Posted by Adrianne Sterley

The Special Session of the General Conference of the United Methodist Church concluded February 26, 2019 in Saint Louis, MO. It’s specific task was to address the divide over the UMC’s stance on the homosexuality as stated in the Book of Discipline.

The Traditional Plan, summarized below, was approved to go forward for final vote on the 26th on the first vote of the Conference. The Council of Bishop’s recommended One Church Plan and a third, the Simple Plan, were also voted not to advance in separate votes. The implication of the initial vote was that the last vote of the Conference would only consider the final approval of one plan – the Traditional Plan – rather than weighing the benefits and drawbacks of two in comparison.

However, the results of the first vote did not end the debate over the final wording or even rule out the possibility of another plan being brought to vote alongside the Traditional Plan before the closing vote was made. During the next two days, further petitions and reports were brought to the floor for consideration and vote that would allow the General Conference to amend the Traditional Plan, bring the discarded plans back to the floor for vote, and even for churches to leave the UMC body retaining their property.
Read the the UMNS report at the end of the day February 25th here.

The two primary plans vying for approval in the last vote were the Traditional and One Church Plans

  • Traditional Plan:
    “The Traditional Plan aims to strengthen the denomination’s prohibitions against clergy officiating at same-sex unions or being “self-avowed practicing homosexuals.” The plan also encourages those who will not obey church prohibitions to find another church home.”
  • One Church Plan:
    “The One Church Plan would have left questions of such weddings up to individual clergy and congregations — and questions of gay ordination up to individual conferences. Central conferences — church regions in Africa, Europe and the Philippines — would be able to determine their own policies.”

Traditional Plan

  • the ban against self-avowed practicing homosexual people being ordained as United Methodist clergy continues, as does the prohibition on gay weddings
  • every annual conference be required to certify that it “will uphold, enforce and maintain the (Book of) Discipline’s standards on LGBTQ marriage and ordination.”  It requires bishops, including retired bishops, to do the same. The consequences for violating the Book of Discipline’s rules on homosexuality would be tough, and would apply to local churches and pastors.
  • The traditional plans direct that those who will not conform to the Discipline be “encouraged to form something similar to an ‘autonomous, affiliated or concordat church.’” Churches that leave can use the United Methodist name and logo until 2021.
  • Text is taken from this UM News article.

One Church Plan

  • language in the Book of Discipline used in the U.S. would change to end the prohibition on United Methodist churches from hosting gay weddings or its ministers from performing them
  • no churches or pastors are required to lead a wedding ceremony for a same-sex couple, nor would it force any conference to ordain a gay minister or consecrate a gay bishop
  • the One Church Plan would mean the elimination of language defining marriage as “between a man and a woman.” Substituted would be “traditionally understood as a union of one man and one woman.”
  • the plan would eliminate the Book of Discipline passage that states, “The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”
  • Three alterations to the Book of Discipline need authorization through petitions to the General Conference to make the One Church Plan constitutional
  • Text taken from this UM News article.

The Simple Plan

A third plan put forth for vote on the first day was the Simple Plan. It advocates the elimination of language regarding homosexuality in the BoD and the Social Principles rather than amending it and restructuring the church. Read the UM News article here. It was not on the list recommended for vote by the Council of Bishops but was put forth by the UM Queer Clergy Caucus. Read more from their website.

What’s Next?

Questions have been raised as to the constitutionality of certain elements of the Traditional Plan as written. The Judicial Council will meet April 23-26 here in Evanston, Ill .
Debriefing sessions will be held in March:

  • Saturday, March 30 at 9:30 am – Orland Park: Faith UMC, 15101 S 80th Ave., Orland Park.
  • Saturday, March 30 at 2 pm – Barrington UMC, 98 Algonquin Rd., Barrington.
  • Sunday, March 31 at 3  pm – Oregon UMC, 200 S. 4th St., Oregon.


  • The news article posted on the NIC website Feb 26th detailing the approval of the Traditional Plan by the governing body of the UMC can be found here.
  • Find the wrap-up article posted on UMNS here.
  • The link to Bishop Dyck’s message following GC 2019 here.
  • Watch the Bishop’s message here.