I Was Wrong

In the years leading up the 2019 General Conference of the UMC, I had been a strong supporter of the “One Church Plan.” That proposal was intended to keep United Methodism from fracturing over the issue of human sexuality. It would have empowered local churches, conferences, and clergy to decide about LGBTQ+ ordination and same-sex marriage. I liked it because it respected our theological differences while allowing for individual/local differences. It provided a good working definition for the beloved United Methodist term, “pluralism.”

Now, five years later and following the 2024 General Conference, I see just how misguided I was.

Pluralism works when people respect each other. It’s impossible when one group vehemently thinks it’s right and is willing to do questionable things in order to prove its rightness and achieve its goals. How could there have ever been any relationship with those who disaffiliate from their denomination, and then try to influence the General Conference of that denomination after they’ve already left?

My bad, and my naivete. I had forgotten an immutable religious law: You can’t argue with a fundamentalist and expect to get anywhere.

And if I was wrong about this in the religious world, then my too-optimistic view of humanity in areas beyond the church is wrong as well. A local paper with a conservative bent features a syndicated columnist whom my wife thinks must be AI generated. Her articles are often skewed by polarizing generalities. Conservatives uphold God, the church, family values, and what they feel is a patriotic view of American history. Liberals are godless, Marxist, promote secular humanism, and defame America by advocating CRT and DEI.

Religiously or societally, extremes make the headlines and drive the posts. All or nothing, good or evil: no thinking required, no critical questions asked. Such divisive extremism brings out the Neanderthal in us…

…and Neanderthals are extinct. If we are to avoid their fate, we must be extremist in an inclusive way. Dr. King famously said that we should be extremists for love and justice. This provides a common ground where we work together, regardless of our differences. Within the kingdom, those differences don’t divide but complement. And some may even be exposed as prejudice masquerading as virtue, so that repentance and healing take place.

Good for the fruit of our latest General Conference, and the decades-long hard work behind it. And good for the vision of a United Methodist church led by inclusive extremists. Its future is promising, and I’m not wrong about that.

8 thoughts on “I Was Wrong”

  1. Greg,
    I, too, thought that “One Church Plan” would be a resolution. However, we all know now that it didn’t even come to the floor. In looking back, the regionalization had to be done first – to respect the culture and position of Methodists in Africa so that they would not experience harm. Then, the US delegates had to take the “log out of their eyes” to see how they were doing harm to their American LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters. Some were not ready to do that so they have disaffiliated. Let us pray that now we will live up to our social principle of LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Your writings and leadership helped plant the seed for change!

  2. Thanks Greg, from a long time friend and fan….having been there, I can tell you that you exactly on point…..and to be even more direct, we, asa denomination, are now able to get on with Mission and Ministry that affirms all…grateful for you and your wisdom throughout all these years!


Leave a Comment