Today's post is by UM & Global blogmaster Dr. David W. Scott, Director of Mission Theology at the General Board of Global Ministries. The opinions and analysis expressed here are Dr. Scott's own and do not reflect in any way the official position of Global Ministries.
The Committee on Reference, a typically obscure administrative committee that reviews petitions submitted to General Conference, has taken on significantly increased importance for General Conference 2019. Since GC2019 is a special, called General Conference, this committee was charged with determining which petitions are "in harmony" with the bishops' call for the General Conference. While General Conference can, by two-thirds majority vote, decide to take up any matter it chooses, only those petitions considered in harmony with the call will be part of the initial options under consideration when it convenes next month.
So, what will those options be? The committee met recently to make its decisions on which petitions were in harmony. A review of the Committee on Reference's report, combined with the text of the petitions in the Advance Daily Christian Advocate yields the following range.
First, the Committee on Reference ruled that all three reports submitted by the Commission on a Way Forward are in harmony with the call. That means that the One Church Plan, Connectional Conference Plan, and Traditional Plan will be, as anticipated, major options for General Conference.
The UMC Judicial Council did rule some portions of the Traditional Plan and One Church Plan unconstitutional, but these plans could move forward at GC2019 with modifications to correct the areas ruled unconstitutional. The Judicial Council did not rule on the Connectional Conference Plan, as it proposes constitutional amendments.
In addition to the plans submitted by the Commission on a Way Forward, the following additional plans have been submitted by other individuals or groups and were ruled in harmony. I have grouped similar petitions for the sake of clarity.
Plans that allow congregations to leave the denomination with their property:
Petition 90051 by Lonnie Brooks of Alaska, entitled "A Graceful Exit as a Way Foward"
Petition 90056 by Monte Tull of Oklahoma, entitled "Abeyance of Trust Clause Enforcement"
Petition 90058 by James Ottjes of Indiana, entitled "Disaffiliation"
Petition 90059 by Keith Boyette of Virginia, entitled "Disaffiliation"
Petition 90066 by Leah Taylor of Texas, entitled "Disaffiliation"
Alternate versions of the Traditional Plan:
Petitions 90078-90079 by Maxie Dunnam of Tennessee, entitled "Modified Traditional Plan"
Petition 90052 by Lonnie Brooks of Alaska, entitled "A Traditional Way Forward with Enhanced Enforcement"
Plans that remove language opposing homosexuality, gay marriage, and/or gay ordination:
Petitions 90068-90075 by Alex da Silva Souto of Connecticut, entitled "A Simple Plan"
Petitions 90090-90092 by Lonnie Brooks of Alaska, entitled "Fully Inclusive Way Forward"
Petition 90088 by Sean McRoberts of Iowa, entitled "Chargeable Offenses"
Petition 90083 by Jack Ryder of Illinois, modifying P161.G
Plans that revise or affirm teachings on sexuality in a more traditionalist direction without making structural changes:
Petition 90055 by Paul T. Stallsworth of North Carolina, inserting more traditionalist theological affirmations into Paragraph 161.G
Petition 90056 by Monte Tull of Oklahoma, defining gender as biological sex at birth
Petition 90062 by John Carroll of Tennessee, retaining Paragraph 161.G without change
Petition 90067 by Albert Cunningham of North Carolina, entitled "Marriage," adding biblical passages in justification of a traditional definition of marriage to Paragraph 161.C
Plans that revise teachings on sexuality in a more progressive direction:
Petition 90084 by Douglas Crockett of Virginia, entitled "One New Discipline Plan," affecting Paragraph 161, sections A, C, and G
Petition 90082 by Jeffrey Carr of Missouri, entitled "Inclusiveness," adding sexual orientation to the non-discrimination clause in Paragraph 4 of the Constitution
Petition 90087 by Sean McRoberts of Iowa, entitled "Inclusiveness," adding sexual orientation and other statuses to the non-discrimination clause in Paragraph 4 of the Constitution
Petition 90089 by Donald Malone of Delaware, entitled "Sexual Practices," amending Paragraph 161.C to define marriage as between "two adults of the same sexuality"
Plans affecting marriage for deacons:
Petition 90077 by John Nupp of Maryland, entitled "Interpretation of Fidelity in Marriage for Deacons"