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Overflow crowds attend Bishop debriefings

Posted: April 2 2019 at 08:48 AM

The fellowship hall at Oregon UMC was filled to capacity at one of the three post-GC Special Session debriefings with Bishop Sally Dyck.

More than a thousand laity and clergy gathered at three debriefings across the NIC last weekend – overflowing the space in two locations – to learn more about what did and didn't happen at the Special Session of General Conference in St. Louis. 

Bishop Sally Dyck led the gatherings outlining details and recapping the Special Session legislation, which included clergy pensions and the Traditional Plan. She shared information on what it means for local churches and the annual conference, and what may happen next. 

Bishop Dyck said it's time for us to have conversations about the hard issues and the realities in our own communities. "As our culture is growing more and more polarized, we need to retain our identity as a church of grace, a church that welcomes, a church that cares about all people. And we need to learn to disagree better as we walk with one another and grow in our faith," she said. 

Bishop Dyck said the Special Session caused a lot of pain as well as mental and physical exhaustion for many across the denomination, but also acknowledged that some are relieved with the decisions made, particularly the affirmation of traditional marriage.

She encouraged churches to continue to be the light and witness in their communities and to do the hard work of studying, listening, sharing, loving and welcoming. 

"We find ourselves in diverse settings of ministries. The basis of our faith isn’t agreement," she said. "It’s the belief in Jesus Christ and participation in mission."

Bishop Dyck's re-cap of the 2019 Special Session Legislation:

Clergy Pensions:
The General Conference voted that Churches wishing to leave the denomination (currently there is no process for this) must pay for future clergy pension liability based on a formula provided by Wespath.

Clergy who withdraw from ordination will have their currently earned pension benefits converted to UMPIP, a voluntarily defined contribution plan, based on a formula provided by Wespath.

The Traditional Plan:
The Traditional Plan was passed in part.  Two sections did not make it out of committee.  Six petitions in the plan have already been declared unconstitutional. Some portions were amended but it remains to be seen if the amendments bring these sections into alignment with our UM Constitution.

Some of the paragraphs added to the Book of Discipline include: 

Clarified definition of homosexuality. In the qualifications for ministry section of BOD.  “Or is living in a same-sex marriage, domestic partnership or civil union, or is a person who publicly states she or he is a practicing homosexual.” Broadened the authority and responsibility of bishops to deny commissioning or ordination, even when persons are recommended by the Board of Ordained Ministry and affirmed by the Clergy Session. 

Forbids the College of Bishops from consecrating clergy elected to the Episcopacy if they are LGBTQ+. Requires Board of Ordained Ministry members to certify that they will uphold the Book of Discipline in its entirety. Sets a minimum penalty for clergy who move through trial for conducting same-sex weddings. Further defines how complaints must be handled including reasons for dismissal and the role of the complainant. 

A petition designating steps for a church to leave the denomination was passed but, while an amendment was approved, it did not address issued previously raised by the Judicial Council which had declared the original resolution unconstitutional. This petition requires churches to work out a financial agreement with the Annual Conference in order to exit.  Allows churches to maintain their real property and assets.

What didn’t happen?
Petitions did not pass requiring clergy to sign commitment cards, churches to take votes on their stands, nor conferences to make decisions on their alignment around LGBTQi.

*** The Judicial Council will convene in Evanston, Illinois at the end of April to rule on the constitutionality of all legislation except the pension matters. 

When will changes take effect?
If found to be constitutional, the Traditional Plan legislation takes effect Jan. 1, 2020 for churches in the U.S. and 12 months after the 2020 General Conference for churches outside the U.S. The pension legislation took effect immediately after the 2019 General Conference and is not under review. The church exit plan also was to take effect at the close of the 2019 General Conference, but is awaiting Judicial Council review. Any portions of the plan ruled unconstitutional will not take effect.

Download the recap 

Click here for more FAQ's.

If you missed any of the briefings, the session held at Barrington UMC was recorded and available to watch here. 

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