Last week, I shared The Indianapolis Plan to the Leadership Institute 2019 gathered at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City. Here are a few of my reflections:
- At the UMCNext meeting in May 2019, centrists and progressives gathered in Kansas City. We were not of one mind. Some wanted to stay in the UMC and resist the Traditional Plan. Some wanted to work toward disaffiliation or even dissolution of the UMC. Others felt like they could not stay in the UMC and needed to depart due to the harm done to their members and friends. It was in that spirit that the centrist and progressive members of the Indy Plan participated in discussions around separation. It was not because we had a desire to separate the UMC. I think every centrist and progressive longed for unity and prayed that we could stay together as one church. But we realized that may not be possible. So, we participated to attempt to find a peaceful way forward. As someone said last week, “we must walk together loosely, or part with a blessing.” Our work was an attempt to find the mutual blessing if a separation becomes the only option. We recognize that if traditionalist central conference delegates to General Conference value unity above all – keeping the UMC together – we won’t need an Indianapolis Plan. If that is the case, the UMCNext Plan or the Connectional Table recommendation for regional conferences could be what our future looks like. Members of the Indy Plan simply wanted to offer a plan of separation that included voices from differing viewpoints – if General Conference feels amicable separation is the best way forward.
- The Indianapolis Plan was initiated by Darren Cushman Wood, Kent Millard, and Keith Boyette – a progressive, a centrist, and a traditionalist. A broad and representative group was invited. Not all of those invited wanted to participate. Some joined and quickly dropped out. Others left later. The facilitators continued to recruit a broad and diverse group throughout the process. Some participated for a bit, then chose to depart. The plan was released in its initial draft form in early August. It was shared with board and agency heads, seminary deans, central conference delegates, caucus leadership groups, and many others. It was also open for anyone and everyone to give feedback. Much of that feedback shaped the final form. Legal voices of Wespath helped to craft the language in several places – including how to define “legal continuation” of the UMC through the centrists.
- The Basic Provisions and the actual legislation are found in previous posts. I think one of the most important myths that needed to be dispelled is this: The United Methodist Church is not dissolved but has its legal continuation through the Centrist UMC in the Indy Plan (¶2556.2). The legal definition provided is: “The United Methodist Church shall continue as a convention or association of churches, as a successor, for the constituent units that realign by choice or default with the Centrist UMC.” Wespath does not support any specific plan, but did assist with the legal language of continuation.
- The Indianapolis Plan group did not agree on how assets should be handled. We couldn’t even agree on the starting number. Traditionalists will submit their own asset division proposal and their legislation would be added in the new paragraph ¶2556, but it is important to point out that the Indianapolis group did not sign off on that particular asset legislation. If separation occurs, it will be up to the General Conference to decide how assets would be handled.
“We must find a way to walk together loosely, or part with a blessing.” Is either possible? If we must separate, can we bear witness to Christ through our parting? Our world needs both witnesses from the church more than ever – walking together loosely and parting with blessings. I will continue to pray for unity, but I will also pray for a powerful witness to the world if we must go our separate ways.