April 27, 2019
Dear Friends and Members of the Northern Illinois Annual Conference:
As most of you may know, yesterday the Judicial Council, the nine-member top court of The United Methodist Church, released their rulings from February’s Special General Conference related to the Traditional Plan and disaffiliation legislation. You can find the complete ruling for the Traditional Plan found here and the ruling for the disaffiliation plan found here.
The Judicial Council did not find the Traditional Plan (made up of 17 petitions) to be “one bundle” of petitions and so ruled on the constitutionality of each individual one. Seven petitions continued to be unconstitutional, seven stand as approved and one was edited.
The Judicial Council ruled constitutional…
- an expanded definition of “self-avowed, practicing homosexual” to include anyone in a same-sex marriage or who publicly states that he or she is a practicing homosexual,” that District and Conference Boards of Ordained Ministry cannot recommend LGBTQ persons for ministry and that the bishop cannot commission or ordained them,
- that bishops cannot consecrate duly elected persons to the episcopacy if they are “self-avowed, practicing homosexual,”
- mandatory penalties (one year suspension for the first offense and termination for the second offense) for clergy who are convicted by a jury of peers for performing a same-sex marriage,
- the complaint process to include a “statement of harms” and “every effort to be made” to include the complainant in the resolution, and
- the church’s ability to appeal the verdict of a trial court to the committee on appeals and then the Judicial Council in cases of “egregious errors of Church law or administration.”
The Judicial Council ruled unconstitutional…
- that the annual conference certify that the bishop had only nominated persons to the Board of Ordained Ministry who would “uphold, enforce, and maintain the Discipline in its entirety,” and
- that the Board of Ordained Ministry is required to conduct a thorough examination specifically to determine whether someone is LGBTQ, including through the use of social media.
The disaffiliation petition was ruled constitutional with the reminder that the requirements include the annual conference vote, which is stated elsewhere in the Book of Discipline.
The disaffiliation petition…
- focuses on “the current deep conflict within The United Methodist Church around issues of human sexuality,”
- and provides “a local church…limited right, under the provisions of this paragraph, to disaffiliate” with the church property. The petition delineates the requirements to disaffiliate, including a two-thirds vote of professing members present and voting at a charge conference, 24 months of apportionment payments, “other liabilities” (which may include past health and property insurance and unpaid pension payments), and timelines for decision making.).
You can find other descriptions and interpretations through United Methodist News Service here and a thorough synopsis from the Greater New Jersey Conference here. But I encourage you to read the actual rulings.
Most importantly, I want to say again (as I did after the Special Session of the General Conference) that I am deeply disappointed that The United Methodist Church has become less inclusive of all people. The harsh penalization and limitations set within the Traditional Plan give little space for those of us who have deeply held convictions based on scripture, tradition, reason, and experience that includes all God’s people.
I fully recognize that many in our annual conference are relieved that traditional marriage has been affirmed and that there are restrictions on who can be in ministry. And while we may disagree, I am still in ministry with you! Our agreement on human sexuality is not the basis of our faith, ministry or mission; the basis of our faith, ministry, and mission is in Jesus Christ.
This is a challenging time for us as a denomination and as an annual conference. When the legislation for our Annual Conference comes out later this coming week, you will see a handful of petitions that we will be discussing in June that will give direction to our future. There are some in our conference who are working on determining “what’s next” for the Methodist/Wesleyan tradition on both sides of the Traditional Plan. We will have robust conversations about where we are as a denomination and an annual conference at both the clergy session on May 21 and the Annual Conference sessions June 2-4.
I agree with those who say it has become clear we need to find a different way to be together so that we no longer harm each other. Therefore, I urge that we do not do anything that will jeopardize the ministry of others as we move toward a more gracious place and future with one another. The verse that comes to mind for me is: “Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be…” (1 John 3:2).
Let us pray for one another and for our church at this critical time in our history, drawing upon our long tradition and deepest resources of faith.
In ministry together,
Bishop Sally Dyck
March 1, 2019
Dear Friends and Members of the Northern Illinois Annual Conference:
The long-awaited Special Session of the General Conference of the United Methodist Church in St. Louis, Mo., has finished its work. The three days were very painful for people who attended or watched at home via livestream. The pain inflicted upon our LGBTQI members, friends and families was intense. But there was also pain in seeing the deep divide among the delegates. Likewise, many of us feel this doesn’t reflect the United Methodist Church’s doctrine on grace.
The One Church Plan, which was recommended by the Council of Bishops, and which would have given space for clergy, all churches (no matter what their stand on human sexuality), and annual conferences to be in ministry within their contexts was defeated by a very close margin: 438-384, 54 votes.
Instead, the Traditional Plan was approved. It not only affirms what is presently in the Book of Discipline about homosexuality but places far more restrictions and penalties on clergy performing weddings for LGBTQI members. It also tightens the existing restrictions on ordination based on sexual orientation.
The Traditional Plan was referred to the Judicial Council, the denomination’s top court, for a declaratory decision on its constitutionality (a number of the items have previously been declared unconstitutional). We will know more about what portions of the legislation will become church law after the Judicial Council meets April 23-26 in Evanston, Ill.
Because I supported the overwhelming recommendation of the Council of Bishops for the One Church Plan, I will unabashedly say that I am deeply disappointed that the One Church Plan did not prevail and the Traditional Plan did.
The hurt has been tremendous across the global church and certainly within our annual conference, beginning with our delegates and all the observers who attended. I’m deeply disappointed because it is so hurtful to the LGBTQI community, family and friends. I’m deeply disappointed because I believe we have just lost another generation who will not want to be a part of a church that seems so judgmental. I’m deeply disappointed because I think we will lose members and have difficulty reaching new people (not just LGBTQI people) due to the message this action sends.
To our LGBTQI members, friends, families, and welcoming congregations:
438 votes can’t take away God’s love for you! You are beloved children of God and of sacred worth. I love you and so many in our churches love you and will continue to care for you.
I know that not everyone is grieved by the actions of the General Conference. We are more diverse as an annual conference than many realize. I will be the bishop of the whole annual conference, including those of you who are relieved that the Traditional Plan has prevailed.
Northern Illinois Conference has in effect lived in the One Church Plan for some time. The reality is that most of our churches, especially the larger the congregation, are very diverse within the same wide spectrum of traditional and progressive that was found at General Conference. Somehow, we’ve learned to be church together and love one another in spite of our differences on human sexuality and many other things. Also, remember that these restrictions do not exclude laity from membership or leadership in the local church or beyond.
What happens next? There are so many unknowns. I would encourage us all to pause and take a breath. We need clarity of mind and spirit. We need to talk with each other about how we live into this new reality as an annual conference. We have opportunities to learn more and to talk with each other.
Please attend one of the following debriefing sessions across the conference:
- Saturday, March 30 at 9:30 a.m. – Orland Park: Faith UMC, 15101 S 80th Ave., Orland Park.
- Saturday, March 30 at 2 p.m. – Barrington UMC, 98 Algonquin Rd., Barrington.
- Sunday, March 31 at 3 p.m. – Oregon UMC, 200 S. 4th St., Oregon.
As I’ve said all along, the day after the Special Session of General Conference we will continue to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Yes, we will continue to grow in our love for our neighbor and God. We will feed the hungry and provide relief for those who have experienced a natural disaster. We will visit the sick and care for the dying. We will work to eliminate gun violence and to care for the immigrant with mercy and justice. We will love and care for our LGBTQI members, friends and families. We will be the church!
Thank you for your faithfulness in serving Christ and your community!
Holding you all in my prayers,
~Bishop Sally Dyck
Watch and download the Bishop’s video message to share with your congregations.
Download a pdf of the Bishop’s letter.