Monday, March 11, 2019

Recommended Reading: German United Methodists Strive to Preserve Unity, Say No to Traditional Plan

The United Methodist Church in Germany has released a "Message from the Executive Committee to the congregations of the United Methodist Church in Germany." (Linked text is in English.) In the message, the Executive Committee states that while they are not of one mind about homosexuality, they will not abide by the provisions of the Traditional Plan. They indicate that they do not anticipate their differences of opinion to disappear anytime soon, but nonetheless they want to remain in unity, and they see the Traditional Plan as threatening that unity. The message also announces a series of roundtable discussions and promised that the 2020 Germany Central Conference will adopt "trendsetting resolutions."

A translation of the accompanying article by UM & Global's David W. Scott is below.

The Struggle for a Way to Preserve Unity (Das Ringen um einen Weg zur Bewahrung der Einheit)
By Klaus Ulrich Ruof

As a reaction to the passage of the "Traditional Plan," the Executive Committee ("Kirchenvorstand") of the United Methodist Church in Germany (EmK - Evangelisch-methodistische Kirche) responded with a message on the unity of the EmK/UMC in Germany.

The Executive Committee ("Kirchenvorstand") of the United Methodist Church (UMC / "EmK- Evangelisch-methodistische Kirche") in Germany had its regular spring session on Friday and Saturday (8 and 9 March) of last week. Almost the whole meeting, which met in the Hessian city of Fulda, was occupied with the decision of the recently-concluded general conference in St. Louis. The Executive Committee addresses the EmK congregations in Germany with a message to preserve unity and at the same time lay out the way to do so.

Consternation and concern for the unity of the EmK
"There is hardly a region of the United Methodist world where fragmentation, fractures, and deep chasms did not arise after the decision of the General Conference," Harald Rückert, the bishop responsible for Germany, opened the meeting of the Church Council by saying. These are the first impacts of the decision of the General Conference, which adopted the so-called "Traditional Plan," which reinforced the previous provisions of the church rules on homosexuality. In addition, the resolution calls for the consistent application of all relevant regulations and intensifies them through control and punishment. Deeply concerned, the members of the board of directors heard Rückert's information from numerous episcopal colleagues from northern, central and southern Europe, the USA, Africa and the Philippines. Deep consternation and great concern for the unity of the UMC is heard from all regions. With quotes from letters to the bishop, the members of the Executive Committee for the EmK in Germany also received insight into the turmoil and emotional dismay that the decision triggered in people with very different attitudes in congregations of the EmK in Germany.

"Not acceptable"
The Executive Committee had to deal with the decision of General Conference, because the framework of the decision expressly required a statement from all Annual Conferences of the UMC worldwide. With two essential statements, the Executive Committee addressed its advice to the people in the German EmK congregations. On the one hand, the message of the Executive Committee states: "Independent of the contents of our commitments, we are unanimously of the opinion, that these provisions of the Traditional Plan are not acceptable." That is why the United Methodist Church in Germany is not going down "the adopted way of thought control and intensified punishments." The members of the Executive Committee emphasized that "democratically-made decisions" must be respected. However, the wide-reaching consequences of the decision in this case make the adoption and implementation of the decision in United Methodist bodies in Germany impossible.

A united way "that demands much from all of us"
The second main statement of the message of the Executive Committee is an invitation to all groups of the EmK in Germany, to take part in a way to preserve unity. On this way, the church can only remain together if it succeeds in "liv[ing] in proximity and acknowledgement even without agreeing on important questions. We therefore want to be a church where people with homosexual sensibilities can be ordained and blessed in a marriage ceremony, and also where traditionally minded people can uphold their ideas and lifestyles. The “Kirchenvorstand” has reached agreement on this objective." This path will be pursued in the awareness "that the endeavour to uphold community will make great demands of us all in future too," if people of different convictions are to find security and a home in the church. The plea was made "to stay in our church and join us in our search for this way."

The Executive Council decided, for the search for a way to preserve unity, to form "roundtables," to which "people  from  different  groups  and  directions  in  our  church  will  be  invited." These will begin their work before the middle of May. Bishop Rückert will call and spiritually lead a group that will initiate the process for roundtables. In November 2020, the Central Conference will adopt "trendsetting resolutions," because only there can decisions affecting church rules for all three German Annual Conference be adopted.

Sign in an increasingly torn and divided society
The members of the Executive Committee expressly point out that the decision came about after intensive deliberations. The superintendents of the nine districts of the EmK in Germany (one woman and eight men) as well as the further 21 voting and advisory members of the Executive Committee "have  spent  several  days  struggling  intensively,  emotionally and honestly with this resolution and all its consequences." Despite widely diverging opinions, they came to this unanimous decision. If this way succeeds, as it says at the conclusion of the letter, it could be "an  important  sign  in  an  increasingly  torn  and  divided  society."

1 comment:

  1. When the German Executive Board speaks about "an increasingly torn and divided society," it does not speak for the whole of United Methodism. Specifically, even though Western, secular societies are torn on the traditional plan, evangelicals and other societies are not. Furthermore, the traditional plan has been the only plan in the UMC. Those who have agitated for new plans are the ones who have told progressives that the UMC's position on human sexuality has to change to accommodate western society. Furthermore, if the OCP would have passed, imagine what the other portions of global United Methodism would be doing now. In fact, in terms of our global witness, maintaining the current position is the best way forward. If progressives from Germany, America, and other parts of the connection can't tolerate the traditional plan and refuse to abide by its provisions, they need to form another union because the UMC is not going to change on this. Even if it did, massive portions would leave it. Let's put the cards on the table and have the honest conversation that the bishops didn't have. In the end, this is about the place of the scriptures in our midst. If anyone would show how the scriptures endorse homoerotic behavior and bless gay marriage we would all come to the same conclusion. In the absence of biblical endorsement and in the face of biblical prohibitions, the UMC said no to the progressive plans. Asking traditionalists to approve of gay marriage and homoerotic behavior was a bridge too far. We could not do that or be a part of that without compromising our soul and rebelling against God.