The Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church has decided to advocate for an option called The One Church Plan. They argue that the plan allows the best way forward with minimal impact to the United Methodist Church overall. The following is my take on the One Church Plan after careful study of the commission’s report.
First, the One Church Plan, and the entire crisis itself, is based on a false pretense that the church has somehow been responsible for harming the LGBT community. This simply is not so. Those who practice an LGBT lifestyle harm themselves by going against God’s Word and the created order. Paul makes clear in Romans that the LGBT lifestyle is not natural. It is debased and dishonoring to God. Moreover, it is sinful.
Second, the theological proofing and basis for the OCP is not biblical.
The One Church Plan acknowledges that practices among vital churches need room to thrive depending on their mission field, and the necessary incarnational identification with those we seek to serve. The variety of answers to the question “Who is my neighbor?” determines how practices in one context will be different from another.Report from the Commission On A Way Forward pg. 12
The short answer to “Who is my neighbor?” is everyone. But that doesn’t mean we accept their sin into the church as an allowable practice in order to reach them. No, we are to preach the truth of Scripture.
While some may see dividing the United Methodist church as a function of greater holiness or righteousness, others see it as a sign of the brokenness of the body of Christ. This division, some may argue, is not in keeping with the will of God for a community of believers who share a common heritage, doctrine, beliefs, and ministry.
Report from the Commission On A Way Forward pg. 13
Divisions are the will of God if they are for the right reason. Jesus discussed church discipline in Matthew 18. Paul was very straightforward about what happens when people start going against Scripture. You are to have nothing to do with them (1 Cor 5:1-13, 2 Thes. 3:14, Titus 3:10). God does not call us, nor want us, to have unity if it means allowing sin into the church.
There are, and have been, LGBTQ persons serving at all levels of leadership in the UMC, as laity and clergy. Currently they suffer as they are unable to live into God’s calling on their lives to ordination or to lay leadership.
The UMC Social Principles state that all people are persons of sacred worth. This calls us to honor the human dignity of all persons and we believe that it is the calling of the church to be about the eradication of all forms of suffering. It is our sacred obligation to work to end suffering everywhere, that all might be free. We do this in order to live into our calling to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world.
Report from the Commission On A Way Forward pgs. 13-14
Let us be clear. The suffering of the LGBT community over not being able to serve their calling from God is due to their sin. Not church polity. Yes, all people have sacred worth and yes, we should work to eradicate suffering. In the case of LGBT, that means we are to work to eradicate the sin to end the suffering of their soul. This goes for every type of sin, not just LGBT. But know this, we are told we will suffer because of Christ so the idea that all suffering will be extinguished or even can be extinguished is a belief that is not found in Scripture. Paul makes this suffering clear in Romans 8.
In such matters, Paul called those in Rome to give up judgement and contempt of each other as they worked out these differences in community. Paul writes, “Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” (Romans 14:19 NRSV)
Over 60 years ago United Methodists followed this admonition when its members decided to ordain women over the objection of many who did not believe scripture supported the practice and found little backing for it in the tradition of the church. At that time the church accepted a new practice that led to mutual edification and over time, resisted the impulse to judge each other in the midst of disagreement.
Report from the Commission On A Way Forward pg. 15
This verse is taken out of context. It is not saying that we alter the definitions of sin in order to make peace. This was about what types of food are allowable to the Christian. The second part of this is one of the roots of the problem. The ordination of women is strictly forbidden in the New Testament. Paul makes this abundantly clear (1 Tim. 2:12).
It is this kind of treatment of the Word of God that has led to the current crisis. In other words, without a high view of Scripture and without Scripture being our final authority, once you take a part of Scripture out and ignore it, you can then justify ignoring any part of Scripture that does not agree with your views.
While all may not exercise new practices allowed by this plan related to marriage or ordination, they acknowledge that they share in common a sexual ethic framed by celibacy in singleness and faithfulness in marriage. They do not wish to stand in the way of the prompting of the Holy Spirit found in so many of their brothers and sisters in Christ who will embrace these opportunities. … It is clear that the desire of God is for The United Methodist Church to engage its mission field with renewed vitality, in order to make disciples of Jesus Christ.
Report from the Commission On A Way Forward pg. 15
The sexual ethics between the “progressive” (liberal) branch of the church and the conservative branch of the church are not common. They are fundamentally different. One follows Scripture and the natural order while the other follows a debase culture. The opportunities they speak of cannot be the prompting of the Holy Spirit but rather Satan himself as they go in the face of Scripture.
There are also problems with the OCP regarding local congregations. Sure, the commission report and the Council of Bishops try to make it sound as if traditional congregations will not be impacted, but that is not the case if you read the report carefully.
In annual conferences where the ordination of practicing homosexuals is allowed, churches may indicate their preference to receive or not receive these clergy through the use of a covenant established with their bishop.
Report from the Commission On A Way Forward pg. 16
Notice that the local church may indicate its preference regarding LGBT clergy. But what is glaringly absent is the guarantee that their preference will be honored. This may be a slight oversight, but given the rest of the report and onslaught of marketing for this plan I believe this is a subtle way to ram this down the throats of those who are opposed to this.
There is also no clear direction on what will happen if traditional churches try to leave the United Methodist Church under this plan. There was initial talks, according to the report, of having a gracious exist strategy for these churches but this was shut down by the Council of Bishops.
In conclusion, the One Church Plan is despicable. It is sinful. It should not even be on the table and the fact that the Council of Bishops see it as the appropriate way forward is telling for the future of the denomination.