Great Plains delegation down after One Church Plan loses vote

David Burke


Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. addresses and prays with the Great Plains Conference delegation after the special session of General Conference adjourned for the day Monday. Photo by Todd Seifert

An emotionally drained delegation from the Great Plains Conference is thinking about what is ahead after the One Church Plan that most of them supported was defeated Tuesday.

“It’s a disappointment and kind of a feeling of getting kicked in the gut – and at the same time wondering, ‘Where do we go from here?’” said the Rev. Adam Hamilton, a clergy delegate from the Church of the Resurrection, Leawood.

The One Church Plan, which included individual choices for churches regarding LGBTQ pastors and performing same-sex marriages, was defeated 53 to 47 percent.
The priority vote “yesterday was more disappointing than today, but already we’re looking forward to 2020” and the regularly scheduled General Conference, said the Rev. Mark Holland, a clergy delegate from Kansas City, Kansas, and leader of the Mainstream UMC centrist movement.

“Two-thirds of the U.S. church does not want this,” Holland said regarding the traditionalist votes Monday. “There are a lot of affirming people who desperately want to see a new expression of LGBTQ persons and their allies.”

Sunday’s priority vote had the One Church Plan with 50 fewer votes than the Traditional Plan, and Holland said he and other Mainstream UMC leaders spent Sunday night talking to delegates, particularly from Africa, to try to make up the difference.

“The vote today held the same,” he said Monday. “We were hopeful yesterday. I can’t say surprised, but disappointed. We were within 50 votes, and it’s a good showing — better than we’ve done in the past — but not where we want to be.”

Holland said Mainstream UMC would stay active at least through the annual conference season in the United States.

After the defeat of the One Church Plan, Hamilton voiced support of the Simple Plan, which would remove restrictive language from the Book of Discipline.

“I knew that wouldn’t pass, but to try to not allow (LGBTQ people) at least to speak to the plenary is hurtful,” said Hamilton, one of the leaders of the centrist Uniting Methodists movement. “I didn’t want the General Conference to inflict more burden than they’ve already inflicted on gay and lesbian people.”

Dixie Brewster of Milton, Kansas, the only delegate openly supporting the Traditional Plan, said she didn’t think any of the plans would have been “win-win,” and that she and other supporters were unfairly categorized as full of “hatred.”

“The LGBTQIA community sees the Traditionalist as something very homophobic and that love is not shown at all in the aspect of that plan,” she said. “I don’t see that, but I can understand some of the reasons why they hurt as they do, and why today was an especially somber day for those who are hurting.”

Shayla Jordan, Wichita, is the youngest delegate for both the Great Plains and the entire General Conference.

A seminary student at Southern Methodist University, Jordan said the defeat was leaving her generation at a loss.

“I think there is despair watching the church fall apart, it seems, at the moment, in front of their eyes,” Jordan said. “I think that’s heartbreaking, being so young and having so many dreams for the church. Both sides feel a little heartbroken at the end of the day.

“It’s hurtful, and it’s hard,” she added.

The Rev. Cheryl Jefferson Bell, another clergy delegate from Church of the Resurrection, made an impassioned plea from the floor against the Traditional Plan, saying “It’s not, I believe, where Jesus wants us to go.”

Bell said she had been thinking and praying for months about what she would say on the floor in St. Louis.

“I didn’t know when it was going to be, I really didn’t know what the words were going to be, but I knew that it was for a time such as now,” she said. “I asked God for the words, and that’s what was given to me.”
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