Rev. William C. Bills
February 27, 2019
The special General Conference voted to adopt the Traditional Plan as the way to move the United Methodist Church forward. News reports indicate that about 66% of the US delegates voted for the One Church Plan. The remaining 34% of US delegates, combined with conferences from outside the US, have given the majority in this country a way backward. Two plans for dissolution were also ruled unconstitutional. The Way Forward appears not only to have taken us backward, it may have left us with no way out.
I know that things are not entirely clear right now as to what the next steps will be. It will take some time to read through the legislation and clarify the impact of this decision for the future. The Traditional Plan is draconian in its legalism. Parts of the Traditional Plan were ruled unconstitutional two different times before the conference convened. It will likely be challenged again. The next regularly scheduled General Conference will be in the spring of 2020. People are already making plans for that conference. Of course, people are also making plans to exit the United Methodist Church altogether. 66% of American United Methodists is probably enough to form a new denomination.
I will not make myself subject to a misguided and immoral loyalty oath in an institution that has chosen to discriminate against an already persecuted minority in the church and in society. The Traditional Plan is judgmental and legalistic. It is based on a faulty biblical hermeneutic and bad theology. If the Traditional Plan is the future of the United Methodist Church, then my future is not with the United Methodist Church.
I will not simply bolt and run away, though. I won’t retire in June, either. What I will do is work with University United Methodist Church throughout this year as we seek to discern God’s way forward for our congregation. I will work with the Policy Governance Board, our Church and Society Committee, the Staff-Parish Relations Committee, and the Bishop and others to provide the congregation with accurate information as it becomes available so that we can make well-informed decisions.
It is important to take a step back and assimilate information as it becomes available. Be thoughtful rather than reactive. (That is hard to do sometimes.) It is my hope that we can have some meetings as a congregation, read the legislation, and talk with the appropriate people to see how the congregation as a whole feels about the current state of the UMC. I and others will work with the congregation to discuss how this will impact our congregation. If we choose to exercise options that do not accord with the new policies of the denomination, I will help the congregation explore and carry out those options. If it is determined that the congregation will abide by the Traditional Plan, I will help facilitate that transition to the new rules. Once that transition is complete, I would have to stand down, though. I cannot remain in the United Methodist Church indefinitely under the Traditional Plan. I will stay as long as I am needed to help with any transition the congregation needs to work through.