Having just read Thomas Lambrecht’s “Methodism at the Crossroads” article (Good News magazine, January-February 2016), I am moved to make an appeal.
Each of the major proposals regarding the future of the UMC with respect to human sexuality appears (at least as presented by the article) to stand alone and in ideological isolation from the others. That does not strike me as either a prudent or wise way to leave them as we approach General Conference. The more plans available increases the difficulty of discerning our future, leaving delegates with a potentially competitive process (or worse) based on a “pick-and-choose” factionalism. That not only seems too much to ask delegates to deal with in ten days, but also not the making for an atmosphere where Christian Conferencing can be done well.
Each of the major proposals is championed by identifiable persons. My appeal is for these persons to gather and see if there is anything that they can give us other than isolated and conflicting proposals. Given they have had the will, even the courage, to make their proposals–I believe they owe it to the rest of us to get together for their own version of holy conferencing. If the Holy Spirit can do something in and through them, it would stand the whole denomination in a better place come May 10th.
The gathering should be caucus-group free, with only the leading champion of each proposal present. The playing field keeps moving, but as far as I know, this would mean: (1) Amicable Separation–Maxie Dunnam, (2) Jurisdictional Options–Chris Ritter, (3) Local Option–Adam Hamilton, (4) Connectional Table—Bruce Ough, and (5) Covenant Unity Plan–Bill Arnold.
I am fully aware that this proposed makeup lacks global, racial, gender, and orientation diversity–the lack of which, in-and-of itself may tell us something. But I nevertheless believe that the proposals’ champions owe us the courtesy of getting together soon. Otherwise, they end up asking General Conference delegates to attempt something they themselves have been unwilling and unable to do.
I know of some previous attempts at this, but the gatherings I have heard of were not limited to the proposal champions themselves, so far as I know. I appeal to these five people–all of them longstanding and respected leaders in the UMC–to do us this service. Surely those who know each plan best are in a position to discuss each one in the most mature and considered way. And if there are any possible places for synthesis, surely they are the ones best able to see them.
No matter what happens at General Conference, this before-conference meeting is “leading by example”–something we all need to see, for the good of the UMC. And it is, I continue to believe, the kind of gathering in which God can work to put us in a better place than we are now (Jeremiah 32:27).