One Body With Many Members

United Methodist Church. Source: Reaghan Lesh

The United Methodist Church hosted a special session of the General Conference on February 23-26, 2019. This took place in St. Louis, Missouri. The United Methodist Church (UMC) is a mainline Protestant branch/denomination along with being a major part of Methodism. In Dallas, Texas was where the current denomination was founded in 1968, by the union of The Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church. The revival movement is what the UMC traces its roots back to. The revival movement entails John and Charles Wesley of and in England. This is commonly known as the Great Awakening in the United States. The church’s theological positioning holds liturgical and evangelical components and is distinctively Wesleyan.

General Conference 2019. Source: Kathleen Barry.

There have been rumors of the United Methodist church splitting for a long time. This special session was specifically held to address LGBTQ community inclusion and to determine how the church would move forward with ordination of LGBTQ individuals or allow congregations to marry same-sex couples. It took place over five days. The conference included 864 voting delegates, who were present at the conference and many more who were watching and volunteering. The UMC goes by a democratic system, meaning they vote on all rules and legislation. It would be easy to think that this was just an American thing but this involved the global church (South America, Africa, Russia, etc). 

General Conference 2019. Source: Sid Hastings.
Jeffrey Warren speaking at the general conference. Source: Savannah Vasquez.

There were three primary plans under consideration. The three plans were: One Church Plan, Traditionalist plan, and Simple plan. The One Church Plan proposed an amendment the church’s rule surrounding LGBTQ clergy and the right for clergy to officiate same-sex weddings, allowing regions of the church (known as Conferences) to determine whether they would or would not allow for LGBTQ ordination and officiation of same-sex weddings. The Traditionalist Plan proposed strengthening the existing language banning same-sex marriages and LGBTQ clergy. In addition to that, it would create harsher penalties for clergy that conduct same-sex weddings. It would remove a path to ordination for LGBTQ individuals. The Simple plan proposed the removal of the two pieces of the rule book that has created this divide. The two big pieces are: “self-avowed practicing homosexual shall not be ordained” and “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” (added in 1978). The traditionalist plan was the one that was passed with 53% of delegates voting for this plan and 47% of delegates voting against it (difference of about 42 votes).

Hannah Shanks. Source: Greenville University.

Every four years the UMC has a general conference. 2016 then had this special session in Feb 2019. Next will be May 2020 and Prof. Hannah Shanks is actually running for delegate. Hannah Shanks’ title is Assistant Professor of Social Work and Director of the Social Work Program at Greenville University. Talking with Prof. Shanks she expressed many feelings some being hopefulness and sadness. When asked what she supported she said, “I was a supporter of the One Church Plan because it would allow sincere Christians, who disagree with each other to stay connected with each other.” She supports the body of Christ and she celebrates differences. 

One Body, Many Parts graphic. Source: Tyler Neyens.

Many do not think about how this body of believers (UMC) dividing divides the body of Christ. Christian is a term relating to or professing Christianity or its teachings. Most Christian teachings come from scripture and scripture embraces many DIFFERENT members being apart of one body (1 Corinthians 12:12-31, Romans 12:4-5). Another thing many don’t think about is Jesus (meaning LOVE). Christians are more worried about feeling right than loving people into Jesus (Ephesians 4:16). It comes down to perspectives and how/what people were taught. With all of this the church is still trying to figure out what comes next, there is a lot that is just unknown. The church must keep searching for peace, Colossians 3:15, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your heart, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” 

1 Peter 3:11 “They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it.” If you want more information about this topic look for Emily McFarlan Miller and her writing. 

Media by Reaghan Lesh.



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