Podcast and Article Links
The Website for the Michigan Conference of the United Methodist Church: https://michiganumc.org
A recent article on the Conference website on Methodists looking for a home:
Two sermon series from Pastor Andy on aspects of Methodism from 2018 and 2020 can be found here:
The Wesleyan Covenant Association has some ‘Critical Articles in a Time of Transition’:
Chris Ritter’s take on why Methodism was ‘coming untied’ in 2019
Podcast episodes from “Holy Conversations: A Wesleyan Covenant Association Podcast”
A Way Too Brief Timeline
1968 United Methodist Church is formed as the Evangelical United Brethren and the Methodist Church join together to form one denomination.
1972 The denomination attempts to join together very diverse theological groups by taking an official stance of “Theological Pluralism.” It was an attempt to be a ‘big tent’ theologically speaking and to have room for the variety of theologies within the denomination.
1972 The denomination develops its initial stance on human sexuality, affirming that all people are of sacred worth, but that the United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality, and considers the practice of homosexuality as incompatible with Christian teaching.
1988 The language in the Book of Discipline is changed away from ‘Theological Pluralism.’
1988 General Conference formed the “Committee to Study Homosexuality” to study the issue and report back at the next General Conference in 1992
1992 At General Conference, the Committee to Study Homosexuality came back with the recommendation to change the denomination’s stance on homosexuality. General Conference voted to maintain its current stance instead.
1996-2018 With every General Conference the debate over human sexuality was more intense and heated.
2000 There were demonstrations from protesters and arrests at General Conference, as people fought to change the denominational stance on homosexuality.
2008 and 2012 There was a movement within the United States, to provide a resolution to the constant political fighting over homosexuality and the church. The suggestion was especially pushed by two large church pastors in the United States and was called, “The Local Church Option.” This would allow each individual church and conference to decide where it stood on issues of human sexuality. It was voted down each time.
2016 As another contentious General Conference was playing out and the denomination looked to be on the verge of splitting, the Bishops paused the Conference and called for the formation of “The Committee on the Way Forward,” whose purpose was to find a way forward for the deeply divided denomination. The Committee was to report back in either 2018 or 2019 with its findings as a specially called General Conference.
2016 The Western Jurisdiction (US) elected the first openly lesbian Bishop.
2019 In February 2019, the special session of the General Conference was held. The Committee on the Way Forward brought forth a plan titled, “The One Church Plan,” which had much in common with “The Local Church Option,” which had been voted down twice before. It was voted down again. Instead, an alternate plan titled, “The Traditional Plan,” was passed in part.
The 2019 session was very ugly and the fallout was brutal. The divide in the church was even more acute. As an example, retired Bishop, Will Willimon wrote, “At some point I shifted my own prayers to, “Lord, please melt the hardened hearts and smite everyone who intends to vote against the One Church Plan.” https://www.christiancentury.org/blog-post/guest-post/methodist-mess-st-louis
2019 In December, after several meetings with a third party, professional negotiator, an agreement was reached on the “Protocol on Reconcilliation and Grace through Separation.” The Protocol would provide a way for conferences as well as local churches to decide whether to stay with the United Methodist Church or join a new traditionalist or more progressive denomination. There was to be a special General Conference to vote on this in May of 2020
2020 Covid-19 pandemic cancels the Special Session of General Conference for May and eventually cancels the rescheduled conference which was to occur in October of 2021.
2022 The special session of General Conference to address the Protocol is scheduled for the end of August, 2022
Throughout the history of the United Methodist Church, there has been a growing theological divide along foundational theological lines such as Bishop Sprague’s contention that Jesus did not bodily rise from the dead nor was he born of a virgin, the voting down of the Nicene Creed in committee in General Conference, forms of cultic worship, how we understand scripture, Trinitarian language, as well as sin and salvation and the centrality of Christ. While issues around human sexuality are the focus, they are, in reality, the presenting issues of a deeper divide.