by Rev. Darren Cushman Wood
The Indianapolis Plan is often compared to the Next Generation UMC Plan (UMC Next) as if they are opposites. The real comparison should be between UMC Next and the WCA’s Traditional Plan. Both envision the UMC remaining a single denomination with those who disagree being forced to comply or invited to leave. Several other features run parallel as this chart illustrates. All Next Generation UMC Plan (UMC Next) are listed in "RED" text.
Next Generation UMC Plan
American Traditionalist Leaders
American Centrist & Progressive Leaders
Unity in UMC
UMC remains 1 denomination
UMC remains 1 denomination
Policy on Sexuality
Reaffirms current teachings on sexuality, marriage, ‘self-avowed, practicing homosexuals’ & continues ban on funding LGBTQ programs/organizations.
Removes: traditional definition of marriage, ‘incompatibility’ statement on sexuality, prohibition on ordination of ‘self-avowed practicing homosexuals’ & ban on funding LGBTQ programs/organizations. Expanded definition of inclusion in BOD.
Implementation of Sexuality Policy
Continuation of the Traditional Plan as adopted by 2019 GC with the following additions: *Respondents in just resolutions ‘commit to abide in the future by the provisions’ in BOD; *Empowers COB to place a bishop on involuntary leave or retirement; *Creates a council relations committee & an administrative review committee on COB for adjudicating whether a bishop will be placed on involuntary leave or retirement; *Mandates fair hearing process; *Ensures right of appeal to JC; *BOOM members, bishops, AC secretaries certify that members of BOOM will ‘uphold, enforce, and maintain’ BOD; *BOOM shall conduct full examination of candidates, ‘including but not limited to ¶ 304.1-3.’
Immediate moratorium on complaints & charges related to LGBTQ issues. Removal of Traditional Plan provisions in BOD. Asks for a 2023 GC special session to ‘expand and codify the full participation and leadership of LGBTQ persons in ministries and mission of the Church.’
Supports adoption of CT proposal for US Regional Conference Creation of a ‘Commission on a 21st Century Church’ which will propose: *A new constitution ‘lean and nimble governance structure;’ *Revised roles and relationships of general agencies; *Provisions for a regional US structure. Calls for a special session of GC in 2023 to act on the commission’s recommendations.
Formation of New Denominations
Not determined by GC or COB (See AC disaffiliation)
Formed by local churches, not ACs; Recognition of new denomination(s) ‘based on scale, polity, and shared Christian ministry and mission;’ COB authorized to ‘determine whether an association of local churches qualifies as a New Denominational Expression of Methodism’ and whether UMC enters into an ecumenical agreement with them; Allows new denomination(s) to use ‘United Methodist’ and UMC insignia with ‘a secondary moniker;’ Does not limit the number of New Denominational Expressions of Methodism; Agreements with new denomination(s) may include financial support for transition period (budgeted by GC); Transition period provided for formation of the new denomination(s)
Options for local churches who disagree with policies*
Disaffiliation from UMC: *Based on declaration that denomination’s policies are ‘harming its ministry;’ *GCFA provides standardized separation agreements (no additional AC requirements); *Pay any unpaid apportionments for the 12 months prior; *Release from trust clause.
Pension liabilities: *If affiliating with a denomination formed of former UMC congregations—pension liabilities transferred into new denomination; *If becoming independent—mandatory contribution for pension liabilities at 50% of pro rata share
Requires church conference called by church council or 10% or more of professing members; Simple majority vote; No AC vote required
Disaffiliation to become an independent local church: *Based on denomination’s policies violate their ‘conscience around issues of human sexuality;’ *GCFA provides standardized separation agreements; *AC may develop additional requirements ‘shall not be required to pay more than 12 months of apportionments;’ *Release from trust clause; *Pension liability payments required; *Other liability payments to AC required *Payment terms at ‘a reasonable rate of interest’ and ‘shall not exceed ten (10) years;’ *Church conference called by church council 2/3 ; *vote required (by simple majority vote);
Process for ‘changing their relationship with the United Methodist Church through a new denominational expression of Methodism’: *Same as above except for: *Notification of congregation shall include information about the proposed new denominational expression; *Transfer of pension liability to the new denominational expression if there is an ecumenical agreement.
Options for ACs who disagree with policies
Disaffiliation from UMC Based on disagreement with denomination policies related to sexuality; Simple majority vote; Retains sole responsibility for pension liabilities; Local churches’ right to remain UMC by church conference majority vote.
Clergy in disaffiliating AC may remain UMC upon request & may continue to serve current appointment for up to 2 years until a suitable appointment is found in UMC
General boards & agencies
Remain part of UMC
Remain part of UMC; May form agreements to serve new denominations
Grants for Disaffiliating ACs: 1-time grant for transitional expenses (formula: $7.50 per member; min. $20,000; max. $1.25m); from GC budget
Grants for New Denominational Expressions, differing based on: *Number of churches *Number of professing members *Amounts remitted to ACs for general apportioned funds in most recent fiscal year COB oversees grants; Use of professional mediator; from GC budget
2020 at end of GC—local church & AC disaffiliation processes begin
2020 at end of GC: *moratorium; *local church disaffiliation options; & formation of new denominations begin. *Aug. 1—Commission on the 21st Century Church begins work
2023: *Autumn—GC special session to act on Commission’s recommendations
2025: *Dec. 31—deadline for local church disaffiliation options
Abbreviations: AC—Annual Conference; BOD—Book of Discipline; BOOM—Annual Conference Board of Ordained Ministry; COB—Council of Bishops; CT—Connectional Table; GC—General Conference; GCFA—General Commission on Finance & Administration; JC—Judicial Council; LGBTQ—Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning; WCA—Wesleyan Covenant Association.
Author: Notes for a New Methodism
Rev. Darren Cushman Wood is the senior minister of North United Methodist Church in Indianapolis, Indiana and is an elder and full member of the Indiana Annual Conference. He is a graduate of the University of Evansville and Union Theological Seminary (New York). Darren was a delegate to the 2004 & 2008 General Conferences and a delegate to the 2000 & 2016 Jurisdictional Conferences. He is the author of "The Secret Transcript of the Council of Bishops" and "Blue Collar Jesus: How Christianity Supports Workers' Rights."
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