Petitions to GC2020: Reinstatements

Here are another two petitions, dealing with the least-protected clergy people in our system: certified candidates and licensed local pastors. What happens when someone in this position is discontinued from the process, and then moves– especially given that the Spirit might call people *years* later, in different contexts and settings, and after great transformation? Sometimes, one logistically can’t go “home.”

 

Reinstatement of Certified Candidate Status

Motion: Amend ¶314.2 as follows:

  1. Reinstatement of Certified Candidate’s Status– Certified candidates whose status has been discontinued by a district committee on ordained ministry of an annual conference of The United Methodist Church may shall only be reinstated by the district committee of the district in which they were discontinued, or by another district upon transfer of the certified candidate’s file including all possible documentation of the circumstances relating to the discontinuance of certified candidate status.

[Retain rest of the paragraph as written]

Rationale: This amendment opens the possibility of reinstatement to individuals who have changed geographic location, or discerned a new context or calling, while retaining the recommendations and records related to prior discontinuance.

 

Reinstatement of Local Pastor Status

Motion: Amend ¶320.4 as follows:

  1. Reinstatement of Local Pastor Status– Local pastors whose approved status has been discontinued from an annual conference of The United Methodist Church or one of its legal predecessors may be reinstated only by the annual conference that previously approved them, its legal successor, or the annual conference of which the major portion of their former conference is a part, only upon recommendation by the district committee on ordained ministry from which their license was discontinued, the Board of Ordained Ministry, and the cabinet. Persons seeking reinstatement shall provide evidence that they have been members of a local United Methodist church since the time of the discontinuance of their local pastor status, or for at least one year prior to their request for reinstatement. The district committee shall require a recommendation from the charge conference where these persons’ his or her membership is currently held. When approved by the clergy members in full connection as provided in ¶ 337, their license and credentials shall be restored, and they shall be eligible for appointment as pastors of a charge. They shall complete current studies and meet requirements as provided in ¶¶ 315, 318.
         Whenever persons whose local pastor status approval as local pastors has been discontinued by an annual conference are being considered for appointment or temporary employment in another annual conference, the Board of Ordained Ministry where these persons are being considered shall obtain from the Board of Ordained Ministry of the conference where local pastor status approval has been discontinued verification of their qualifications and information about the circumstances relating to the discontinuance of local pastor status termination of their approval as local pastors.

Rationale: This amendment makes the language more consistent with similar paragraphs of the Discipline, and resolves the apparent contradiction posed by the second paragraph, which allows for local pastor status to be reinstated by a different annual conference.

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Petitions to GC2020: Reduce Inappropriate Medical Disclosure and Discrimination

This is legislation I plan to submit to General Conference, regarding candidacy, clergy status, and the medical forms. This legislation failed by ONE vote in 2016. The UMC may or may not look anything like the denomination we know come May 15, 2020, but if it does, I hope we stop asking candidates for their BMI, blood pressure, and results of pap smears or prostate exams. Let the doctors do that stuff.

Legislation Submitted to General Conference 2020: Reduce Inappropriate Medical Disclosure and Discrimination

Summary: Six paragraphs of the Book of Discipline ask a candidate for licensed/ordained ministry or one seeking transfer/reinstatement for a specific medical form. The form, however, discloses more information than a District Committee or Board of Ordained Ministry needs to have in order to make a determination about an individual’s fitness for ministry. This bundle of legislation addresses these paragraphs, changing the form to a letter of good health from a physician, which would include the necessary information without the risk of disclosing more confidential data. Furthermore, drawing on language already in the Discipline, these paragraphs will clarify and make consistent the UMC’s non-discrimination on the basis of disabilities or diagnoses that do not otherwise hinder a person’s ability to serve in the ministry to which they are applying.

 

I. Title: Reduce Inappropriate Medical Disclosure and Discrimination – Licensed Ministry

Motion: Amend the Book of Discipline ¶315.6.c (License for Pastoral Ministry) as follows:

  1. c) Provided the board with a satisfactory letter from a physician stating the individual’s good health and listing any medical restrictions or modifications as applicable. Disabilities and diagnoses are not to be construed as unfavorable health factors when a person with a disability or diagnosis is capable of meeting the professional standards and is able to render effective service as one licensed for pastoral ministry. certificate of good health on a prescribed form from a physician approved by that board.

Rationale: Replaces the health form with a letter from a physician, eliminating the high potential for confidential information to be disclosed in violation of the candidate’s privacy. Adds that disabilities / diagnoses are not grounds for lack of fitness for ministry, making the policy consistent with that for provisional members.

II. Title: Reduce Inappropriate Medical Disclosure and Discrimination – Provisional Membership 

Motion: Amend the Book of Discipline ¶324.8 (Provisional Membership) as follows:

  1. Each candidate shall present a satisfactory letter from a physician stating the individual’s good health and listing any medical restrictions or modifications as applicable. certificate of good health by a physician on the prescribed form. Disabilities and diagnoses are not to be construed as unfavorable health factors when a person with a disability or diagnosis is capable of meeting the professional standards and is able to render effective service as a provisional member.

Rationale: Replaces the detailed health form with a letter from a physician, eliminating the high potential for confidential information on the health form to be disclosed in violation of the candidate’s privacy. This also clarifies that both disabilities and diagnoses are not grounds for lack of fitness for ministry.

III. Title: Reduce Inappropriate Medical Disclosure and Discrimination – Transfers

Motion: Amend the Book of Discipline ¶347.3.a (Transfers From Other Denominations) as follows:

  1. From Other Denominations – a) On recommendation of the Board of Ordained Ministry, the clergy members in full connection may recognize the orders of ordained clergy from other denominations and receive them as provisional members or local pastors. They shall present their credentials for examination by the bishop and Board of Ordained Ministry and give assurance of their Christian faith and experience. They shall give evidence of their agreement with and willingness to support and maintain United Methodist doctrine, discipline, and polity and present a satisfactory letter from a physician, as described in ¶324.8. certificate of good health on the prescribed form from a physician approved by the Board of Ordained Ministry.

[Retain the rest of the paragraph as written.]

Rationale: Replaces the health form with a letter from a physician, eliminating the high potential for confidential information to be disclosed in violation of the individual’s privacy. Refers back to disability / diagnosis non-discrimination for those seeking provisional membership, making the policy more consistent.

IV. Title: Reduce Inappropriate Medical Disclosure and Discrimination – Retirement Reinstatement 

Motion: Amend the Book of Discipline ¶357.7.2 (Return to Effective Relationship [from Retirement]) as follows:

(2) a satisfactory letter from a physician, as described in ¶324.8. certificate of good health on the prescribed form from a physician approved by the Board of Ordained Ministry.

[Retain the rest of the paragraph as written.]

Rationale:  (same as petition III)

V. Title: Reduce Inappropriate Medical Disclosure and Discrimination – Honorable or Administrative Location

Motion: Amend the Book of Discipline ¶365.3 (Readmission after Honorable or Administrative Location) as follows:

  1. A satisfactory letter from a physician, as described in ¶324.8. certificate of good health on the prescribed form from a physician approved by the Board of Ordained Ministry. The Board of Ordained Ministry shall require psychological evaluation.

Rationale:  (same as petition III)

VI. Title: Reduce Inappropriate Medical Disclosure and Discrimination – Involuntary Retirement

Motion: Amend the Book of Discipline ¶368.5 (Readmission after Involuntary Retirement) as follows:

  1. Presentation of satisfactory letter from a physician, as described in ¶324.8. certificate of good health on the prescribed form from a physician approved by the Board of Ordained Ministry.

[Retain the rest of the paragraph as written.]

Rationale:  (same as petition III)

The Jurisdictional Re-Draw Strategy

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This is NOT a “plan.” 

I am not casting a vision or a destination, or presuming an outcome. This document is a strategy, the means and not the end, a road map of one potential way we could get to an outcome that might be like what one of the many “plans” envision. As such, the Re-Draw strategy could be employed to help re-create the One Church Plan (if you’re into that– I’m not), or to dissolve the denomination (if we must), and lots of options in between. This strategy limits dependence on General Conference to pass specific legislation. Instead, it relies on the powers of the Jurisdictional Conference, presuming that GC cannot disassemble itself, but Jurisdictions and Central Conferences can re-form more locally.

Developed by Sean Delmore and Becca Girrell,
the Jurisdictional Redraw Strategy: Using Jurisdictions to Redraw Annual Conferences

Summary: Jurisdictions redraw the boundaries of the annual conferences within them, such that 1. there shall be at least one annual conference that follows the Traditional Plan (TP) and at least one that does not (NO TP) in every jurisdiction in the United States, and 2. There shall be two (geographically overlapping) annual conferences (one TP and one NO TP) in every geographic area of the jurisdiction. Every local congregation/charge will have the opportunity to decide whether it will be part of a TP or NO TP Annual Conference; every clergy person will have the same. Further action by jurisdictions can de-couple conferences that can no longer live together in difference.

Purpose: This will allow United Methodists within the United States a way to live with grace before any future steps, if needed, are taken. United Methodists outside the United States rely on the rights and responsibilities to which they are entitled as Central Conferences to live in this in-between time.

Changes to the Book of Discipline or Constitution: none.

We hope Judicial Council rules (in October) that an Annual Conference can withdraw with its property / assets. This would be in accordance with the precedent set in the 1840s with the departure of the Methodist Episcopal Church South. If that is not their ruling, a clarification to the trust clause will help shore this up so we don’t need to argue in court, but I do not believe this strategy requires such a clarification.

Essential provisions of the current Discipline:

  1. In the US, each jurisdiction determines the number, names, and boundaries of both the annual conferences and episcopal areas contained therein (¶ 40, Article IV).
  2. The annual conference is the basic body of The UMC (¶ 33, Article II), and “titles are not held by The United Methodist Church (see ¶ 807.1) or by the General Conference of The United Methodist Church, but instead by the incorporated conferences, agencies, or organizations of the denomination…” (¶2501.1).
  3. Annual Conferences may overlap geographically, and local churches can move from one annual conference to another in which they are geographically located, through a process set forth in the Constitution (¶41, Article V).

Process:

  • Jurisdictional Conferences (JCs) in 2020 organize together to redraw the boundaries of the annual conferences (ACs) within them. For one year, the churches vote and clergy request affiliation with one of the two ACs in which they are located (TP or NO TP).
  • Special called sessions of the JCs meet in 2021 if needed to solidify the conference boundaries and/or redefine the number of annual conferences.
  • Any ACs no longer part of the Jurisdiction (whether because the AC disaffiliated or the JC “drew” them out) would have the option to call themselves together and form a new body/denomination.

Benefits:

  1. This plan does not require action from the General Conference; we already have the disciplinary rules to permit this. A clarification from Judicial Council or via an addition to the trust clause would be helpful but not essential.
  2. This will permit us to move toward future steps (i.e. disaffiliation, schism, etc.),
  3. while limiting negative press, and
  4. while maintaining connectionalism, eliminating the need for individual churches to disaffiliate and incorporate.
  5. Progress toward a future with hope for all, without hasty ill-considered decisions, and without committing now to which form (TP or NO TP), if any might retain control of the current denomination.
  6. Shorter/2-3 year timeline for major steps, allowing continued focus on mission and ministry.

Timeline:

2019 Annual Conference Season

  • Conferences elect their delegations to GC/JC 2020, with attention to the whole delegation (JC delegates matter!).
  • Delegations and organizing teams begin to communicate and organize as jurisdictions.
  • Organizers from each AC share: 1. How the AC votes on any resolutions, petitions, and straw polls indicate where the AC stands on recognizing and living into a TP or NO TP identity, and 2. The ideological composition of their JC delegation.

Summer 2019 – May 2020

  • Organizing efforts begin using delegations and non-delegation organizers at the AC and Jurisdictional level.
  • Education on the local level about this process.
  • Jurisdictional organizing teams determine how many NO TP ACs should be formed in their Jurisdiction. Forming a new AC requires identifying a minimum of 50 clergy in full connection (active or retired), and an equal number of lay members elected by their local charge (see ¶ 27, Article V.4 and ¶ 32, Article I).
  • Traditional Plan goes into effect Jan 1, 2020
  • General Conference meets May 2020

2020 Annual Conference Season

  • Annual Conferences and Jurisdictional organizing teams assess the outcomes of GC 2020.
  • ACs and organizing teams identify the minimum of 50 clergy and 50 lay members (definitional requirement to form an AC per the Constitution) who would be the seed membership of a NO TP AC in their region.

July 2020 Jurisdictional Conferences meet

  • Jurisdictions redraw the boundaries of the ACs therein, keeping the prescribed number of episcopal areas in their jurisdiction; there shall be two annual conferences in every geographic area (one TP and one NO TP; see example figures).
  • Each College of Bishops works to help set the supervision so that clergy could easily transfer between annual conferences (either in the same episcopal area or another), and/or serve in cross-conference appointments.

July 2020 – AC season 2021

  • Local churches may vote (2/3 charge conference vote, per the Constitution) to join the NO TP annual conference in which they are geographically located. By default, all churches and clergy are considered in the TP AC (because that’s the current Discipline).
  • Clergy request and Bishops grant membership in one of the annual conferences (TP or NO TP) in which they are geographically located.
  • This year seems complex, but is no more complex than when ACs re-draw or merge because episcopal areas are reduced.

2021 Annual Conference Season

  • Both annual conferences in the geographic area approve the affiliations of the local churches based on their charge conference votes.

If United Methodists could live together in this tension, we might rest in this place (would work with the UMCNext vision, or the US Regional Conference). If not…

July 2021 or later: Special Called session of all jurisdictions (may not be necessary if ACs can simply disaffiliate with their assets).

  • Each jurisdiction sets the number of ACs therein to include ONLY the TP annual conferences (alternately, ONLY the NO TP annual conferences, or even zero ACs; either can happen, but must be the same in all jurisdictions- requires that TP and NO TP movements each decide as a whole for their respective movement).
  • Those ACs not included in the set number within their jurisdiction are now no longer United Methodist bodies. They are, however, incorporated entities that own property, hold pension liability and assets, etc.
  • Newly-released ACs call together one or more convening conferences of all interested ACs, and approve a Constitution and Book of Discipline or equivalent (this creates the new denominations, churches, or expressions envisioned by plans like Indianapolis and Bard Jones)

Challenges:

  1. This will require buy-in and negotiation at the annual and jurisdictional conference levels (which hopefully are marked by deeper relationships of trust and less intractability).
  2. This requires relinquishing control of God’s church to the local churches, annual conferences, and jurisdictions. It requires TP regions to free NO TP churches and clergy for ministry, and NO TP regions freeing TP churches and clergy for ministry.
  3. Some JCs will find it more challenging to agree upon the boundaries of the ACs; Council of Bishops may need to work with their colleagues in these more challenging JCs. Likewise, some ACs will not easily approve the conference membership choices of local churches, and will need encouragement from their Bishop and leadership.
  4. This does not address the issue of assets owned by general agencies. However, once large-scale bodies are set as TP or NO TP, then general agencies, universities, Central Conferences, etc. can affiliate with the body of their choice. Some of the plans currently circulating indicate a willingness to compromise on these assets and responsibilities.
  5. Some vulnerable people and congregations may be left in regions where they find themselves isolated; it may be necessary to assist clergy in transferring membership and/or churches in purchasing their property or acquiring new assets. Hopefully this need is limited.

Buy-in, Leverage points needed:

  • Council and Colleges of Bishops
  • AC leadership
  • JC organizing teams
  • Pressure from agencies, universities, etc.
  • Ethnic caucuses
  • Writers working on a new Constitution and Discipline if needed (and please, may these writers be a diverse body that can think outside the white, male, straight, colonialist, hierarchical frameworks of the 1800s)
  • Funds for assisting in transfers and property acquisition in challenging situations
  • Patience and willingness in the tension

Figures:

NEJ Maps

Figure 1. The Northeastern Jurisdiction has a fairly balanced mix of TP- and NO TP- leaning congregations and clergy. Here, we imagine re-drawing roughly equivalent conferences, five of each.

SEJ Maps

Figure 2. The Southeastern Jurisdiction leans more heavily TP overall. In this Jurisdiction, we imagine one NO TP annual conference (maybe two), merging one AC for the sake of example to keep the total number the same.

flowchart 2

Figure 3. Looking more closely at New England and Upper NY Annual Conferences, which each are a mix of TP and NO TP churches and clergy. Graphics by Jay Horton.

Comments? Have at it!

Petition to GC2020: Trust Clause in the case of Successor Entities

I’m working on some legislation, and would love the input from other minds! Comments? Suggestions? (Im)Perfections?

 

Motion: Amend ¶2501.1 by adding a new paragraph following the first paragraph (which currently ends “from their connection with the entire worldwide Church.”)

This trust requirement must be maintained by The United Methodist Church and its successor denominations, institutions, and entities. In the event that an incorporated conference, agency, or organization of the denomination withdraws from or is removed from the denomination, that entity and its successor will retain responsibility to hold and administer the real and personal, tangible, and intangible property held or administered prior to withdrawal.

Rationale: The Trust Clause is an essential element of the polity of The UMC, but does not anticipate or account for successor movements or denominations, which may arise as the Spirit moves the church forward.

Setting my face toward General Conference

52607784_2050420751701159_1794689785856524288_o“The disagreement became so sharp that they parted company; Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. But Paul chose Silas and set out, the believers commending him to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.”  – Acts 15:39-41

I dropped my kids off for their first day of school this morning, so it’s really fall. That means it’s time to turn some more of my attention to the connectional United Methodist Church and the work ahead.

I have been elected to my annual conference’s delegation to General Conference 2020. I’m excited to serve in this capacity, at a time of such potential for transformation in the denomination. I hope that this year marks the beginning of breaking open our church into new life– two or more (I hope two) movements in the Methodist tradition, setting one another free to be in ministry in our various contexts as we are called. Like Paul and Barnabas, going their separate ways, I believe we can– even in the midst of our sharp disagreements– bless one another in the name of God and go forth to strengthen the church wherever we are.

In the past, I’ve used this blogging platform as a way to process, reflect, share ideas, and generally externally-process about General Conference. I think this shared reflection is especially needed (at least for me) this year, because so much of the GC’s work will need to be collaborative and rooted in grassroots organization, drawing perspectives from across boundaries and “sharp disagreements.” So I will again turn to the open-sourced web on the internet to share and to listen, and I invite you to join me.

Sermon: Martha, Martha, Martha

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“Martha, Martha, Martha”

(July 21, 2019) This perpetually challenging text features two sisters– one who is doing all the work, and one who is just sitting there! You’ll never guess which one Jesus praises. But why exactly does he critique Martha, when she is doing the work and service to which she has been called? (Isaiah 58:1-9Luke 10:38-42)

Sermon: As Yourself

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“As Yourself”

(July 14, 2019) Jesus tells us, “Love your neighbor as yourself”—but what if you don’t love yourself? How do we begin with compassion for ourselves, and love ourselves as we love our neighbors? (As we read Luke 10:25-37, I invited people to imagine themselves in the role of the person in need of compassion)