Like many internal analysis papers, "Options for the Future" was put on a shelf and not referred to again after its discussion by our board. There was no conspiracy, nor did Good News commit to a plan to force centrists and progressives out of the church. On the contrary, for at least the last seven years, Good News has argued that a negotiated, fair, equitable separation was the better way forward for the church.
The Mainstream UMC caucus continues its overblown rhetoric when it says, "The leadership of the WCA has spent a generation harming LGBTQ persons." Let us not forget that the WCA was officially launched in October 2016. It has become fashionable to blame or credit the WCA for everything that happens on the traditionalist end of the church, but the WCA is specifically focused on preparing for the next iteration of Methodism, either within the UM Church or separate from it, not on the political battles over increased accountability.
Mainstream UMC claims, "WCA President Keith Boyette penned the majority opinion in the infamous, anti-gay Judicial Council Decision 1032." Opinions issued by the Judicial Council, however, are the product of the whole Judicial Council as all members inevitably have a hand in their composition. The Council does not release the name of the person who writes the first draft for the reason that all who concur with it take ownership in it. So Mainstream UMC has no credible way to state authorship of the decision.
specifically held that the "
invests discretion in the pastor-in-charge to make the determination of a person's readiness to affirm the vows of membership." Boyette did write a concurring opinion in Decision 1032 in which he observed that nothing in the opinion of the Judicial Council could "remotely be construed as making a sweeping declaration that ... 'homosexuals' are barred from membership in the church." Boyette's concurring opinion further noted that the pastor's discretion as to a person's readiness to affirm membership vows was not unfettered, but was subject to review.
Mainstream UMC also attacks the Rev. Boyette for not recusing himself in Decision 1032. They ignore the point that Boyette specifically addressed the fact that the issues in Decision 1032 did not personally involve him and that he did not participate in the Virginia Conference's discussion of the matters involved in Decision 1032 because he was a member of the Judicial Council. The issues raised in Decision 1032 were not unique to Virginia. Not recusing himself was entirely appropriate.
The more important point is that Mainstream UMC continues to call the upholding of biblical teaching as "discrimination against LGBT persons." Upholding scriptural standards and the discernment of our General Conference over 47 years is not discrimination. The church is solidly within its historical tradition to require clergy to observe "celibacy in singleness or faithfulness in a heterosexual marriage."
If Mainstream UMC wanted to stop the trials, Good News and the Renewal and Reform Coalition have proposed and supported mechanisms to do just that for years. Proposals for amicable separation and gracious exit were submitted to both the 2016 and 2019 General Conferences. These would have ended the conflict and ended the trials. But many centrists fought tooth and nail to oppose these proposals. If the 2020 General Conference approves a plan of separation similar to the Indianapolis Plan, the conflict and the trials would end immediately.
It is difficult enough for people with differing perspectives on these contentious issues to dialog with one another, to seek understanding, and to work out a mutually acceptable way forward. That task is made infinitely more difficult when advocates distort and mischaracterize their conversation partner's perspective and demonize their opponent.
One gets the impression that such advocacy seeks to win at all costs, rather than follow a Christ-like path toward a fair resolution of the conflict. If that is the approach taken at the 2020 General Conference, we will only prolong a conflict that does the church no good and allows observers to cast the church as irrelevant and hypocritical. That approach does real harm to the cause of Christ and all who participate. We should work to do better.