The final day of the Special Session of General Conference brought relief for some and grief for many others.
The Traditional Plan (except for Petitions 90041 and 90048) passed the plenary session with a final vote of 438 (53.28 percent) in favor and 384 (46.72 percent) against.
Although the Traditional Plan passed with majority support from the body, many petitions included in the original text of the plan were previously ruled unconstitutional by the church’s Judicial Council in Decision 1366.
On the previous day, a motion was made to request that the Judicial Council review all of the petitions which were passed through the legislative committee and declare whether these petitions were constitutional.
That Judicial Council decision, number 1377, found the following petitions in the Traditional Plan to be unconstitutional: 90033, 90034, 90035, 90037, 90038, 90039, 90040, and the second sentence of 90045.
The two disaffiliation petitions, Disaffiliation – Boyette (90059) and Disaffiliation – Taylor (90066), were also found to be unconstitutional.
During the plenary session, supporters of the Traditional Plan attempted to propose amendments to the plan in order to bring it back to a state of constitutionality but were only able to address a few petitions on the calendar in the time allotted.
A minority report was also given by the Rev. Tom Berlin in favor of the One Church Plan. In his plea to the delegates to pass the One Church Plan, Berlin called the Traditional Plan a “virus that will make the American church very sick.”
But The One Church Plan failed to pass once again by a vote of 374 (45.44 percent) to 449 (54.56 percent).
With the deadline for the end of General Conference rapidly approaching, the delegates voted to adopt and pass a minority report for one of the disaffiliation plans related to Disaffiliation – Boyette, as well as move to reject all other remaining petitions on the calendar.
The Rev. Timothy Bruster of Central Texas also made a motion to request a final declaratory decision by the Judicial Council on the constitutionality of the Traditional Plan. That request will be addressed at the next Judicial Council meeting April 23 – 25.
During the debate over the minority report, West Ohio Conference delegate Lyndsey Stearns brought before the delegation a statement of unity from more than 15,529 young people.
The statement said that not all young people are of the same mind regarding LGBTQ people, but have found commonality through worship, sharing each other’s stories and experiences, and seeing each other’s gifts and fruits for ministry.
A group of young Arkansans, ranging from high school to college age, traveled to St. Louis this week to watch the discussions happening at General Conference.
Grace Rogers, a senior at Hendrix College in Conway, organized the group of students to travel to St. Louis. She said she felt it was important because the church isn’t the church of tomorrow for youth; it’s the church of today.
“I read a tweet this morning that said ‘I guess there will be a lot of ex-Methodists after today’ but I don’t think that’s true,” Rogers said. “I think we’re sticking around. We’re here because we love this church and this faith, and we’re going to stick around and fight until it loves all of us just as equally.”
Other students came to General Conference because they grew up in the church and wanted to know which direction the denomination was choosing to move toward in the future.
“Coming to this General Conference, I was already so passionate about this topic,” said Gracie Rymel, a junior at the University of Arkansas. “As young people, we want to know that there will be a place for everyone in the church. And we will not quit fighting for the unity of the church.”
For Rymel, watching the debates and protests happening on the floor of the delegation has not been an easy thing to do. But she said despite all of this, she still has hope for the future of the church.
“It’s been really difficult to see these decisions being made that I view as dividing us. I believe that we are all children of God, regardless of your sexual orientation. I pray that we can come together through all of this and stay unified as one.”