Sleepless in St. Louis

Nobody won this one. For though the One Church Plan was defeated and the Traditional Plan was adopted, the reality is that the Church itself had a terrible day here in St. Louis as the United Methodist General Conference concluded its special session.

It’s not just that we failed to enact the kind of amendments that were needed to make the Traditional Plan, as well as the Gracious Exit provisions, truly workable and meet church constitutional muster. It’s because the reason for that was the sheer duplicity and manipulative maneuverings of those who opposed the plan and were determined to eviscerate it if they couldn’t outright defeat it.

Every dirty political trick one might think of came out of the playbook today, from spurious amendments, non-stop points of order, emotionally charged addresses, pretending to speak for a motion while actually talking against it, gratuitous insults at evangelical leaders (and even some of the bishops whom they thought leaned in that direction), and perfectly timed speeches designed to fill up the three-minute limit and help “run out the clock.” And that doesn’t even count the loud and raucous demonstrations in the gallery and lobby that ended up with a double line of police sealing the arena and taking the delegates out a different way.

Indeed, those opposing the Traditional Plan and Gracious Exit provisions went so far as to accuse the African delegates of allowing their votes to be bought by promises of support from the evangelicals, demanding the ethics committee investigate that charge (in the three remaining hours of the conference) purely on the basis of “rumors” they had heard.

And the result was that though the media may report that United Methodists doubled down on our position on human sexuality, five days and three million dollars later, we’re actually just about the same place we were when we started the meeting. Only now those who were hoping for a change in the progressive direction have been wounded again and before we even adjourned, leaders in the Western Jurisdiction were given the platform to announce that they are going to continue to ignore our rules and defy our Discipline.

I put a lot of the blame on our bishops, for it was their decision to pull the Traditional Plan out of the mix being considered by the Way Forward Commission, only reluctantly agreeing to put it back in at the last moment at the insistence of the African episcopal leaders and a few others. For had the Traditional Plan, as well as the Gracious Exit provisions that the Commission originally envisioned, been given the same treatment and careful vetting by the Commission they would no doubt have emerged with far fewer, if any, constitutional hurdles.

Likewise, the much ballyhooed hype concerning the endorsement of the One Church Plan by 2/3rds of our bishops would perhaps have more meaning if the Council of Bishops was itself more representative. For when five bishops serve a region of less than 340,000 members, and bishops in Africa serve two to three times that many by themselves we obviously may have a bit of imbalance in that group.

In the end what makes me sad, however, is that while I still love the denomination I’ve tried to serve for four decades, I no longer have much confidence in The United Methodist Church and what is supposed to be our sacred connection. It’s a little like the character Doc Holladay says in the classic Western film Tombstone.  Confronted by an obvious lie and obfuscation on his part, Holladay simply shrugs and replies, “It appears that there is no end to my hypocrisy.”

And so it would appear for many within The United Methodist Church tonight as well.  To be certain, there is indeed some inherent hypocrisy in talking about one kind of sexual sin and not others.  But Methodists Behaving Badly by turning “holy conferencing” into a holy mess must surely count as such as well.







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15 Responses to Sleepless in St. Louis

  1. Ron Floyd says:

    Sad. The UMC is following the same slippery path as secular interests in this country. We should be better and I find it ironic that almost at the same time the US Senate refused to strengthen the rights of newly born children UMC liberals are using devious tricks to continue to attack the UMC Book of Discipline and undermine the wishes of the world wide church.

  2. Arthur Dan Gleckler says:

    Brother Chappell, you seem to see the problem with the progressives, and find it easy to enumerate their misbehavior in the closing moments. You also seem to feel they’ve been the problem all along. I would prefer your focusing on the problem we ALL have, so we may move forward in forgiveness and an open heart and mind. Arthur Dan Gleckler

  3. Maggie says:

    Thank you.

  4. bhager28 says:

    Thx for echoing the feeling deep inside my soul. I love the UMC am so grateful for the opportunity it has given me over the last 40 years, but the vitriol spilled out of the last few days has left me feeling that maybe we have won the battle, but lost the war.

    Possibly a few days might bring renewed hope for the church that we love and I will be able to rekindle the flame we shared on the Holy hill in seminary of reforming and revitalizing the UM, but at this moment I struggle to “find a way forward.”
    But God is still God and miracles do happen, so I will go back to my congregation and share with the good news that Jesus is Lord and I am not.
    Thanks for your faithfulness.

  5. Dale Sigler says:

    I watched three days and Sunday and Monday caused me some concer, especially the Modified Traditional Plan having to go to a standing committee. I thought Rev. Harris didd an excellent job on Monday and the two bishops did terrible. I have folliwed all of this for years, since GC16, and have been more and more disappointed. But Tuesday I had to get up and leave the livestream to keep my temper in check. My wife and I are so disappointed that we have started disconnecting and will be searching for a Wesleyan church other than UMC. And sadly, the UMC isn’t alone in failing to be holy. I am reminded of Moses’ admonition to Israel that they need to be careful dor when they became prosperous they would turn away from the Lord. They did, and so has the church in the US and all of Western society.

  6. Randy Hageman says:

    Chap, I can’t imagine the pain and hurt you and others felt who were standing up for Biblical authority. It’s gut-wrenching! Thank you for keeping the faith and fighting the good fight. I continue praying for you, our delegation, and our church.

  7. John Larry Smith says:

    Thank you for your faithful witness and speaking the reality of the actions as you observed them. You spoke for me and many more. God bless you.

  8. WE Preston says:

    God bless you Chap. Another defeat for those seeking to unhook the Church from biblical authority, by any means necessary. One can only imagine what the “progressives” would say if anyone but them had attacked the integrity of the Africans. Of course they won’t quit. But God is good, and will not fail.

  9. Cortney Colville says:

    Many many thanks for the unrelenting hard work on behalf of the governing doctrine.
    Also thank you for this follow up information.

    I tuned in to the live feed for the last few hours yesterday and truly felt physically, emotionally and most of all spiritually drained. A few church friends I spoke with said they felt the same as they watched and listened. We were praying while watching to be sure. I say all of this to try to help demonstrate our gratefulness for your and our church representative’s steadfastness in Love!

    I was reminded of the Bible’s warning that right will be wrong and wrong will be right as I experienced this. Also, I heard a Pastor proclaim that it is better to be divided in truth than united in falsehood and idolatry of one’s own desires, choices and misrepresentations.

    God Speed,
    Grateful for you all,

    God sees that all are accepted and loved in our United Methodist Church, in accordance to His word the Bible.

  10. easttexascossack says:

    Firstly: After watching Monday and Tuesday it became fairly clear that ONLY US delegates were in open favor of the One Church Plan. It really made the US seem conceited and self centered to push our open ‘western liberalism’ out to the rest of the world of the Methodist church or assume the ‘15,000’ youth that purportedly signed some petition in support was a representation of the youth in the REST OF THE WORLD. Repetitively saying that you studied the book of Galatians at Oxford in your point of order isn’t going to resonate with people in the Far East or Africa, or even the Rio conference. The disdain that the supporting US delegates had in the aforementioned ‘points of order turned diatribe’ against their foreign counter parts supporting the traditional plan was open and visible to anyone watching this week. If it passed Africa, Russia, maybe some of the Scandinavian countries and a few congregations in the Philippines would walk away, leaving the US by itself. Should we cut off our arms, legs, and nose to teach our face a lesson on tolerance and acceptance? I hope some of the US delegates who voted for the traditional plan did so in sympathy and support for our foreign brothers and sisters who would have gone through far worse than what the LGBT crowd would have with the traditional plan, if the One Church Plan passed. Another note is that 99% of US delegates that spoke at the podiums all had smart or cellular phones or laptops to aid them in their speeches. The foreign delegates through lifestyle choice, cultural, or financial reasons did not, or did not have a global enabled device. Sergei Kim (ya russiky) repeatedly had to come to the podium multiple times to point out the rules violations of those in favor of the One Church Plan, and nothing was done. Was it veiled racism by the LGBT crowd that spawned the ‘bribery’ claim towards the end when they realized the votes weren’t there? Who knows, was anything done towards that by the ethics committee? As a millennial I am embarrassed that a group of my peers got up in unison at one point to stand by the microphone in support of pushing our western ideas down the throats of the rest of the world with no respect to the other cultures, races, and heritage of Methodists world wide. We are tolerant of it here but can you imagine what would happen to the Methodist churches in countries that don’t tolerate it if that passed? China? Russia? African nations? People from the African delegation even spoke to this point that it would not be accepted abroad if passed. If we cannot even acknowledge our cultural differences how can we acknowledge ones on sexual behavior?

    Which brings me to my second point. The slippery slope fallacy is not actually a fallacy at all
    in this debate. I have been to the ends of the internet and back and read and witnessed things I care not to mention. I am aware that there are tensions among the Tran-sexual/A-sexual crowd against the LGB crowd merely because they are privileged in being cis-gendered in knowing what they are. Don’t believe me? Do some digging into Imgur/Snapchat and other limited hangout places. Even the tabloid HuffPo acknowledges this: I had to refresh my memory on what LGBTQIA meant as there are already multiple variants of that acronym that I cannot keep straight. Anyone from the 80’s and 90’s or earlier remembers that it was only L and G at first, then B was added, then T, Q I A and now P. Psychologists have a blanketed term for it now as gender dysphoria. Were ANY of the Bishops at the conference aware of the extra letters, or even what they stand for? Would the extra letters be added and tolerated if the One Church Plan passed? How granular would the church have gone to define what it was legally accepting if the One Church Plan passed in the rule book? Defining ONLY LGBT would have opened a worm hole of legal action on who could and couldn’t join the church. (P)olyamory is becoming popular as well. The runs an article once a week on how some throuple or sister-wife couple are living happily in Austin, Tx or on the West Coast and how their marriage is saved. The P can also mean pansexual, someone believing they are multiple genders and none at the same time, regardless of their chromosome or anatomy. Would the church allow that? What about Bi? Which actually, like P, deals not with being attracted to one single gender type but the actual action of making love to all genders or being attracted to them, but not acting. How would that fit for a pastor, being polyamorous and bi? Or a pastor who does not self identify as any gender (now legal in some states) and uses a pronoun such as Ze, Mx or pronounless? How would that work out in the church directory? If you are still in doubt and think I am just “piling on” to the slippery slope fallacy my self, do a quick google search. There are dozens of riders looking to attach themselves to the LGBT acronym, many you should not search for with filters off. Are these merely sexual fetishes looking for a voice, lifestyle choices, social constructs, or born this way genetic configurations? And who is the UMC to define or label these if we accept a handful of them in? The simple answer is to point to scripture and take the set in stone approach, hetero man and hetero woman. It isn’t tolerant, it isn’t progressive, nor is it inclusive, but it is plain text in the bible. It will offend and drive people away from the church but the UMC CANNOT define and accept everything blowing in the wind of this era, much like a government cannot accommodate someone who wants to bequeath his fortune to pet dog or to a tree in a park, or go legally by Mx on their drivers license. There are too many personal choices to accept them all. The UMC is a private organization that you voluntarily commit yourself to, it is not bound in its bylaws to accept as clergy or laity persons that do not fit the biblical defined criteria that it has adopted this week.

    Lastly, I am not judging others on their age or expected lifespan, but many of you will not see this in the rest of your lifetime. Many of us millennials and our children will, including the ones who wore the rainbow sashes to the conference. Some of them may even detest these people I am about to describe as much as they detested the Traditional Plan and could even suddenly become allies to the traditioanl UMC in the near future to stop the next coming. I am talking about Transhumanists. If you aren’t familiar with the term or the movement, it is people who are willingly injecting themselves with prototype nano-robots, RFID style chips with personal data or payment devices, augmented reality devices, or optical hardware (think contact lenses capable of project Google Glasses data to your retina). Many of these technologies are in their infancy but there is a strong movement of technocratic people who have resigned themselves to technology being their saving grace in life, and it is a religion. Their hope is technology can augment and supplement the human body and rid us of our differences in ability, some even going as far as implants mentioned before (do a google search and you will find many examples). The willingness of these people joining the Methodist church or becoming pastors is small TODAY, but may not be tomorrow. The youth of today can rarely be found without a phone or electronic device in their hand and that habit is moving at a quickening pace as information exchange and acquisition are becoming addicting. Many have already abrogated responsibility of their mind and conscious over to technology in other forms but that is another discussion. Will the church allow people implanted with items such as this : ? What if these items are no longer voluntary and become the modus operandi for making payments in the future? As someone who works in software, AI and machine learning are growing at rapid paces in all applications such as reading data, performing workflows, or making decisions that humans used to make. Pair this with the accessibility of today’s robotics and someone could make a AI robotic pastor and cover it with a life like face and clothes. Scriptures and sermons could be programmed in too. Would the church accept this? What about sermons given via hologram to remote locations? Or someone who is married to an AI voiced, animatronic Real Doll (NSFW if you are searching for what this is) and wants to join the church, or even marry someone to their doll? You may be shaking your head or crossing your arms reading this but the rate of technological expansion is hyperbolic today compared to 20 years ago, and working prototypes already exist in beta form. What about the two babies from China who had their CRSPR Genes modified? As nootropics and gene editing (your data is being harvested via companies like 23andMe, owned by Sergey Brin’s wife…) technology advances and human irregularities are removed before birth and the uber mench and materialist perfected man is put into production, where will the church stand on those? What will we do when genetic editing through Big Data and nanobots creates unrecognizable humans with higher capabilities than us poor sods today, or even have extra limbs? They are based on a creation of God and may have had or have XX/XY chromosomes or no chromosomes at all, what will the church rule on these people? This robotic and transhumanist movement story is to point out that there are changing philosophies and human desires that come with each new era and century and not just speculation from R.A Heinlen novels. Humans, man, woman; Will do whatever they feel like doing to their bodies or to other humans, and still try to call themselves mankind or normalize their actions in their head. The question to all of this is; Does the United Methodist Church want to undertake the gargantuan task of justifying in biblical context the inclusion of these people as clergy or laity or even church members as long as it puts a body in a pew or pays the electricity? Or does it want to remain a boulder in a river of change in its definition and interpretation of marriage and God’s intentions?

    • Audrey Moen says:

      WOW! Leaves us with alot to think about. I am an 80 year old and have been following this issue for several years, is downright scary. Believe the time has come and we need to stand up and be counted. God is watching, so we need to be careful and be faithful to Him. Praise God.

  11. Bluford Weikel says:

    I want to thank the writer of the previous post for his insights though as a senior adult I cannot fully comprehend all he or she was saying. But this I know, Jesus is Truth and we must love the truth or we will be deceived. This is so evident in both society and church today. Thank you Chap for your inciteful article. I am both sad and hopeful for the UMC. May God have mercy on us all.

  12. William Peter Penczak says:

    I don’t agree with the vote, and am saddened by the politics you described. But you are my pastor, and you’ve done a remarkable job of healing a previously hurt congregation. I hope this doesn’t discourage you from doing all the great things you do to inspire and challenge your congregation to live their lives as Christ taught us.

  13. Carla Oakes Clark says:

    Jesus said “Love God and love thy neighbor as thyself.”
    There was nothing loving or Christ-like in what the United Methodist Church did this week.
    You pandered to peoples’ ignorance, and fear, and prejudices.
    I want to know how you sleep at night?
    Judas Iscariot got 30 pieces of silver for his betrayal of Christ….

    What did you get for yours?

    • Carla,
      The General Conference was indeed a tough time for everyone, no matter which side they might have been on. But despite the vitriol of some, there were many from all persuasions who were acting in good faith, trying to exemplify both grace and truth. I’m sorry you did not see that in what came through on the floor or through the stream. As the title of the blog piece suggested,it was indeed hard to sleep knowing that so many across the spectrum were hurting, and that the church which we all love is in such a difficult place. But my hope remains that even if we do not all think alike, as John Wesley once said, we may still love alike.

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