Delegate Carlene Fogle-Miller brought a surprising motion when she asked to have the ethics committee look into rumors of delegates being bribed to vote for the Traditional Plan. Her motion passed by a slim margin.
At times, the conference felt more like a U.S. congressional debate than a church denomination’s legislative meeting. As if he were filibustering, delegate Mark Holland stated boldly “we’re going to amend until the monster trucks roll in at 6:30” while waving a stack of pink amendment forms. Holland was referring to the fact that immediately following the UMC’s conference a Monster Truck Rally is scheduled to set up for an event in the arena where they are meeting.
One delegate, Gregory Gross, who identified himself as gay, argued that if the conference was going to require every LGBtQ+ clergy member to adhere to the Traditional Plan and its consequential effects on the UMC’s Book of Discipline, then they should investigate everyone who is ordained on their sexual life. “Have you committed adultery?” he asked the crowd. “Have you really followed the entire Book of Discipline? How about you on the stage?” he asked (meaning the bishops). “If you’re going to go after me, let’s go after everyone.”
In a similar spirit, delegate Jeffrey Kuan moved to amend wording in the Traditional Plan to say that not only homosexuals, but also polygamists, those who have been divorced, and those who have remarried are not fit for ministry. Kuan, wearing a button that said “One Church Plan,” clearly intended to point out the hypocrisy of only placing restrictions on the ordination of homosexuals instead of everyone involved in what the Bible and the UMC’s Book of Discipline indicates is sexual sin. His motion did not pass.
Delegate Sky McCracken argued that the denomination has been arguing about sexual practices long before he attended his first general conference in 1988. McCracken said all that time he hasn’t heard much about discipleship initiatives. Furthermore, McCracken says he has served on teams investigating churches and witnessed homosexual affairs take very little of the church’s time while heterosexual affairs have “split churches apart.” “We need to be about the business of the church,” McCracken pleaded.
Lonnie Chafin asked that the Traditional Plan be reviewed by the finance committee so that any financial implications of implementing the plan could be discussed before a vote commenced. His motion did not pass.
Major Arguments in Favor of the Traditional Plan
Delegate Aislinn Deviney described herself as a “young evangelical” who represented “thousands” of other young evangelicals who believe in traditional marriage. Deviney said her fellow “orthodox believers” all have friends and family in the LGBTQ+ community, but they are trying to carefully balance grace and truth with them. Deviney admonished fellow delegates that it may be easy to believe that the church is void of young people who are for traditional marriage, but that this simply wasn’t true.
Delegate Jerry Kulah of Liberia said the Traditional Plan helps the church in Africa grow. Kulah said emphatically that the UMC is not merely a “United States church.” He believes the Traditional Plan helps churches like his in Africa where they are struggling against Islamic forces.
Donna Pritchard, the chair of the UMC’s U.S. Western Jurisdiction, had the last word of the conference so to speak when she took the mic and said: “the Western Jurisdiction intends to be one church, fully inclusive and open to all God’s children across the theological and social spectrum.” Pritchard then directed those who want to join them in a new thing “God may birth” to their website. Fellow leaders of the Western Jurisdiction stood behind her, some with a hand on her shoulder.
Pritchard’s announcement seems to signal what the immediate future holds for the UMC: Several churches and clergy members will likely leave the denomination. The schism they worked so hard to avoid seems to be upon them.