The final day of General Conference was emotionally charged and in many ways difficult.  A large portion of the delegates made it clear that we are done trying to be one church, united in our faith and theology.  Most of the attention was given to “disaffiliation” petitions – ways to leave the church with assets in tact.  We also spent much time working on the Traditional Plan, but so much of it is unconstitutional and irredeemable to United Methodist doctrine and polity that it essentially went nowhere.  While many proponents of the Traditional Plan said it was not in any way judgmental or hostile to LGBTQI+ persons, many other proponents emphasized the sinfulness of LGBTQI+ and it felt clear to the majority that the gay community is not welcome in United Methodism.  This was an extremely painful and hurtful day.  Much harm was done to our brothers and sisters, and great harm was done to The United Methodist Church.  Those divided in their theology, their interpretation of scripture, their vision for ministry, and their understanding of the Great Commission are as divided as ever, if not more so.  There was much more energy and attention given to how to split and divide the church than how we might live into a new future together.  One strong evidence of this was the overt effort to not have our Council of Bishops address the body.  While the action in 2016 was for our bishops to lead, members of various groups including the Wesley Covenant Association and supporters of the Traditional Plan were clear that any “interference” of our bishops – them trying to persuade the General Conference to support the One Church Plan would not be tolerated.  Please hear that this is my understanding of what happened here and I am not speaking for anyone else.  I was engaged in many meetings and conversations that others did not experience.  Other delegates may have a very different understanding of what happened and why.

We spent our last day talking about a plan that the Judicial Council ruled predominantly unconstitutional, and petitions to leave the church (also ruled unconstitutional) so that we ended the day passing a plan that is unlikely to succeed, and exit plans that may not work.  It is disheartening to have worked so hard on the future health and vitality of a “United” Methodist Church, to have shifted focus to a “Divided” Methodist Church, and to end up with a process that did harm to the mainline church, the conservative end, the progressive end, the moderate majority, the LGBTQ+ community, and the Wesley Covenant Association at the opposite extreme.  And once again, we did not cast a vision or process for a truly global connectional church.  It will take some time to assess the impact, but our delegation left feeling that much more harm than good was accomplished in these four days.  And many at the more radical extremes – wanting more inclusion or wishing a stricter adherence to a literal biblicism – left having experienced violence and irreparable harm.  We failed to model a true and transformative Christian Conference, and it is our whole church that will pay the price.

Submitted by Dan Dick, clergy delegate – sharing personal response, not representing anyone else in our delegation