FAQ's

Below are ten of the most frequently asked questions from our recent listening sessions on A Way Forward.  

Should you have additional questions, please submit them to wayforwardquestions@la-umc.org

Bishop Harvey cannot answer questions that are in the form of comments and will not respond to questions that violate the first general rule - do no harm.  
 

How do Biblical authority and interpretation impact and/or inform this process

United Methodists understand the Bible to be the foundational and authoritative document of our faith, containing all things necessary and sufficient for salvation, and received through the Holy Spirit as the true rule and guide for faith and practice.

The Bible “bears authentic testimony to God’s self-disclosure in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as well as in God’s work of creation, in the pilgrimage of Israel, and in the Holy Spirit’s ongoing activity in human history.” For centuries people have interpreted the scriptures for their time.

John Wesley was a man of one book – the Bible. Furthermore, he “specified various disciplines and rules, such as the General Rules, to implement in personal and communal life the practical divinity he proclaimed.”These are summed up in the three-part formula - do no harm, do good, stay in love with God.

The primary norm for Wesley’s writings was Scripture, as illumined by historic traditions and vital faith.Based on this, United Methodists also affirm that our interpretation of the Bible is informed by tradition, guided by reason and shaped by experience.

These multiple norms of authority form what is known as the Wesleyan Quadrilateral – Scripture, Tradition, Reason and Experience. “While we acknowledge the primacy of Scripture in theological reflection, our attempts to grasp its meaning always involve tradition, experience and reason.”They are the creative vehicles of the Holy Spirit at work in the Church, and give life to our faith, open our eyes to the wonder of God’s love, and clarify our understanding.

Through them we discover the living core of Christian truth – “steadfast love for God and neighbor, empowered by the redeeming and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. ”We acknowledge that deeply committed and faithful United Methodist Christians may have different interpretations of the Bible, may understand the tradition (of the Church) in different ways, and are informed by their own critical thinking and shaped by their own individual experiences.

However, we do not believe such differences “break the bond of fellowship that ties us together in Jesus Christ.”

 

Can a church leave the denomination anytime they want? 

No.Individuals may leave the denomination any time they so choose, however churches may not.United Methodist Churches are part of connectional structure and system whereby property and assets are held “in trust” for The United Methodist Church.That means, if the professing members of a United Methodist congregation wish to leave the denomination, they cannot take their property and assets with them.

 

Will any of the plans allow for churches to exit the denomination? 

Yes.The Traditional Plan, if passed in its current form, contains provisions for a “gracious exit.” The Traditional Plan would allow churches that are unable to uphold the Discipline’s prohibitions against same gender marriage and gay ordination, to vote to leave the denomination.The requirements and obligations of such an exit are yet to be determined.

 

Who gets to vote?     

Every four years, each Annual Conference elects delegates based on proportional representation to send to General Conference and Jurisdictional Conference. Only these 864 delegates from all over the world have the authority to vote. Bishops do not vote. Congregations do not vote.

The Louisiana Conference will send eight voting delegates to the 2019 Special General Conference – four clergy and four lay. Additionally, we will send eight jurisdictional delegates and two alternates.The list of delegates may be found here.

 

What is the impact of each plan on both clergy and congregations?


On Clergy


If the Traditional Plan passes – clergy would be required to certify that they would uphold the Discipline’s restrictions on gay marriage.  If they could not do so, they would be expected and/or able to exit.  The process for exiting clergy would have to be developed. Should clergy violate the new language in the Book of Discipline, the first offense would result in suspension for one year without pay.  The second offense would require the clergy person to surrender their credentials.

If the One Church Plan passes – clergy would be neither required to officiate nor restricted from officiating at a same gender marriage.  Each pastor would be able to act according to their own conscience.  LGBTQ clergy could be ordained by their annual conference upon approval of the Board of Ordained Ministry and the clergy session unless the clergy session develops and approves restrictive language.

If the Connectional Conference Plan passes – once an Annual Conference has chosen which Connectional Conference it will join, clergy will have the freedom to choose another Conference if they do not agree with the choice of their Annual Conference. The ability of clergy to serve in a particular Connectional Conference will be dependent on the qualifications and expectations set by that Connectional Conference.

On congregations

If the Traditional Plan passes – the current restrictive language would remain intact and congregations would not be required to vote on any LGBTQ matters. Also, congregations would not have the option to vote on allowing same gender weddings. However, local churches could vote to withdraw from the UMC under certain conditions.

If the One Church Plan passes, the plan itself requires no local votes. However, congregations will have the freedom to allow same gender weddings or choose not to allow same gender weddings. Local congregations may also choose to change wedding policies and practices if they desire to do so but are not forced to.  

If the Connectional Conference Plan passes– once the Annual Conferences have voted     to join one of the three Connectional Conferences, congregations will have the freedom to choose another Connectional Conference if they do not agree with the choice of their Annual Conference.  Churches would only be required to vote as to which Connectional Conference to join if they desire to join a Conference different than the conference chosen by their existing Annual Conference.

 

Has the church researched other denominations that have split?

Yes. The Commission on A Way Forward studied other denominations who have faced similar decisions and these findings informed the work of the Commission and the report they produced.

 

If the One Church Plan passes, will a congregation be forced to receive a gay pastor? 

Currently the appointment process contains extensive assessment, consultation and exploration of missional context to determine the best possible fit of the pastor’s gifts and graces to the congregation and community’s missional needs.This process will continue regardless of which plan passes.

 

What if nothing changes? 

If the delegates to the 2019 General Conference vote to make no changes, or reach an impasse, then the current Discipline, with its incompatibility language and its restrictions against same gender marriage and gay ordination would remain in place.

 

If the One Church Plan passes, will laity have input to determine whether to approve or disapprove the ordination of a homosexual person? 

Currently there are lay members on the District Committees on Ordained Ministry, as well as the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry, the bodies responsible for certifying and recommending candidates for licensing and credentialing.It is The Clergy Session of the Annual Conference that ultimately votes to approve candidates for licensure and ordination.If the One Church Plan passes, the District Committees on Ordained Ministry will continue to be responsible for certifying candidates for ministry, and the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry will continue to be responsible for recommending candidates. The Clergy Session of the Annual Conference will maintain the ultimate responsibility for approving candidates for licensure and ordination. No additional lay input or vote beyond those who are on the District Committee and Conference Board of Ordained Ministry will be added.

 

Will federal discrimination laws affect my church in the event that my church is sued for not allowing a same gender wedding to occur?

Churches, by and large, are exempt from federal discrimination laws. Any church, denomination or religious group can set its own individual or denominational policy and practice regarding weddings.Churches that disallow same gender marriage as a matter of church law face no fear of legal recourse or civil liability, despite the fact that same gender marriage is now a legal right in the US.This would not change if any of the current plans pass, nor if the current disciplinary language and restrictions on same gender marriage remain in place. No church can currently be sued for not allowing a same gender marriage, nor would they be liable to such in the future.


Additional Questions?

The above questions were some of the most frequently asked questions from our recent listening sessions on A Way Forward.  

Should you have additional questions, please submit them to wayforwardquestions@la-umc.org

Bishop Harvey cannot answer questions that are in the form of comments and will not respond to questions that violate the first general rule - do no harm.  


Additional information on the One Church Plan can be found on this web site, it includes additional frequently asked questions, the full plan, one page summaries and a 15-episode podcast hosted by Louisiana's own Rev. Todd Rossnagel. 

Rossnagel interviews various bishops across the connection who support the One Church Plan.

You can listen and subscribe to the One Church Plan podcast on iTunesSpotifyStitcher or Google Play