The February 23-26 Special General Conference in St. Louis will soon be convening. As the days for that global gathering draw near, there is an awareness that legislation adopted by delegates may change how we relate to each other as United Methodists back in Wisconsin. Here is an update from your delegation about interest in the proposals being considered.

Many present at the GC Delegation-lead listening sessions in the fall of 2018 expressed a consistent theme: please don’t split up the UMC and leave us without the church we love. Informal polling of the 900 attending the nine district gatherings and separate sessions held with several Wisconsin Conference groups indicated between 75-80% favored the One Church Plan over the other two proposals developed through the Way Forward process. Participants stated several times at Wisconsin listening sessions that the One Church Plan would provide the most flexibility for our local congregations.

Another 15-20% of attendees expressed support for the Traditionalist plan as the only way to be united through uniformity of beliefs going forward. Under that proposal, clergy, bishops, annual conferences and congregations who could not abide with prohibitive homosexuality language in The Book of Discipline would be invited to leave The United Methodist Church.

There were a small number across the various sessions who saw the Connectional Conferences Plan as the most attractive for our future as United Methodists. That plan would replace the current regional-based jurisdictional and central conferences system with three sub-denominational non-geographical structures which annual conferences and local congregations would affiliate with: Progressive, Traditionalist or Unity (a blend of progressive, moderate and traditionalist congregations). Its implementation would require significant changes to the Constitution of The United Methodist Church.

Some attendees also expressed interest in petitions known as the Simple Plan. That proposal was not covered in the listening sessions as it was submitted outside of the Way Forward process. The legislation would eliminate from The Book of Discipline all existing prohibitive homosexuality language.

The Council of Bishops recommended by a super majority vote the One Church Plan. Bishops who were part of developing the plan have summarized the three main outcomes of adopting the plan as:

  1. Pastors are not forced to but able to marry same-sex couples.
  2. Conferences are not forced to but able to ordain gay people.
  3. Congregations are not forced to but able to host same-sex weddings on church property.

Your clergy and lay delegates to the Special General Conference are appreciative of all who have engaged in conversation with the Delegation about these important proposals. We will carry with us to St. Louis the desire of many to remain unified, while removing discriminatory language from The Book of Discipline. We are quite conscious that there will be modifications made during the General Conference resulting in changes in the language of whichever of the existing proposals is adopted. Your delegates will remain open to the movement of the Holy Spirit during the legislative process, with the prayerful hope that final decisions reached will be in the best interests of the Body of Christ. A church welcoming diversity remains a more appealing future direction than identifying ways to intentionally exclude.