I attended the open plenary meeting this afternoon of the Council of Bishops. They covered lots of reports, some with videos. They talked a lot about the work of the church around the world. They cast ballots to see which Bishop will give the Episcopal Address at General Conference 2020…who works on a sermon for 2 years? I mean besides Adam? They celebrated the 50th anniversary of the denomination, sang “Happy Birthday to Us,” and ate birthday cupcakes, half chocolate, half vanilla.
Interesting tell-tale: Bishop Bickerton, New York Annual Conference gave a report on the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and said we are committing over $46 million to relief around the world. Then he said, “This is the best reason I know to remain as one church!” And all the Bishops broke into applause. Hmmm…Does this mean they have approved the One Church model? Is there a consensus?
Apparently the work is not done. They are back in executive session tomorrow morning to finish the work. Bishop Ough thinks this will be a short session, because they will follow that with more plenary meetings. So at least MOST of the work appears to be done. But every Bishop with whom I have spoken has been mum on what the product might be.
Final thoughts on the Plenary session: It is every church meeting you have ever been to, ever. Plus cupcakes.
I met today with John Lomperis, he is the head of United Methodist Action. John is a lay delegate from Indiana to General Conference. This is the United Methodist branch on the Institute for Religion and Democracy (IRD). This is what I would describe as a very conservative group that works in multiple denominations. They are not a membership organization with either individuals or churches. In their own words:
We are Christians working to reaffirm the church’s biblical and historical teachings, strengthen and reform its role in public life, protect religious freedom, and renew democracy at home and abroad.
To lead the fight rallying Christians to champion biblical, historic Christianity and its role in democratic society, and to defeat revisionist challenges.
You can read more at their website: https://theird.org/
There are individuals who are on the board of IRD and the Confessing Movement and the Good News group. There are currently not cross over members from the IRD with the Wesleyan Covenant Association, though John has signed onto the WCA and the groups share a common view of what might happen in the church.
The UM Action and the IRD are advocating for retaining all language in the Book of Discipline and would like to see the punishments increased to keep everyone faithful to what it says. They do not want to see LGBTQ clergy affirmed, because that is “contrary to God’s will for their lives.” They see the local option to be a non-starter. They support Christ first and the denomination second.
I asked if he thought conservative churches would leave if the One Church option that allows contextualization passes General Conference. He said he would be surprised if it passed, so if it did, he thought the different groups would need some time to absorb that and decide what to do. We both agreed that our crystal balls for seeing the future are of no use.
John also had an interesting thought if the Bishops did not pass anything this week. He thought it would be a blow to their credibility if they did not offer a direction. He also said, that while he voted against my motion at General Conference 2016 to have the Bishops lead the discussion, that he thought it has gone well and may offer some resolution to the issues before us.