Fault lines are developing in the United Methodist Church following a recommendation by the Council of Bishops in May to adopt the One Church Plan at a special General Conference to be held in February in St. Louis.
The conference was called by bishops to help the denomination stay as unified as possible despite decades-old division over how accepting to be of homosexuality. But it looks like the lofty goal may be unraveling.
The One Church Plan will effectively give individual churches the right to decide whether they will perform same-sex marriages and ordain LGBT people as clergy. It would remove the denomination-wide position against homosexual acts and gay marriage.
Earlier this week the United Methodist Church’s Latino-Hispanic caucus (MARCHA) endorsed the plan at its annual assembly. Any pastor, lay leader, member, youth or staff from the United Methodist Church or the Puerto Rican Methodist Church can be a member of MARCHA.
The Reverend Eunice Vega, one of the two delegates to sponsor the resolution, argued that the One Church Plan was the best option because it allowed for “the coexistence of different theological positions.”
She also maintained that not accepting same-sex marriage and homosexual acts would mean stances against racism, exclusion, inequality, sexism and other expressions of injustices within the church “would probably disappear with the adoption of any of the other two models.”
The Rev. Rosita Mayorga spoke against the resolution, arguing that if the One Church Plan were passed, the result would lead to many theologically conservative churches leaving the denomination.
Many of those departing churches could come from Africa. Also this month, speakers at a gathering of the Africa Initiative offered support for the Traditional Plan.
United Methodist Church Also Considering Traditional Plan
The Traditional Plan calls for retaining the church ban on ordination of “self-avowed practicing homosexuals,” as well as the prohibitions on clergy officiating same-sex weddings or churches hosting them. It would retain the church’s official position that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.
In addition, the Traditional Plan would call for greater enforcement of those restrictions including pushing out congregations and conferences into their own Methodist affiliations outside of the UMC if they won’t pledge to abide by church rules on homosexuality.
The Rev. Keith Boyette, president of the Wesleyan Covenant Association, was among the speakers.
“If The United Methodist Church decides not to follow Jesus Christ by adopting any plan other than the Traditional Plan, we the members of the Wesleyan Covenant Association will follow Jesus Christ,” Boyette told the Africa Initiative gathering.
Filipino Methodists discussed the options at a meeting in late July.