United Methodist Church denomination may splinter following vote

On Feb. 26, delegates of the United Methodist Church voted to pass the Traditional Plan over the One Church Plan during the UMC General Conference in St. Louis. The Traditional Plan was narrowly voted in, with 438 voting for the Traditional Plan and 384 voting against it. The vote may potentially have far reaching effects within the United Methodist Church.
What the Traditional Plan and the One Church Plan do within the church may differ according to whom you speak, but basically, the Traditional Plan strengthens enforcement of the church’s stance that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching,” and that those who openly identify as practicing homosexuals cannot be ordained as ministers and cannot be married or appointed to serve in the church.
On the other hand, the One Church Plan would have left it up to individual churches to decide whether they would allow gay weddings and leave the ordination of homosexuals as clergy up to annual conferences.
Rev. Kim Polchow, the pastor of the Bois D’Arc United Methodist Church, said the issue was more complicated than simply voting for one plan or another.
“Since we’re Methodists, we’re pretty big on method, and our procedures for policy change can be rather complicated,” she said. “It wasn’t really an A or B proposition; we didn’t really vote to reject the One Church Plan in favor of the Traditional Plan. Rather, the (General Conference) delegates set their legislative priorities, which included a pension policy change, the Traditional Plan, two disaffiliation plans, and The One Church Plan. The One Church Plan did not receive enough votes to move past legislative committee … and reappeared as the Minority Report on The Traditional Plan. The motion to substitute the One Church Plan for the Traditional Plan failed, and the Traditional Plan was passed with several unconstitutional provisions still in place.”
Polchow also rejected the notion that the Traditional Plan maintains the UMC’s stance on homosexuality, stating “It’s not really the same stance; it’s a harder stance.”
“It’s an attempt to double down, by using accountability measures that demonstrate the lack of trust between the regions and the branches of the government of the UMC,” she said. “The language is stronger and includes penalties for noncompliance, although I think most of the penalties were in provisions that were named unconstitutional. These are not things we’ve had in place before in the UMC.”
Within her own congregation, Polchow said at least some members were disappointed in how the General Conference delegates voted.
“I haven’t talked to every member of my congregation, but I have heard lots of disappointment that the Conference focused on how to further exclude because of sexual orientation rather than how to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” she said.Polchow also said the vote has “already hurt a lot of people.” She also predicted the Traditional Plan could possibly divide the church nationwide.
“I do think if the Traditional Plan stays in place … we will see a splintering of the denomination in the U.S.,” she said. That’s a congregational vote of sorts.”
Polchow said her congregation doesn’t have a stance on homosexuality. Instead, they “have a stance on people.”
“We love (people) because God loves them,” she said. “I know that may sound flippant, but we simply don’t think there’s a list of kinds of people God doesn’t love. We’re not a club; we’re a church.”
In the meantime., the Bois D’Arc United Methodist Church will welcome anyone in their doors, Polchow said.
“We will keep our doors, hearts and minds open to all people,” she said. “We’re Methodists; things take time. We will have some answers this year and some next year. In the meantime, we’re going to keep focusing on the love of Jesus Christ, loving each other, and welcoming whoever wants to walk their faith journey with us.”
Note: This reporter reached out to five Methodist church leaders within Greene and Lawrence counties for comment on this story; Bois D’Arc United Methodist Church, through Polchow, was the only one which had responded as of presstime. The other churches this reporter reached out to were: Hood United Methodist Church in Republic, the First United Methodist Church in Mt. Vernon, the Aurora United Methodist Church, and the Ash Grove United Methodist-Presbyterian Church.

 

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