Hope, Compromise & the Indianapolis Plan

     The Indianapolis Plan is the only plan conceived by a group that represents the full theological diversity of the denomination’s stance on sexuality. At the table were people diametrically opposed to each other’s opinions, and for the purpose of crafting a realistic plan that is the diversity that matters most. As a result, the hopes and compromises in the plan reflect this diversity.

TRADITIONALIST COMPROMISES

    Some have accused the Indianapolis Plan of being a WCA inspired scheme. They deride the progressives and centrists who worked on the plan for selling out to the traditionalists. Yet, the details of the plan reveal four key compromises that the traditionalists made:  

     One, the centrist denomination will be the default position for American annual conferences. According to the plan, no annual conference will be required to take a vote. If they do not vote, then they will automatically become a part of the centrist denomination. No local church will be required to take a vote, and if they do not vote they will align with the choice (made by default or vote) of their annual conference. This gives centrists a huge home court advantage. A traditionalist could make the argument that this is unfair because our current policies are traditionalist. If it was a WCA plan, then the default position throughout the denomination would be to align with the traditionalist denomination.

     Two, the legal continuation of The United Methodist Church will be held by the centrist denomination. The unforeseen consequences of this concession may play badly for traditionalists depending on the fairness of centrists in the future.

     Three, the general agencies (other than those, such as Wespath, that will serve all future denominations) will become a part of the centrist denomination. One could argue that traditionalists never liked or supported them in the past. Some traditionalists, such as Billy Abraham, have argued that traditionalists should gain control to enact radical conservative reforms. Yet, if they want to pillage them for their resources and dominate their agendas, this will not happen in the Indianapolis Plan.

     Four, the plan offers only aspirational recommendations for denominational assets. If the centrists and progressives on the Indianapolis team were carrying the water for traditionalists, then we did a poor job of it. The plan leaves their buckets empty of any specific commitments for assets. The team explored a wide variety of specific proposals and we could not come to any agreement. Instead, we agreed to the general aspirational statement about assets. If this was a WCA inspired plan then the provision about assets would look very different.

    These features that are unfriendly to traditionalists is why the WCA’s endorsement of the plan came after much debate and was not unanimous. Like centrists and progressives, they too have their internal disagreements on how best to proceed.

      Centrists and progressives do not need to agree with traditionalists, but they need to listen closely to them in this present moment. From a traditionalist perspective, they believe that if anyone should leave the denomination it should be non-traditionalists. They will say that they have not violated the Discipline, unlike non-traditionalists who advocate a “stay and resist” strategy.  They too have their own version of “stay and resist” and characters practicing it.

CENTRIST COMPROMISES

     A realistic plan is a compromise. Just as the traditionalists compromised, so too did the centrists in three ways.

     One, a majority vote will be required to realign an annual conference or a local church. Centrists and progressives on the team preferred a two-thirds voting threshold because of the momentous nature of the decision. But when we analyzed a variety of scenarios and stories from other denominations, we felt that a majority vote could also work in many situations. Also, it is important to remember that General Conference has always used a mere majority vote to consider changing our policies on sexuality.

     Both types of voting thresholds are ideologically neutral; neither favors nor handicaps one particular position. A two-thirds vote could have the unintended consequence of creating a tyranny of the minority, like the malfunctions of the electoral college in Presidential elections. A majority vote threshold is a reasonable compromise if the American default position will be the centrist denomination.

     Two, the default position of central conferences will be the traditionalist denomination. We felt that this different standard was a reasonable compromise that reflects the general trends throughout the denomination.  

     The plan gives central conferences the full spectrum of choices and the authority to make their own decision. The plan allows for central conferences—and their annual conferences and local churches—to realign with the centrist denomination or become autonomous. The decision-making process (no requirement to vote; majority vote threshold; the option to realign at every level) is the same as in the United States.

     Three, the plan offers only aspirational recommendations for denominational assets. Centrists made proposals that were unacceptable to traditionalists.

PROGRESSIVE COMPROMISES

    Did the progressives compromise? Well, it depends on what kind of progressive you are.

     If you are a progressive who wishes to remain in a non-traditionalist United Methodist denomination, then your concerns are those of the centrists.

     If you are a progressive who longs to create a separate, liberationist denomination, then the plan offers a great opportunity. The path for creating it is streamlined to form it with 50 or more local churches across the denomination.

     The progressives compromised on the same issue that the traditionalists and centrists did: a specific formula for the appropriation of assets.

EVERYONE COMPROMISED

     Everyone compromised on the use of a qualifier with the name “United Methodist.” No one “wins” the name and the logo because the Indianapolis Plan is not conceived as a plan of expulsion of any one side.

In reality, we use qualifiers all the time. Many churches do not use “United Methodist” in their branding, and some churches use it as a qualifier, such as Church of the Resurrection (It is unclear to me which is the qualifier—Is “Church of the Resurrection” the qualifier of “United Methodist” or vice versa?).

      And everyone compromised on the assets. It is too complex and our group was too limited by our composition and time to offering anything more concrete. We turn this over to the good wisdom of the delegates.

     In keeping with the rules of General Conference, anyone can amend our petition. Traditionalists, centrists, and progressives will offer their own proposals for the assets. There may be ideas in other plans that fill this gap in the Indianapolis Plan. As a progressive, I hope General Conference will adopt the proposal for reparations and financial re-investment in UM Forward’s N.E.W. Plan.

REALITY CHECK

     Despite our different hopes for the future, we share a common view of our current situation. The denomination is at a stalemate and the most peaceful and productive way forward is a plan for separation. Any plan that attempts to defeat the Traditional Plan with a floor vote or stalling with delays through political maneuvering will only multiply the harm done in St. Louis. Whatever good that is left in the United Methodist Church will be destroyed.

          To be sure, the Indianapolis Plan is not perfect and there are legitimate critiques. But calling it a WCA plan says more about the critics’ view of reality.

     Like it or not, traditionalists won the vote in St. Louis. Not only have they won every vote on the issue of sexuality for the past 47 years, they are likely to win it again if a vote is taken to repeal the Traditional Plan at 2020 General Conference.

     Yes indeed, non-traditionalists made substantial gains in this year’s elections, but it is unclear whether they can flip enough central conference votes to achieve a majority.

     Even if non-traditionalists can win the vote, what they have won is a mortally wounded church kept alive by a dysfunctional institution.

      Maybe the critics think they can gain a better bargaining position, but I doubt it. It’s a gamble that will only create more animosity. It will permanently poison the United Methodist Church with a spiritual sickness of arrogance and bitterness.

     When non-traditionalists tell me that we should retake the vote on the Traditional Plan in Minneapolis, I am reminded of the words of Dirty Harry: “You have to ask yourself one question: Do you feel lucky? Well, do you punk?”

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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."

25 thoughts on “Hope, Compromise & the Indianapolis Plan”

  1. Thank you Darren for speaking truth. When a certain blogging progressive makes me want to lose my lunch I try to remind myself that there are annoying people who agree with me as well.

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  2. Ah, yes, diversity. The notional idol of the early 21st Century. A must have – diversity – in all venues of community life. Diversity in race, gender, religion, education, sexual practices, thought in general.

    (Anybody read “The Diversity Delusion: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine Our Culture” by Heather MacDonald?)

    How about diversity in the interpretation of, say, Christ? An ordinary man, albeit charismatic? A “son of God”? A “son of man”? A really smart carpenter? A journeyman philosopher paving new ground? Another Buddha-like personage?

    Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors – any notion will do.

    Methodists value diversity. Maaybe even worship it.

    Rev. Dr. Lee D. Cary (ret.)

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    1. It remains to be seen. I thought the African bishops statement was elusive when you read it closely. It is in their best interest to not take sides too soon. Yambasu is still convening talks with reps from different caucuses which may prove beneficial

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    2. In the obvious opinion of the One Church progressives, Africa is the land of the baby Christians, not atuned to the global move toward reletavism, nor sufficiently astute to appreciate the contextual differentiation popular among the mature wing of the UMC. Long a mission field, they are the…children.

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  3. Thanks for your insights. It seems to be some people’s cottage industry to offer speculation about motives and spin sinister conspiracies afoot when reasonable people sit around a common table and reach a compromise. Thanks for highlighting the actual compromises that were involved.

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    1. “There can be no compromise on basic principles. There can be no compromise on moral issues. There can be no compromise on matters of knowledge, of truth, or rational conviction.” Ayn Rand

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  4. Thank you for this even-handed presentation of the compromises made to arrive at the Indianapolis Plan and your sober assessment of the likely results if GC 2020 does not embrace a generous and fair plan of separation. A repeat of GC 2019 will not solve our widening division and will only further damage our witness to the world.

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  5. Thank you, Darren, for your care and realism.

    The damage already done in thecwake of GC2019 is enormous. The damage to come, even if GC is able to agree on some path forward, is far greater. I do not know that any of our existing general agencies can survive it. I do not know that precisely because the real work on dealing with the tremendous assets they manage on our behalf has not been done. Money and property are the smaller part of these assets. Trust and relationships with partners worldwide are the larger. But the former makes the latter reliable.

    I get it that your group did not feel up to the task of bringing a concrete plan for these to GC 2020. You had neither the time nor the needed players at the table to do so. In a way by not doing so you demonstrated an honorable humility.

    But by not having included this within the concrete proposals agreed to, the result is not unlike a divorce case that goes to the court before there is any agreement on asset division. That situation almost always devolves into a far less than amicable parting, with winner and losers, not just in terms of property but of soul.

    It took decades to form The Methodist Church. It really took more than a decade to form The United Methodist Church. I wonder whether it needs to take at least as long to unform what was formed to enable what emerges to move forward on hope more than animosity.

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  6. #1 CRITIQUE OF THE DARREN’S WORD ON HOPE, COMPROMISE & THE INDY PLAN

    First, I thank Darren for his thoughtful article explaining the Indy Plan. I have said several times that the effort, time investment and spirit on the part of “the twelve” is much appreciated. Nothing that he has so well said was new for me, in that I have followed closely the plan’s development and the reveal. Whereas I can appreciate twelve people getting together who were from three theological perspectives, it was not nearly as diverse as it could have been or should have been. If it had been more inclusive of glaringly absent voices from our Central Conference leaders, who have been the most surprised be the dissolution of the UMC local churches and “three new denominations” solution it would be a better plan.

    The temptation is to just accept Darren’s critique and move on, but if the Indy Plan is a serious consideration then it needs to be open to serious analysis and criticism. I am a critic of this plan, but not angry with its drafters, several of whom I know well. My prayer is that this critique will not produce anger or criticism of me as being slanderous and worse, but nothing surprises me anymore in our domestic conflict. I mainly want to commend the Indy Plan drafters for putting your swords down and talking. We must model this and continue this kind of work without fear and with real hope of how this and other plans may work together for a better way forward. As one who lived and in the Traditional world of the UMC for many years, and still resonate with Traditionalists theologically, I greatly support the attempt but respectfully cannot at all support the outcome. I will critique Darren’s article using his well-established points:

    TRADITIONAL COMPROMISES

    Centrist Default
    If every church/conference has the low bar of simple majority to vote on choosing a new denomination, one of the three, or if enough churches get together we can “splinter” into several expressions, a Traditionalist denomination stands to be larger than they would be if there is no dissolution. Not as big a sacrifice as it seems on the surface.

    Legal Entity
    Naming the Centrists, as being in control of the “legal entity” of the United Methodist Church is not a great sacrifice to a group that does not want to be the United Methodist Church, and decided that long before St. Louis. We are about to see the “roll out” of the Traditionalists new denomination that has been in the making for some time, again, long before St. Louis. I wonder in the WCA pitch to the Central Conferences if the plan for a shiny new denomination was transparently shared? It does not feel good to say it but it also allows for the misleading rhetoric of “no dissolution” in that the legal entity still stands. The question is “Where are the United Methodist congregations?” Answer? There will be none.

    Boards and Agencies
    This point was no sacrifice at all for the Traditionalists, in that they have been very critical of the Boards and Agencies for years (Westpath is an exception of course). More than a few Traditionalist churches have been led by their pastors, some for years, to withhold apportionments to the General Boards and Agencies. Alternative agencies set up to do things more in keeping with their liking.

    Assets
    This I am sure was a “biggie” and it should be no surprise that it was one of the most difficult matters on which to reach any consensus. Who thinks the Traditionalist would settle for “empty buckets?” We would be kidding ourselves, and most of us would not expect them to form their new expression with no share of the assets. Yet, before the Indy Plan group met, legislation was being drafted regarding the Assets Pool that was going to be presented one way or another. Already being considered by many as a necessary addendum to the Indy Plan is the Assets Pool legislation being brought to GC by Tom Lambrecht who was at the Indy Table; with Keith Boyette, who no doubt assisted with the extremely aggressive assets plan.

    Darren says, “We need to listen to the Traditionalists.” I agree, but it is not like we haven’t been hearing them for years. We have heard our Traditionalist siblings state their well-known argument “We haven’t been disobedient.” I would remind Darren and our Traditionalist siblings that use the “breaking of the covenant” as their loudest defense, it is disobedient and a violation of covenant to willingly withhold apportionments. The lowest percentage Jurisdictional payout of apportionments in the U.S. is the South East and South Central Jurisdictions where our Traditionalists are the strongest. The Texas (approx. 70%) and Northwest Texas (approx. 60%), arguably our most Traditionalist heavy Conferences, have our lowest payouts in the SCJ. We are as guilty at “cherry pickin’ ” the Book of Discipline on this matter of “covenant” as we are on our approach to scripture on other matters. Can anyone really claim, “covenant righteousness?”

    A CONCLUSION
    If we settle for the Indy Plan as our best shot, we will “blow our feet off” said in the spirit of Dirty Harry where Darren takes us. The question is not, “Do we feel lucky?” punk or no punk. It is, “Are we afraid?” It is, “Do we think our Central Conference leaders should be heard and have a strong say in how we go forward?” I will say it again, “We have NO plan that will work without a wider, longer table for the decisions to be made.” Let’s do this work before Easter, and in doing so we can have a resurrection of the Methodist movement in ways we cannot yet see.

    I have more to say about the other points.

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    1. Stan:
      I received your criticism in the spirit of faithful honesty in which you shared it and I take no personal offense at this critique or the others you have offered. We may disagree but we are both striving for what is best for the church. Some of your comments anticipate a post I have been preparing about the limitations of the plan. So in the coming days, if I post something that sounds akin to your concerns then we can chalk that up to great minds thinking alike!
      Let me offer a few brief replies:
      1. Legal entity—There are potentially negative unintended consequences for traditionalists letting centrist to control this as things progress around assets, use of name, etc. It remains to be seen.
      2. Agencies—Again, we will have to agree to disagree. Even though traditionalists have criticized them for years, that does not mean that many traditionalists would not want to gain control of them to set new agenda, control assets, and thus fulfill what they see as their calling to redeem the denomination of liberalism.
      3. Listening to traditionalists—I should have been clearer. What I was referring to was what I have heard often from centrists/progressives: “Why don’t they just leave?” Traditionalists ask the same question of centrists/progressives.
      4. A bigger table and the voice of central conferences—I agree. There needs to be more voices and perspectives. Bishop Yambasu continues to foster a conversation that may yield something. Bishops in the Philippines and Africa have issued statements that, to me, sound more like fence-setting. The Filipino bishops want regionalism via a US central conference structure, that will require flipping some traditionalist votes which I don’t think is possible. If you take the African bishops’ statement at face value they want both the traditional plan and unity.
      5. In regards to more diverse voices making a contribution, this is the role of the General Conference delegates. The petition is now in their hands; it is their authority to perfect it, modify it, or reject it. My intention in being part of this group was to give the delegates a decent petition for separation. If they reject separation, then that is their authority. But at least they will have a petition with which to work.
      Finally, an observation about your repeated use of the label “dissolution.” In an article you wrote some weeks ago you gave a definition of dissolution. By that definition, I believe, the Indianapolis Plan is not dissolution. From a legal perspective, I don’t think you can dissolve the denomination even if you want to. The constitution is wired for self-perpetuation.
      So it seems to me that the label “dissolution” expresses an assumption and an emotion. The assumption is that in order for the denomination to continue to be the “United Methodist Church” is must have most of the same features and structure that currently exist. Anything less is truly a dissolution of the character of the denomination. The emotion is one of sadness at the loss of that kind of denomination.

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  7. Stan, what percentage of the pew-sitters (AKA laity) do you suppose are following this debate largely among clergy and adjunct, lay-semi-clergy? Maybe 5%, at most?

    The gray and blue hairs are wondering, “What in the world is going on in my church?”

    The middle-aged whose kids are either out and on their own, or headed there soon are split between the progressive and non-progressive camps – not unlike the nation politically these days.

    The young adults with kids are watching closely for what the outcome bodes for the church in which their children may grow up.

    Because the exercise of resolving this issue has gone beyond the point of no return, there will be a split of some sort. Among the other “Seven Sisters” that have gone thru similar ordeals, name me one that, on net, came out stronger.

    Right. You can’t.

    This prolonged debate – does anyone really think it will finally end in May 2020? – has become a terminal exercise in the history of the UMC.

    The life cycle of most individuals and organizations is a bell curve. It climbs from birth, reaches an apex, and then begins to decline, until it/we finally die.

    The UMC is dying. We can’t stop it from happening, despite all the happy talk about diversity and the wonder of contextual differentiation.

    The complex and convoluted options for its demise are of interest mostly to the those who have O.D.’d on the “Method” in Methodist.

    Truth is, the collective future of Christendom is in no way dependent on the outcome of this ordeal. God is, has always been, and will always be, greater than our plans. (Proverbs 19.21)

    Lee D. Cary

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    1. You may be as right as you think you are. I will say in answer to your question, about our congregation. I think we have done a good job of informing the congregation for the past two years about the state of the church. One of our Associate Pastors and I wrote a book called Together, and told our church’s story and our hope that we, as a denomination could stay united. Without using the word that you have heartburn over (diversity) our North Dallas Church features Africans from 14 different nations and 950 addicts go to classical AA style groups weekly. Ministry to addicts has been our ministry since 1945, when it wasn’t cool to love alcoholics, but it created a culture of acceptance that is truly a blessing. We have lots of special needs kids and families, as well as deaf kids and adults of all ages, one of the largest deaf ministries in our area. We have refugees of civil wars and political unrest, as well as church refugees, mostly from very conservative, homogenous denominations, many of these are LGBTQ. 68% to 70% of our new members come by Profession of Faith and Baptism and we don’t change the water out when these people from very different backgrounds are baptized. Anyway ,we told our church story about how we make things work here driven by mission and vision. We often report in groups and from the pulpit the state of the church and our conflict. I know this is not the norm.

      I’d like to think we have more ambition than the “Seven Sisters” and I know we are bigger and much more multi-national (12.5 million). So it will take us longer to all die out, if I follow your cynicism, but again you may be as right as you think you are. The last successful church split, or at least one that worked out in the long run, was the split of the church, Methodist Episcopal Church and the Methodist Episcopal Church, South over slavery (1844). The church, as you know, splintered along the way with the holiness movement and other issues i.e. anti-war Methodist Protestants, race forming the CME (1873?). Anyway, when the church came together, ME Church and ME Church, South with the Methodist Protestants (1939), the church was growing again substantially, though the creation of the Central Conference in the U.S. was a result of continued racist actions and the sinful quest for homogeny. The church was probably at it’s peak in the 1940s and 1950’s. Then in 1968 we united again with the EUBs and the next year did away with the Central Conference in the U.S. Along the way, the global church Central Conferences came to be and their growth is tremendous. The future, if we do not dissolve, which has never happened to my knowledge in any mainline denomination, could result in two churches or three church, and hopefully we could be growing again simultaneously (perhaps you are laughing by now and you probably need to laugh more). I am hopeful that if there are those who do not want to be part of the UMC, they can be equipped and blessed to do so. There are Methodist Churches springing up in Central America and other places in the world. We may find one day that there is more power in a witness of coming together than staying more homogenous and independent.

      Our biggest problem right now is how unattractive our fight is perceived, especially by the younger generations, who are not sticking with the UMC, nor are they being attracted our way. I know that we can point to a few conservative churches, most are not UMC, who are attractive to young people, many of them coming out of para-church movements in college. The vast majority of young people across this nation are becoming part of the “nones” religion. If we truly “amicably separate,” and live truly praying for and blessing the other as we part, we might be able to pursue our mission. I know this sounds like a crazy dream and you are probably uncontrollably laughing, but just know that I know this would require a powerful movement of the Holy Spirit. And I still believe in the power of the Holy Spirit to heal and make whole. We all know that a denomination, any denomination, is not a need that God has for God to continue to create the church that will “last until the end of time, one that hell cannot prevail against”. The alternative is for the UMC to take your caustic scenario that again may be right, and we might as well, as we used to say in my little rural East , “eat shit and die.” John 11:35

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    1. Stan, I appreciate your critique, although I disagree with it. I was struck by this sentence: “If we truly “amicably separate,” and live truly praying for and blessing the other as we part, we might be able to pursue our mission.”

      That is the hope and vision of the Indianapolis Plan. It is a plan that treats all perspectives with respect and dignity.

      The centrist UMC Next Plan, on the other hand, relies on a power play to overturn the traditionalist position of the church and then essentially kick evangelicals to the curb. It is not an “amicable” plan, but a recipe for another major fight.

      I hope your agreement with the vision of “amicable separation” would lead you to support a more respectful and equitable treatment of all parties in the church.

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  8. Tom Lambrecht, thanks for your reply. It’s okay that you don’t agree with my critique. I read your Perspective every week and usually consider your articles well written and ripe with “spin.” It seems tha you, with Good News Perspective, Mark with Mainstream and Jeremy Smith with Hacking Christianity are the “Fox” and “CNN” and “MSNBC” of Methodist journalism : ) There’s always assumed to be a kernel of truth in there somewhere, but it seems to fade with the strongly slanted approaches. Of course, when one thinks they have the “truth” it’s easy to justify politically charged approaches, and we all are guilty of forgiving ourselves our shortcomings.

    I do believe the Indy Plan was an attempt at creating a path toward the denomination amicably separating, but respectfully I will say that Indy Plan is not there yet. The first time we heard the term “amicable separate” used, you and I were in the room in Pittsburgh when Bill Hinson shared our view. “Amicably separating” meant then that the Progressives (thought to be 10%) would exit and leave the UMC to “us.” Now it means we all leave the church and start new denominations (3 or 30 or 50) with the legal entity of the UMC still dangling as the Boards and Agencies and given to the Centrist Church. I can’t buy that having 12 persons from three theological perspectives succeeded in “respecting and dignifying” all voices and perspectives as is your claim. Many voices were missing from your work, namely Central Conference voices and the African and Filipino Bishops and they have called this out. Don’t you and others hear the rising voices of “no dissolution and no forced or default separations into new denominations.” More importantly, do you think their opinions are valid and to be legitimately considered? The African Bishops have said, “We will not leave the United Methodist Church.” I am right there with them. The Filipino Bishops have supported the Connectional Table Plan that did a better job than the Indy 12, and our UM Next colleagues, at including more diverse voices in their legislative work.

    You and Traditional Only’s should hear these sisters from Africa, in particularly, because when you and others assembled them in Nairobi they cried foul and said, “We are not merely votes” among other important opinions. I was so glad to hear their bold voices speak of hurt feelings regarding practices that quite frankly have been despicable. Vote solicitation driven by “ends justify the means” ethics with cell phones and “the rest” should be over. I am ashamed that I too participated in those practices once upon a time, and this is part of what turned me away from the Traditional Only’s tribe. African friends send me your stuff like the new WCA application forms for grant support when the new denomination is formed, and most recently, the IRD’s “political coaching” of how they are “supposed to vote and align in legislative committees.” Some of them are spreading the word among their sisters and brothers to watch out for the IRD and even the WCA, and those who seem to be operating with what feels like neo-colonialist practices. Bingo!!!

    If you have read my articles you know I have some issues with the UM Next Plan and consider it would be better with more voices at the table and greater commitment to hearing them. Your statement about the intention the UM Next drafters is true to your style but not accurate. I was in Kansas City where John Stephens was given an audience with 2,500 people to share the Indy Plan. He did a good job of “sharing without selling”, and it was well received with polite applause following his presentation. John, of course one at the Indy Plan table, gave us truth about the Plan and areas where agreement could not be reached-such as the all-important matter of assets distribution. Of course, your Assets Pool legistlation was submitted before the ink was dry on the Indy Plan.

    I certainly don’t support “kicking the evangelicals to the curb”, especially since I am one. There are evangelicals in our denomination and certainly a growing number of evangelicals on the national stage who support a more inclusive church. I dare say we love and respect the Bible as much as you do and study it and preach from it multiple times each week and have for decades. This number will only grow because I think many evangelicals are reaching the conclusion I have reached believing in more inclusion and holding these beliefs because I am an evangelical. I also want my kids and their friends to believe in and support the mission together of the UMC too. The highly Trump-charged culture we live in today is forcing many of us “evangelical types” to really do some theological and ethical soul searching, I’m sure you agree.

    In a few days you and the cast will roll out your shiny new denomination. I wonder if the African leadership knew you had most of this drafted long before St. Louis. In other words, you have the staff and the funds (and the time) to work on a new denomination. The rest of us haven’t done the work because we are not going anywhere. We will have work to do on the United Methodist Church and its restructure and reshaping along regional/jurisdictional/ central conferences for more autonomy and greater funding for global mission together. Bottom line, Tom some of us see the homogeny that comes with the peace you seek as not being in keeping with the testimony of the Acts of the Apostles church in the church’s time of greatest evangelical work. The church was meant to be diverse and we were meant to struggle with others whom the Holy Spirit is filling and we have a hard time loving or at least accepting as Christians. It’s apparently God’s way that we are called to love and work with people who have different views and challenge our reading of biblical law. A church with Traditional Plus’, Centrist (right and left leaning), and Progressives Plus in mission together is the more heterogenous, United Methodist way in my opinion. And more regional autonomy supported by the Central Conference leaders will allow us to agree to disagree and center on life-saving global mission and evangelism going forward.

    Finally, put the Indy Plan on the table, just what I would say to any group with a plan they hope will have a prayer at GC 2020. Let’s work out a real amicable separation plan with blessed exiting and fair funding. Let’s realistically deal with what is and will be even more so, a financially compromised UMC and hone and focus our mission and evangelism work going forward for those United Methodist who remain in the large Center. This is important since according to the Indy Plan “we” would inherit the Boards and Agencies that Traditional Only’s have become increasingly opposed to anyway. I think we share the hope that we could do the work to bring new legislation, or propose amendments that could have a large consensus before we go to GC and start hammering on them in Committees. I envision breakfast meetings at General Conference and us eating eggs and biscuits together, laughing and praying, instead of talking about fellow sisters and brothers as if they have three heads. I hope for a breakfast sharing with all in the room about what many of us have agreed to and want to all support. Maybe I’m thinking about the heavenly banquet when all of our political wrangling will be no more, but I’m really hoping for the stuff of God’s Kingdom coming on earth. That would be so much more edifying and pleasing to the Lord with worship and serve.

    Tom, I do love you because of Jesus, and end this time of writing with a sincere prayer for you and our church and our sisters and brothers of all persuasions and hues. I also pray for more United Methodists to be called to the table to do the hard work that I propose. Thank God that’s all I have to say.

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    1. Thank you for your thoughts, Stan. I’m not going to respond to all of what you say, some of which is inaccurate.

      You say, “put the Indy Plan on the table.” That is exactly what we have done by submitting in and then promoting it. Bishop Yambasu has convened a group across the theological spectrum that includes some central conference voices (not necessarily ones that are representative) and people from the three main viewpoints in the U.S. We support that dialog and, if an agreement can be reached, we are prepared to support it. We would like nothing better than to come to Minneapolis with a consensus among the various groups about a plan we could all support. It would certainly take the pressure off of our breakfasts! More importantly, it would help the church move forward in a positive way.

      Logically, the alternative to a plan like the Indy Plan would be for the church to continue maintaining its current position on same-sex marriage and ordination, while providing an “out” for those who cannot live with that position. This has been the majority position for decades, and would probably continue to be the majority position in the decades to come. Why should traditionalists vote for a plan that changes that position, when we are the majority? And why then should traditionalists be the ones to “leave” the church if we are the majority position?

      Could you continue to serve in a denomination that maintains its prohibition on same-sex marriage and ordination? Many progressives and centrists have shown they cannot by engaging in actions that violate the Discipline. That is what has brought us to a contsitutional crisis.

      You have talked about listening to the voices of our central conference brothers and sisters. Did you hear the African bishops say they want a united church and a traditional church? Are you prepared to give that to them? I think you are only listening to half of what they are saying.

      We could certainly go the route of doubling down on the Traditional Plan and creating opportunities for those who cannot live with it to leave the denomination. However, we think a better way forward is for a negotiated plan of separation. The Indy Plan attempted to do that. We consulted with folks in the central conferences along the way. But it proved impractical to have central conference folks at the table in the negotiations. The time, distance, and technology barriers are too great. We continue to welcome their input. So far, they have not given us any specific ways to change the Indy Plan, nor have they proposed an alternative. (We do not believe the Filipino proposal represents the majority of Filipino United Methodists.)

      Finally, regional autonomy does not solve the problem. Setting up the U.S. as a central conference might enable the U.S. to have different ordination standards from the rest of the church and allow same-sex marriage. But it does not account for the fact that traditionalists and progressives exist in every annual conference. In every conference there are people who cannot live with the position taken by the other. This is not a geographical issue in the U.S., and creating a geographical solution does not resolve the conflict.

      I pray that there can be a negotiated agreement that we can all support. I look forward to hearing the report of such conversations.

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