Timelines of General Conference and HPCUMC Actions
In February, the United Methodist General Conference (the official body responsible for church governance) adopted what was called the “Traditional Plan.”
That plan affirmed official exclusionary language and policies concerning LGBTQ people in the United Methodist Church, and imposed severe penalties on Pastors who violated those policies
(for example, by officiating same-sex weddings).
The General Conference also enacted provisions to allow dissenting congregations or other United Methodist organizations to exit the denomination, as well as a petition that protects clergy pensions.
After the vote, the legislation was appealed to the Judicial Council,
a nine-member body tasked with deciding whether proposed
church legislation comports with the church’s constitution and existing rules.
The Traditional Plan, which passed by a narrow majority at the most recent General Conference, affirms the church’s current bans on ordaining LGBTQ clergy and officiating at or hosting same-sex marriage.
The Judicial Council (which functions as The United Methodist Church Supreme Court) ruled in Decision 1378, the following provisions of the Traditional Plan are constitutional:
• Expanding the definition of self-avowed, practicing homosexual to include persons living in same-sex marriage, domestic partnership or civil union, or who publicly state they are practicing homosexuals. (Petition 90032)
• A pastor who has been found after trial to have conducted a same-sex marriage now must receive, as a minimum penalty, a one-year suspension without pay for a first offense, and termination of their clergy status for a second offense. (Petition 90042).
• Boards of Ordained Ministry must make a full examination of candidates for licensing, commissioning or ordination, and shall not recommend anyone who does not meet the qualifications for ministry. The Bishop must rule the recommendation of any such person out of order. (Petition 90043)
• Bishops cannot consecrate a “self-avowed, practicing homosexual” as a bishop, or commission or ordain a self-avowed, practicing homosexual. (Petition 90036)
• Where a complaint is filed against a pastor for violating the Discipline, the person filing the complaint is to be a participant in any efforts to reach a just resolution of the complaint and every effort is to be made to have the person filing the complaint agree to any resolution before it takes effect. (Petition 90046) A bishop cannot dismiss a complaint unless it has no basis in church law or in fact. (Petition 90044, ADCA at 191). If a just resolution is reached, it must state all identified harms and how each harm will be addressed. (Petition 90046)
• The church may now appeal the outcome of a trial based on egregious errors of church law or administration. (Petition 90047)
No. The plan makes significant changes to the United Methodist Book of Discipline, including imposing severe penalties on both pastors and congregations for any deviation. This could lead to additional mandatory penalties and church trials.
HPC has not made a decision to disaffiliate with the United Methodist Church at this point in time. In April, the HPC Servant Leadership Board established the Task Force on a Way Forward to help lead our planning. This group has gathered information and sent 2 recommendations to the SLB in October.
The Task Force’s work included research of General Conference actions and Judicial council decisions; multiple listening sessions; an all Church survey and continued evaluation of denominational options. The SLB will ensure that our assets are protected and continue to be used in ministry. Pastoral Leadership is in close dialogue with the West Ohio Conference, North Central Jurisdiction, and leadership throughout the country on the challenges in front
We are in a prayer-filled discernment process, in the future, should the Task Force conclude that a gracious exit is best for the future of HPC, both SLB and the congregation will have their voices heard, in a vote, prior to any decision.
We will pay 100% of our apportionships, however, holding back in escrow, our General Conference apportionments as leverage to move the denomination to become fully inclusive.
HPC has never been and will never be a “one issue church.” LGBTQ exclusion was pressed upon us by the vote at General Conference in February and we have no choice but to respond. We believe that exclusion of any people because of their sexuality, race, gender, or for any other reason is discriminatory, against Wesleyan teachings, and incompatible with HPC’s values. As the Task Force considers our options, we remain focused on the core value of our HPC family, that all persons are of sacred worth.
Loss of our church property is a very remote possibility. All United Methodist Church property is held in trust for the conference in which it’s located, which in our case is the West Ohio Conference. The so-called “trust clause” exists so that in the event of a church closure, or a congregation being unable to meet its bills over the long term, the property can be used to start or support new ministries in the West Ohio Conference.
Before such a decision can be made, there is a long process of evaluation, involving several conference level committees and a West Ohio Conference vote which requires a 2/3 majority, to close the church and repurpose the property.
Under even the simplest of scenarios, that process takes several years. None of those conditions apply here at HPC: we are a thriving congregation doing strong ministry.
Finally, an important part of the work of the Task Force is to ensure that we will be able to protect our material assets and continue to use them in our ministry. The Task Force will be carefully reviewing our options and reporting back to the congregation. Any decision to exit the denomination would need to be approved by both SLB and congregational votes.
The Judicial Council has determined that an exit must meet three minimum requirements:
• Approval of the disaffiliation resolution by a two thirds majority of members of the church present and voting at the church conference.
• Establishment of the terms and conditions, including the effective date, of the agreement between the West Ohio Conference and the exiting local church by the conference board of trustees in accordance with applicable church law and civil laws.
• Ratification of the disaffiliation agreement by a simple majority of the members of the West Ohio Conference present and voting.