This week, The Indianapolis Plan – Basic Provisions was released to the United Methodist Church. It was designed by a group of UMs – ‘traditionalist, centrist, and progressive’ (I will use these terms for shared understanding realizing some, including me, think they are easily misused and limited). The facilitators were Kent Millard, Darren Cushman-Wood, and Keith Boyette. I was invited to participate in this group as one of the centrists. My simple definition of a centrist is a compatibilist – whether center-left or center-right – we had both as our part of the centrists on the Indy team. I attempted to represent the many centrist pastors and churches I have known and currently know who have differing views on marriage and ordination of LGBTQIA+ persons, but long to remain unified as one church in the midst of our disagreements. My hope has always been that we could remain unified as a church – even in the midst of our differences on many issues. I realize that is not possible for some in our denomination. Therefore, I believe some type of separation is needed in order for us to focus on our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
I have not blogged much the past two years or more because I have focused work in my local congregation. I wanted to do my best to prepare Chapelwood UMC in Houston, Texas for the many possibilities in our future. Chapelwood has always been a cutting edge, inclusive church in many ways. Chapelwood is very diverse with differing views on human sexuality, worshiping on multiple campuses, all while reaching multiple contexts and demographics. Over the past couple of years, we peacefully struggled together regarding our understanding as a church on this issue, as well as other issues. We do not all agree, but we do agree that we want to be a church where all are welcome and included in life and ministry.
Over the coming days, I will share my thoughts on the Indy Plan, speak to some of the strengths of the plan, and point to some of its weaknesses. I will also point to what I believe are the biggest obstacles. I hope the comments you share will be helpful in not only refining the Indy Plan as we continue our work, but help all of United Methodism to find a way forward. My hope is that we won’t spend time arguing over human sexuality. I think we all realize we don’t agree which is why we are discussing separation. I think it would be more helpful for General Conference delegates if you share your thoughts related to what the future needs to look like for Wesleyan Methodism around the world. I will be faithful to post all comments that are helpful and none that are harmful on this blog.
Before I discuss the actual plan (in the soon to follow posts), let me begin by sharing my experience of those who gathered for this work.
We all came in with our assumptions and positions. We prayed. We shared Holy Communion. We advocated. We laid down ‘non-negotiables’. We tried to define our constituencies. We listened. We struggled. We had to take time apart. We shed some tears at the weight of the whole thing. Whatever anyone says about someone (caucuses or individuals), you don’t really know their heart until you share a meal and a beer with them – I’m talking about me drinking beer…not anyone else. I honestly believe that each person was open to the process. I made friends with those I disagree with on these issues. I don’t know where it all lands, but we strived to not operate by the toxic political structure of our world. It is important to me that we embody God’s grace as we receive it to those who need it. I felt God’s grace extended to me. I hope I extended it to them.
Simply put, this has not been easy or fun. But the people who gathered are seeking a way to live into the future that is faithful with their beliefs. There are more voices needed around the table. I will tell you there were other voices and other caucuses that spoke into this process. I won’t share the extent…I will leave that to them. I want every person in that room to be my brother and sister in the same church, but I realize that won’t happen in the same denomination. For now, we struggle with a way forward that creates space for people to live faithfully.
Next Up: The Introductory Paragraphs