be their denominational home.
More recently, the Wesleyan Covenant Association has reminded the larger Church that the adoption of the so-called One Church Plan is “untenable” and would force the formation of a new Methodist denomination. It’s worth remembering that this is not a new posture taken by these folks. Conservatives have been saying this for a very, very long time. What’s new is the amount of pressure and influence being presently given to changing the Church’s definition of marriage and its ordination standards. So, the question is: how can the so-called One Church Plan be a home for everyone when a significant number of United Methodists have been saying for decades that they cannot live under such a plan? And therein lies the myth. The so-called One Church plan doesn’t make a home for everyone. It makes a home for everyone except the people who can’t live with it.
What’s even more striking is that the so-called One Church plan is the only plan (to my knowledge) that any major group has officially said it cannot live with. No one has said they’ll feel forced from their home if the Connectional Conference Plan passes. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t know of any Progressive groups who’ve officially said they’ll leave if a version of the Traditional Plan passes. I do know of some individuals who’ve said as much, but no group-as-a-whole. Again, leave a comment and let me know if I’ve missed an announcement of that sort. Somehow, the only plan under which a significant constituency has publicly said it would feel forced out of its home is the one plan that alleges to be a home for everyone. Curious that.
It’s not working
The video also rationalizes the so-called One Church Plan with the suggestion that we are already living in a situation that resembles the results of that plan. The idea is that we currently live in a Church where people disagree on the matter of human sexuality. We’ve now have Progressives, Centrists, and Traditionalists in one Church. The so-called One Church Plan makes adjustments to affirm this and moves us forward. The argument is supposed to make you think: Oh, well if we already have it, what’s the problem with passing it? What’s strange about this line of reasoning is that what we have now isn’t working. At the risk of sounding repetitive, we are living in conflict that has spanned nearly 50 years. Why should we think a plan that reflects where we are will resolve that conflict? Why should we think it won’t exacerbate the conflict instead?
Earlier this week we sorted out the myth of neutrality. You can call this one the myth of “a home for everyone.” And the point is this. Whether you support the so-called One Church Plan or not, let’s at least be honest about what it does and doesn’t do. The so-called One Church Plan is the quickest and most likely route to a full split. It will make a substantial number of United Methodists feel as if they’ve lost their home. It’s doesn’t make a home for everyone. Don’t believe the myth.
Stay tuned. More #OneChurchPlanMyths to come.
Dr. Matt O’Reilly is pastor of Hope Hull United Methodist Church near Montgomery, AL, a fellow of the Center for Pastor Theologians, and Adjunct Professor of New Testament and Pastoral Ministry at Wesley Biblical Seminary.