Questions/Answers from the 1st G.C. Info Session
Given the diversity of opinions in UMC, what was the objection to the simple plan that would remove wording that dictates an opinion.
Randy: It was a plan that did not include inclusive language but by removal of the current language, the door was opened for full inclusion. There have been attempts to remove that language over the years but those attempts have failed.
Why are homosexuals considered worthy, but not their practices? Does that mean it is viewed as a sin in the Book of Discipline and by the UMC?
Randy, Lori, Isaac and Ray: The Book of Discipline is of two minds on this issue (which is at the root of the current debate). In one section the B.O.D. affirms the worth of persons, no matter their sexual orientation; and in another, it pronounces persons who practice their sexual orientation (other than a heterosexual orientation) as those who are “incompatible with Christian teaching.”
Will there be any enforcement or will everyone just look the other way?
Randy: Enforcement and levels of enforcement will depend on the rulings of the Judicial Council. In parts of this country, full inclusion is openly embraced and the Book of Discipline is not enforced. In others parts of the country, it is enforced. Depending on the outcome of Judicial Council rulings, “enforcement” would not only follow the current Guidelines but more guidelines would be pursued.
Calvary has history of standing strong against discrimination, especially in the 60s and 70s. How can this church be similarly courageous?
Randy: It’s our choice, individually and corporately how we react and respond to people, not only LGBTQIA+ people, but people of all ages, nations, races, and etc.
What other churches in B-N area are able to be more inclusive?
Randy: Every UM Church operates under the same guidelines and all UM Churches and Pastors are subject to the same penalties if they break with the Book of Discipline.
How can we be punished if we don’t follow the traditional plan?
Randy: I honestly don’t know there is a punishment for churches. The plan as presented at GC said all churches would have to certify that they would obey the Discipline or could/would leave the denomination. I have no clue how that might work or happen.
What is the position of Pastor Randy on the A. Traditional Plan, B. One Church Plan?
Randy: For the most part, I supported the One Church plan.
What is the position of Pastor Randy on LGBT A. Marriage, B. Clergy
Randy: Flat words won’t give much space for my heart, so I’m more inclined to want to sit and talk over a diet-coke and share with you where I am.
Will it come back to the table to separate UMCs based on significant cultural differences?
Randy: It could - legislation could be proposed (and likely will be) for the 2020 GC.
From my heart-but I know no answers: How do we welcome ALL but not respect all to be able to serve as our leaders?
Randy: Not a great answer but we do the best we can. LGBTQIA+ persons can be members of the local church and therefore can serve the church in leadership roles that are not clergy related.
What portions of the traditional plan are deemed unconstitutional? Is the judicial council the final word? Will the be revisited at the 2020 General Council? What are the details of the disaffiliation plan that was passed?
Isaac: We won’t know the answers to these questions until the Judicial Council meets in late April. Both the Traditional Plan and the proposal for modifying the process of disaffiliation (the process of a local church leaving the UMC) are both under Judicial Council review. General Conference, by its very nature, allows for the revisiting of these decisions.
What will it take to let the United States UMC to stand on its own to make decisions?
Randy: It would take a separation of the Central Conferences (outside of the US) with the US Conferences.
How do we reconcile open doors, open hearts, open minds and the Traditional Plan?
Randy: That’s been the dilemma for years. We have somehow been able to bridge this dilemma, to a degree, because we have folks who identify as LGBTQ here at Calvary; and frankly, they want to be here. At other times, I have no doubt, we have not done that well. I hope/want to think that we are all doing our best to love and care for all people.
God doesn’t exclude anyone. Why does the UMC?
Randy: See Question #2 above.
What scriptural reference causes the church to be against LGBTQ folks?
Randy: Without shirking an answer, I would suggest you read “Living Faithfully.” It references scripture and the different interpretations held by a variety of people.
How should we study the bible? How is this issue being interpreted and why do we disagree? ( Would love to take a study on this. Really appreciated Isaac’s study on Ecclesiastes and think he would do a great job in helping us understand how we got here, where we go from here and how best to study the bible.)
Isaac: The Bible is a diverse collection of literature gathered over hundreds of years from several cultural backgrounds. For example, Paul’s letters to specific churches in the 1st century require a different interpretive lens than a reading of the Book of Job (an epic poetic piece written centuries and centuries earlier to a very different group of people). The beginning of most Bible study tries to uncover the answer to the question “what did it mean then” and then build a bridge to answer the question “what does it mean now.” Admittedly, we are working in a dimly lit room when we ask the question “what did it mean then” (this is often a difficult question to answer given the limited amount of info we have about the time period and original cultural practices), and we often bring our own interpretive baggage (many times unknowingly so) to the question “what does it mean now.” The church throughout history (and the Methodist Church in specific) has tried to answer both questions. Different groups have disagreed on one or both questions, and groups have changed their answers to one or both questions given new information about the past or new cultural contexts arising in the present.
What is the definition of the “church”?
Isaac: The most basic root word use of the word in Scripture is “called out ones, or assembled ones.” As this group of Christ followers begins to carry out its mission in the book of Acts, we see them assemble around both local meeting groups (people who met in homes/places for regular worship centered around prayer, the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, and the breaking of bread) and regional/global meeting groups (the council of Jerusalem and the apostles leadership). As the church continued to develop throughout the New Testament period, the voice of those who had died before were also considered relevant to the conversation of those still living (what we would now call the “communion of saints”).
Does the future of this global church look to address this topic at every future conference? (A statement was made in the conference discussions that they would not let this rest and would wait until more progressive delegates could be appointed to change the position. Is this an accurate description of our future?)
Randy: It will likely be addressed (my opinion) not only in 2020 but in subsequent General Conferences until some compromise can be worked out or a group simply gives up and leaves. That group (whichever group it would be) could be one single church or a large contingent of churches. I do know as of a day or so ago that the “delegate count” for 2020 shows that the US has 22 less delegates and Africa has 20 more with the other two going someplace else.
A separation between the “inclusive” and “traditional” groups is inevitable - if not at the year’s conference and Judicial Council, then the next conference or the one following. The US UMC is shrinking while the African and Russian churches grow increasingly strong. Why not take a congregational level vote now and determine where our members stand? Seems better to rip off the band aid quickly and all at once than to draw it out. If the decision is upheld, where will/does Calvary stand? If with inclusion, what does that mean for Calvary and it’s property?
Randy: I don’t have empirical data to back up what I’m about to say, so hear me say that. I think Calvary is significantly split - 60/40; 50/50 on this issue. I believe there will be people who leave (people from both perspectives already have) regardless of what’s decided whenever it’s decided. Instead of generating more hostility or judgement or whatever toward those with whom we disagree, my hope and prayer is that this level of intensity will inspire us to put that energy into praying for a revelation of God to help us. As far as where Calvary will stand, that is a process that begins with the Church Council. As far as property, that remains under Judicial Council review.
What is Calvary’s communication plan? There are a number of families and members, including ours, who are thinking about leaving. What is being done to mitigate members’ “church shopping?”
Isaac: Our current plan is an open invitation to those considering leaving to sit down with church leaders and have a discussion. There is so much unknown about how this plan will affect Calvary in the future. The way this impacts individuals and families is as specific as the individual or family themselves. “One size fits all” communication on the impact of this issue is both undoable and unhelpful. We are compiling the questions/answers that arise out of the Info Sessions and will distribute them the week of March 17 (after the last session is complete), but a face-to-face discussion is the best way to mitigate these kinds of questions for those who are considering leaving.
How about the wisdom of separating US Methodists from other countries? Two new segments of United Methodists?
Isaac: In essence, this was one of the plans submitted for a vote at the General Conference by the Commission on a Way Forward (The Connectional Conference Plan). While there are benefits to this kind of arrangement, delegates at the 2019 General Conference chose to not bring it to the floor for discussion or vote.
Questions/Answers from the 2nd G.C. Info Session
I would love to be in a session related to UMC organization, General Conference structure, delegates, voting, understanding of cultural differences. If an open plan was approved at a future conference could it be stripped away?
Randy: I’m working on that. I’m realizing how much or how little we know and understand the functions and practices of the UM Church. There is some immediate information at link.connectwithcalvary.org/makeup
What is the international makeup of the UMC?
Randy: See link.connectwithcalvary.org/makeup
Not a direct LGBTQ question, but rather on the bible. I believe the bible is truth and should be followed like law. Help me understand the other viewpoint of the bible - do some view it as general guidelines and not truth?
Randy: This conversation needs to happen but honestly, I can’t answer that in a couple of short sentences. Lori, Isaac and I are talking about that now.
Is there a way to know/understand the geographical split/preferences within the US? We know that the west coast is generally ALL inclusive. Can it be broken by state, by region within the US?
Randy: I’ll have to do some checking on this one.
What does history teach us? Were other churches in Russia and Africa as strong in the 60s and 70s?
Randy: Again, I’m going to have to do some more research to full answer this but my instinct is to say no. My neighbor use to smuggle Bibles into Russia so I think faith in Christ was mostly underground, but again, I’m not fully able to answer this at the moment.
What kind of program/study or other means can we use here at Calvary to address the facets of this situation together? “Discussion - not battle”
Randy: Check out “Living Faithfully” We still have some copies available.
What about children Leadership Roles?
Lori: People who identify as LGBTQIA+ continue to be welcome and are encouraged to serve in Family Ministry just as anyone else who may be gifted in working with children.
Do you have any feel for other UMC churches and how split their congregations might be? I would guess many small rural churches are wholly against inclusion, but maybe not?
Randy: I think there are a good many congregations split. I’ve been continuing to watch and read - some churches are openly planning to continue defying the Book of Disciple while others are planning to start defying it. I’ve seen press statements, signs in their front yards, language on their church signs.
How would Randy solve this? How much of that 53% majority is US UMC vs other countries?
Randy: I don’t know what I’d do. My heart breaks for those who are excluded, but it would break for those in other lands who would suffer physical harm. I don’t think we have a “right” plan yet if indeed we are to stay united and not be untied (transpose two letters and the word and meaning changes significantly). 66% of the USA delegate pool did not support the Traditional Plan
When is next General Conference? 2020-2024? Thought I heard that.
Randy: It’s in 2020, in Minneapolis.
The 53-47% split - can it be broken out geographically? What is the possibility of a geographical split?
Randy: I believe it can but I’ll have to do some searching for this.
Can you reiterate the Traditional plan? Can we have LGBTQ members? Are LGBTQ just denied leadership positions and not membership?
Randy: Yes (and I did Wednesday night and will again Tuesday morning). We have LGBTQ members - they can hold leadership positions or service positions or anything that any other member can do.
If the judicial committee determines the whole thing is unconstitutional, it goes back to before this vote. Sadly I don’t know what was the position before this vote. Can LGBTQ be ministers currently?
Randy: If it’s declared unconstitutional, the current language in the Book of Discipline remains. Summary: LGBTQ persons are of sacred worth but homosexuality is not compatible with Christian teaching. They cannot be married by a UM pastor and cannot be married in a UM church. In addition, a self-avowed, practicing homosexual is not eligible to be certified as a Candidate for Ministry nor ordained (again - my summary). Pastors who engage in acts of marriage can have a complaint filed against them and then enter the complaint process. “Just Resolution” can be reached but surrender of one’s credentials (ministerial license and ordination) is frequently the outcome. This is not consistent across the UM Church. The Traditional Plan intended to “toughen” up those directives relative to Bishops and clergy. In the planned is approved, my understanding is that any clergy performing a same sex marriage would be suspended for one year and a second incident would be a revocation of credentials and ordination.
What % of the membership in the United Methodist Church is international? Do they tend to be more conservative than US congregations? Hint: if 20 delegates (approx. 2.5% of all delegates) shifted from US representation to African representation, that would widen the voting gap (53% to 47) to 55% to 45%.
Randy: see link.connectwithcalvary.org/makeup
Is there a possibility to have 2 sub-denominations, one excluding and one including prohibitions but under the UMC denomination?
Randy: The Connectional Church plan would have allowed that to happen. This plan did not get to the floor of the committee session nor the floor of the plenary session.
Questions/Answers from the 3rd G.C. Info Session
What is the possibility of a new “breakaway” Methodist Church developing as Adam Hamilton seems to support?
Randy: As of today (4/10/19), there are conversations happening in a number of places (unofficial) as people seek to find a plan that could be agreeable to all.
There are churches being split and I am sure the bible refers to Man and Woman marriage
Isaac: The Bible also refers to polygamous marriages, women as the property of a man in a marriage, and arranged marriages. Most people who hold the Bible as authoritative in their lives (and the life of the church) would see these versions of marriage as descriptive of the time on which the Bible was written and not prescriptive for our own time.
Bishop at Gold Canyon UMC this past Sunday is saying everyone should be ONE CHURCH. Everyone has their own views concerning LGBTQ. Why is saying this since vote traditional.
Randy: I think our reading of your handwriting has lost something but let me try to interpret and if I miss, I apologize.
At the next conference, can the US be split off from Africa and Russia? I understand the vote would have been totally different.
Randy: It is possible some form of splitting the church could happen happen, either based on geography or theological thought.
Do the Bishops have any actual say in administering the rules of the BOD?
Randy: Yes, it’s their responsibility to fulfill the guidelines of the BOD.
When or how will the wishes of the individual/or congregation be allowed to voice their opinion? What is the process if a church wants to have full inclusion?
Randy: That was the option in the One Church Plan and the Connectional Plan. Individual churches as well as individual pastors could decide about full inclusion. The Traditional Plan did not include this option.
Judicial council members - how long is their term?
Randy: There are 9 judicial council members, elected as prescribed by Paragraph 2602 and following. They serve an 8 year term. A member may serve a maximum of two consecutive eight year terms , with a minimum of four years before reelection to the council.
What can we do at/as Calvary to promote a more inclusive church?
Randy: I think we keep saying and then actively welcoming anyone - anyone and everyone to our church, to our small groups, to our fellowship groups, to whenever we gather. That inclusivity applies not only to lgbtq+ persons but to persons with different racial backgrounds, different cultural backgrounds, all men and all women and all kids. I also think there is a need for some “think tank” conversations with each other. I think there needs to be more dialogue as to what this even means. Having said that in print now likely puts the ball in my court to initiate these conversations. I’m willing to accept that but will need some grace and patience to bring this to pass.
Is homosexuality a choice?
Randy: That’s part of the issue here. Quite a number of scientific studies say it’s not a choice, it’s the makeup of a person while others say it’s a choice. Some discount science at this point while others fully embrace it.
The BOD says all people are of sacred worth. How do we show people that they are of sacred worth if we then basically say they are not? Suicide rates of LGBTQ people tend to be higher in people who are also Christian or have churched backgrounds. How do we change that trend, especially with this ruling?
Randy: This is a great question and line of thought. My heart breaks for those people who feel disowned and devalued by the church keeps me awake at night, literally. All I can do is my best to encourage, engage, welcome, stand by, stand with, etc. all folks - all folks who are lgbtq or any of the “different” designations that we seem to like to use.
Are marriages that were conducted or are conducted legal?
Randy: Since the Supreme Court ruling legalizing marriages, these marriages are legal. In the State of Illinois, as long as you believe that someone is credentialed or ordained, the marriage is legal even if the person marrying someone is not ordained. Credentialing can not be done via the internet. There are sites that will “ordain” someone for $19.95 or whatever they choose to charge.
During the Nazi reign, being friends of Jews and being Jewish resulted in death sentences, imprisonment etc..how is this really different?
Randy: I’m assuming you are referencing life in Africa or the other places in the world where LGBTQ persons are imprisoned or punished, even to the point of death. Our world, and certainly we here in this country, in a sense struggle with anyone who is different than us - whatever “us” is or looks like or lives or believes. It’s not limited to LGBTQ folks but look at the people of other faiths that are killed, their houses of worship destroyed, and it’s interesting, those persecutions are not limited to one faith or one gender or one race. I try to live a life that does not engage in, encourage, or lift up those behaviors. In fact, I try to be clear that those behavior directed to others are not, in my determination, God’s plan. It doesn’t seem like nearly enough though.
If California can officiate a gay marriage in the UMC, why can’t other states?
Randy: Not all jurisdictions, annual conferences or Bishops abide by the Book of Discipline. In the areas that choose to marry or ordain LGBTQ person, no one holds them accountable to the Discipline.
Have other protestants resolved this issue? How have they?
Randy: Yes, the Presbyterians and some Lutherans have are fully inclusive however not all Lutheran churches are. Baptist churches, pretty much across the board are not inclusive.
What was make up of the 844 delegates? How many from USA? Do we know how the vote was for the USA? Randy, would you officiate a gay wedding? Have you ever officiated a gay wedding? What are the specific consequences for officiating a gay wedding?
Randy: There were 864 delegates to the 2019 General Conference. Approximately 40% were from outside the United States, most of those being from Africa, so about 500 delegates from the US. At this point because I took a vow and made a covenant over 40 years ago to uphold the Book of Discipline as a part of my Ordination Vows, I would not officiate a gay wedding. It’s prohibited by the Discipline. No, I’ve never officiated at a same gender wedding. Consequences prior to GC 2019 were that a complaint and then charges could be filed against a clergy person. The worse case scenario would be that if a just resolution could not be reached, the clergy person’s credentials (their ordination papers) could be taken from me. This has happened a number of times in a number of annual conferences but not in every instance nor in every annual conference. In a just resolution settlement, a clergy person might covenant to never again officiate a same gender wedding and their credentials would not be taken. There are all kinds of possibilities in what we call a just resolution. A just resolution is an agreement that the party who filed the complaint and the one against whom the complaint was filed agree to with the approval of the Bishop.
Am I correct? Our congregation has 3 lay members to Annual Conference. They along with all other lay members at A.C. will choose the lay delegates to Annual Conference in 2020. How many will be elected from our A.C.? Who nominates candidates for lay delegates to GC? How many from A.C. will be elected? Repeat of same question for ordained delegates?
Randy: The number of delegates for 2020 remained the same for the IGRC, 5 lay and 5 clergy.
Can people who are LGBTQIA hold leadership positions in the church?
Randy: Yes. They can become a member of a local church and thereby be elected through the church or charge conference to any leadership position in the church.