From Feb. 23-26, more than 800 global United Methodist Church delegates gathered at the 2019 Special Session of General Conference to vote on either the “One Church Plan” or “Traditional Plan,” according to the UMC website.
The Traditional Plan, in its current state, maintains language in the church’s Book of Discipline about same-sex marriage and homosexual clergy bans and boosts punishments for violating those bans, the church’s website states.
It defeated the One Church Plan by a vote of 438-384, despite receiving nearly two-thirds support from U.S. delegations, according to multiple news outlets that covered the vote. It would have allowed individual churches to make their own decisions regarding weddings and ordinations, according to a story on the church’s website.
The Rev. Jason Mahnke of the People’s United Methodist Church in Oregon called the legislation – the Traditional Plan – “crap.”
“Who gets married in the church is up to the discretion of the pastor,” Mahnke said.
He said all six delegates from Wisconsin voted for the One Church Plan, but more “conservative” nations – clergy from Russia, eastern Europe and Africa favored the Traditional Plan.
Mahnke called the Observer last week to emphasize the People’s UMC is an “inclusive” and “loving” place. He pointed to rainbow flags that waved outside the front entrance of the church – a symbol of pride in the LGBTQ+ community.
Mahnke also said he and a colleague met with a “small portion” of the church’s Servant Leadership Board to assert their commitment to the “full inclusion of all the life, ministry and leadership of the church.”
“For those of you who know what has been happening in the United Methodist Church over the past several days, the General Conference unfortunately passed the Traditional Plan,” Mahnke wrote in a Feb. 26 Facebook post. “While I believe it will be thrown out as unconstitutional, I want to reaffirm my stand to love, support and include all in the church.”
Mahnke said the global UMC has a structure similar to the three branches of the U.S. federal government and added that many parts of the plan have been ruled “unconstitutional” by the church’s Judicial Council.
He said the council will rule at its regularly scheduled meeting April 23-25 in Evanston, Ill. According to the UMC website, anything the Judicial Council deems “unconstitutional” will not be included in the Book of Discipline.
The plan, according to the UMC website, includes legislation that sets a “minimum penalty” for clergy performing a same-sex wedding as a “one year’s suspension without pay.” The second “offense” results in a loss of the clergy’s “credentials.”
Further, the Book of Discipline 2016 states, the “self-avowed practicing homosexual” – someone acknowledging their sexuality – is not permitted to “be certified as a candidate, ordained as a minister or appointed to serve the church” because the practice of homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching.” However, “all people” may attend worship services and participate in UMC programs.
Mahnke expressed his sympathy to those who have been affected by the Traditional Plan.
“I will perform marriages for all and celebrate the ordinations of all,” he wrote in his Facebook post. “If you are feeling hurt or alone, please know you are profoundly loved, not only by God, but by more people than you could possibly imagine.”