Final Version of the Indianapolis Plan

Below is the final version of the Basic Provisions of the Indianapolis Plan. Over the past weeks we have received feedback and sought input to craft the best possible plan for an amicable separation. Today, we filed a petition (see “Indianapolis Plan GC Petition” page) based on these provisions to create a new paragraph in The Book of Discipline. There is only one petition for the Indianapolis Plan, and it has been filed under Kent Millard’s name.

In the coming weeks, I and the other participants in the group will be sharing our reflections and explanations of the rationale, limitations, and aspirations of the Plan. Let us pray for the delegates as they consider this and many other proposals.

BASIC PROVISIONS OF AN INDIANAPOLIS PLAN

FOR AMICABLE SEPARATION

September 18, 2019

INTRODUCTION:

The 2019 special General Conference of the United Methodist Church highlighted the depth of the irreconcilable differences present in The United Methodist Church. 

Rather than continuing the quarrel over homosexuality at the 2020 General Conference, a group of Progressives, Centrists, and Traditionalists present these proposals as a possible pathway to amicable separation in The United Methodist Church.  The names of the participants are at the end of the document. 

We envision a new future for the people of The United Methodist Church to avoid further harm to one another, to United Methodists around the world, to the church universal, and to those with whom we strive to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We seek to move away from the caustic atmosphere which has often marked conversation in the United Methodist Church into a new season where we bless one another as we send each other into our respective mission fields to multiply our witness for Christ.

We envision an amicable separation in The United Methodist Church which would provide a pathway to new denominations of the Methodist movement so we can all make new disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. These new denominations, though separate, will continue the rich heritage of the Methodist movement while being free to share their respective witnesses for Christ unhindered by those with whom they have been in conflict.  We will release one another to joyful obedience to Christ’s call on our lives. 

 BASIC PROVISIONS: 

1. The 2020 General Conference of The United Methodist Church would support an amicable separation plan by providing a pathway for the development of a Traditionalist United Methodist Church and a Centrist United Methodist Church.  A Progressive expression may emerge as a Progressive United Methodist Church or may be included in the Centrist United Methodist Church. Other denominations may emerge as well. (Names are placeholders and descriptive; each new denomination would choose their own name and may use “United Methodist Church” with an appropriate modifier if they so choose).

2. The United Methodist Church would not be dissolved but would have its legal continuation through the Centrist United Methodist Church.

3. The Traditionalist United Methodist Church would be a global denomination that would maintain the current stance of the United Methodist Discipline regarding the practice of homosexuality. It would emphasize unity around doctrine, mission, and standards, leaner denominational structure, greater local flexibility, and accountable discipleship.

4. The Centrist United Methodist Church would be a global denomination that would remove from the Discipline the “incompatibility” language and prohibitions against same-sex weddings, ordinations, and appointments.  Centrist annual conferences and local congregations would make their own decisions regarding the ordination and appointment of homosexual persons and performing same-sex weddings in their conferences and congregations. It would practice faith with a generous spirit, emphasizing greater local flexibility within a deep commitment to connectionalism, social justice, and missional engagement that transforms the world for Jesus Christ.

5. A Progressive expression may emerge as a Progressive United Methodist Church that would be a global denomination that includes church-wide protection against discrimination based on race, color, gender, national origin, ability, age, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or economic condition, and that practices full itinerancy of LGBTQIA+ pastors and same-sex weddings in all their churches. Another progressive expression may be the inclusion of progressives in the Centrist United Methodist Church.

6. Other denominations may be formed by a group of 50 or more local churches or by one or more annual conferences.

7. All denominations would have their own General Conferences or governing boards, books of Discipline, structure, polity, and finances.  Any local congregation which chooses to join one of these denominations would be relieved of the trust clause in order to take their assets and liabilities into the new denomination. 

8. Annual conferences in the United States would decide by a simple majority vote of those annual conference members present and voting with which denomination to align.  Annual conferences not making a decision would become part of the Centrist United Methodist Church by default.

9. Central conferences would decide by a simple majority vote of those members present and voting with which denomination to align.  Central conferences that do not make a decision would become part of the Traditionalist United Methodist Church by default. Annual conferences outside the United States could decide by a simple majority to align with a different denomination than their central conference. 

10. Local churches disagreeing with their annual conference’s decision could decide by a simple majority vote of a charge or church conference to align with a different denomination.  All local church property, assets, and liabilities would continue to belong to that local church. 

11. Clergy and ministerial candidates would decide with which denomination to align.  By default, they would remain part of the denomination chosen by their annual conference, unless they choose to affiliate with a different denomination.

12. Bishops (active and retired) would decide with which denomination to align.  By default, they would remain part of the Centrist United Methodist Church unless they choose to align with a different denomination. 

13. Continuation of clergy and episcopal pensions would be provided for by assigning liability for the unfunded pension liabilities to the new denominations and by receiving payments from withdrawing congregations that choose not to align with created denominations. 

14. Annual conferences and local congregations could begin functioning in the new alignment beginning August 1, 2020, on an interim basis.  Annual conferences, local churches, and clergy choosing to align with a denomination other than the Traditionalist United Methodist Church would be exempt during the interim period, following the adjournment of General Conference 2020 to the start of the new denominations, from the provisions in the Discipline prohibiting same-sex weddings and the ordination, appointment, or consecration of self-avowed, practicing homosexuals. Inaugural General Conference sessions would be held in the fall of 2021, with the new denominations becoming fully functional as of January 1, 2022.  The Progressive United Methodist Church might launch at a later date, if desired. The opportunity to choose an alignment would remain open until at least December 31, 2028. 

15. Wespath, the United Methodist Committee on Relief, United Methodist Women, the General Commission on United Methodist Men, and The United Methodist Publishing House would continue as independent 501(c)(3) organizations with their own self-perpetuating boards of directors and would be able to serve any denomination that desires to receive services from them.

16. All other United Methodist boards and agencies would become part of the Centrist United Methodist Church with mutually agreed upon initial funding and subject to possible reforms and restructuring by the Centrist United Methodist Church.  Such boards and agencies could also contract to serve other denominations formed in this process.

17. The 2020 General Conference would provide continuing funding for Central Conference ministries during the 2021-2024 Quadrennium supported by all denominations.  All United Methodist conferences and congregations would be encouraged to continue support for Central Conference ministries regardless of denominational affiliation. 

18. A process and principles for allocating general church assets to fund transition to new denominations and to be devoted to the missional purposes of each denomination thereafter would be adopted by the 2020 General Conference.

19. Mandatory retirement provisions for all bishops would be waived until 2022 after the new denominations have become operational.  Jurisdictional conferences might not elect bishops in 2020, reconvening in 2021 or 2022 as part of the Centrist United Methodist Church. Central conferences would elect the number of bishops determined by the 2020 General Conference, as planned. This would allow a proper match of the number of bishops needed under these new conditions.  Bishops in other denominations formed in this process would be elected and assigned according to the provisions of those denominations.       

Here are the United Methodist Progressive, Centrist and Traditionalists Clergy and Laity who developed and signed this proposal for an amicable separation.  Organizational names are provided for informational purposes only and do not imply that these churches or organizations have endorsed these proposals:

Rev. Keith Boyette, President, Wesleyan Covenant Association, Fredericksburg, Virginia (Traditionalist)

Rev. Darren Cushman Wood, Senior Pastor, North United Methodist Church, Indianapolis, Indiana (Progressive)

Rev. Dr. Douglas Damron, Senior Pastor, Epworth United Methodist Church, Toledo, Ohio (Centrist)

Lynette Fields, Layperson, Florida Annual Conference, Orlando, Florida (Progressive)

Rev. Dr. Cathy Johns, Senior Pastor, Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church, Cincinnati, Ohio (Centrist)

Krystl D. Johnson, Layperson, Lay Delegate, Eastern Pennsylvania Conference, Chester, Pennsylvania (Traditionalist)

Rev. Thomas Lambrecht, Vice President and General Manager, Good News, Spring, Texas (Traditionalist)

Rev. Dr. Kent Millard, President, United Theological Seminary, Dayton, Ohio (Centrist)

Cara Nicklas, Layperson, Lay Delegate, Oklahoma Annual Conference, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (Traditionalist)

Rev. Dr. Chris Ritter, Directing Pastor, First United Methodist Church, Geneseo, Illinois (Traditionalist)

Rev. Dr. John E. Stephens, Senior Pastor, Chapelwood United Methodist Church, Houston, Texas (Centrist)

Rev. Judy Zabel, Senior Pastor, Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota (Centrist)   

Published by

Notes for a New Methodism

Rev. Darren Cushman Wood is the senior minister of North United Methodist Church in Indianapolis, Indiana and is an elder and full member of the Indiana Annual Conference. He is a graduate of the University of Evansville and Union Theological Seminary (New York). Darren was a delegate to the 2004 & 2008 General Conferences and a delegate to the 2000 & 2016 Jurisdictional Conferences. He is the author of "The Secret Transcript of the Council of Bishops" and "Blue Collar Jesus: How Christianity Supports Workers' Rights."

15 thoughts on “Final Version of the Indianapolis Plan”

  1. Thanks. The only part I don’t like is the simple majority votes required for Annual Conferences and local churches to choose which denomination to join. I think it needs to be 3/5 or 2/3 majority vote. Linda A. Richard  920 Old Rte 146 LoopVienna, Il. 62995phone: 618 658 1715cell:     618 816 1145

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    1. OTOH, by default, US congregations are assigned to the so-called Centrist denomination. Requiring a supermajority vote by a local congregation in order to move to a different expression would be excessive and borders on being more than somewhat punitive. It seems to me that requiring such a high bar would be in effect a takeover of the U.S. United Methodist church by the progressive/centrist elements. That strikes me as being a bit inappropriate.

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    2. The Indianapolis Plan requires a simple majority, not a super majority, for the very reason you mention. If the centrist denomination is the default setting for US ACs then the counter balance to that “home court advantage” is a simple majority vote in a local church that wishes to realign.

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  2. I agree that two thirds majority vote by the Laity should be the minimum requirement for a church to leave the current Book of Discipline . The obvious disconnect between clergy and laity that I have observed will make that clear. Lay delegate to Wisconsin annual conference 13 years. Florida 2 years and currently 2 years North Georgia, Traditional perspective.
    This plan appears to be handing the UMC to the Centrist perspective, don’t be too sure.
    Stace Murdock Acworth UMC, Dallas GA. 608 234 2776

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    1. The voting threshold–2/3 versus simple majority–was a real tough one for our group. Disagreement about it nearly brought the group to an end. In the days ahead, I will explain it in detail in my blog. But for now, let me give the short explanation of how we settled on it. Traditionalists felt that they were making a very big compromise to allow the centrist denomination to be the default setting for ACs in the US (remember, the current status quo of UMC policy is the Traditional Plan and basically has been for 47 years). To balance that, we felt it was tolerable to make the voting threshold only a simple majority. In some cases, a majority vote may be helpful for a centrist congregation to realign with a centrist denomination if their AC votes to align with the traditionalist denomination–so the majority vote threshold does not automatically favor traditionalists. Nevertheless, there are many of us in the group that hope that GC delegates will have a better sense of what to do with this issue, and so we turn it over to them.

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  3. I belong to a small very, very conservative Church here in lower Alabama, and have been very involved in following all the junk our Bishops failed to attend too! I have talked to a number of our congregation, have shared a lot of info that I pick up on the Internet and they are all very concerned and upset! We, as a church don’t openly talk about this and what the ramifications are or could be! Would appreciate any direction or ideas of how I could move this to at least a discussion openly !!

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    1. I would encourage you to contact the WCA to help you explain the Indianapolis Plan and its implications for traditionalist congregations. I would also encourage you to interpret for them the intentions and ideas of centrists and progressives, not that you have to agree with them but listen deeply to them to understand where they are coming from. Encourage them pray for understanding of those they disagree with. I’ve been reading Wesley’s “A Plain Account of Christian Perfection” as I have worked on the plan. I recommend it to give you and them spiritual guidance for how to relate to those you disagree with. Most of all, reassure them that the church is founded on and saved by the grace of God in Jesus Christ. The church is saved by grace, not by our good efforts–including the Indianapolis Plan. When we trust in God’s grace for the church, then we can deal with those with whom we disagree in a loving manner. A couple of years ago I wrote a little book called “The Secret Transcript of the Council of Bishops” that may help you and them understand the logic of those they disagree with.

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  4. A schism is the only way that the Methodist Church can continue. Allow those who wish to discriminate and not allow our LBGTQAI sisters and brothers to marry the person whom they love or be ordained, once they graduated from a seminary to form their own church.
    Allow those of us who are either younger or have attained a college degree to form our own church where we realize that being LBGTQAI is inborn and not chosen to form our own church.
    We, then, will no longer be the UMC, but the Methodist Church.
    Methodists will be able to choose to no longer walk the path of discrimination. We did this in years past when we finally accepted, in full inclusion, our African American sisters and brothers.
    So it will be that those of us who are Progressive will have their own church and those who are misguided but mean well, in their own way, can discriminate and form a church that disallows marriage of same-gender couples and refuses to ordain those who are LBGTQAI.
    Since times have a way of changing, i.e. progressing, I have a strong feeling that the churches that are traditional will soon fade away. Young people eschew church and will give short shrift to any church that discriminates.
    The traditional Methodist Church will cease to exist in ten to fifteen years.

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    1. Your language is inflamatory toward those you disagree with. You are encouraged to read what the Bible says about the issue.

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  5. Since the Traditional Congregations in THE United Methodist Church align with the current Book of Discipline, why not have all the annual conferences default to the Traditional denomination and why not have all the General Boards be assigned to the Traditional denomination (except for Wespath, etc. who are independent organizations)? As it currently stands, traditional churches, who stand with the current Book of Discipline and who align with the 2019 Special Called General Conference, will (for the most part) be required to have a church vote to align with the Traditional denomination. This assumes that most annual conferences in the U.S. will vote to be either Centrist or Progressive. Traditional churches in those annual conferences will be required to have a church vote to remain with the current Book of Discipline while those churches who wish to change elements of the Book of Discipline would not have to vote. This seems a bit backwards and unfair to those churches who wish to remain faithful to the current Book of Discipline. A church vote is always damaging, which is why the “local option” was dismissed by leaders on all sides of the issue. Now we are requiring a local option in the U.S. for the most part only for Traditional Churches.

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