Petition 60994

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Plan of Separation - Commission on Separation (60994-CO-NonDis-!-G)

By enacting this legislation, the General Conference hereby establishes a Commission on Separation.

Purpose—This commission shall bring to a special called session of the General Conference in 2018 a plan of separation that would ultimately end The United Methodist Church and replace it with either two or three new entities. These entities would include:

1) An entity that preserves the church’s current teaching on marriage and sexuality, defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and declining to perform same-sex weddings or ordaining persons engaging in same-sex or non-marital sexual relations.

2) An entity that changes the church’s current teaching on marriage and sexuality to broaden the definition of marriage and remove the prohibitions on same-sex weddings and the ordination of persons engaging in same-sex relations, promoting the affirmation and equal regard for same-sex relationships.

3) An entity that allows for clergy, congregations, and annual conferences to determine for themselves what their positions and standards will be regarding marriage, sexuality, and ordination, believing that this issue is a non-essential matter about which United Methodists can practice differently and still be part of the same denomination.

The inclusion of the first entity in the plan of separation is required. Entities 2 and 3 may be combined or redefined to accommodate the best wisdom of the commission.

Membership—the commission shall consist of twenty-four (24) members nominated and elected by the General Conference at the 2016 session. Eight members shall be elected to represent each of the three viewpoints above, and in accepting nomination for their particular category shall certify that they agree with the viewpoint expressed. Of the eight in each category, one shall be a U.S. bishop, two shall be U.S. clergy, two shall be U.S. laity, one shall be a bishop from a central conference, one shall be clergy from a central conference, and one shall be laity from a central conference. Nominations shall be made by written submission to the secretary for each category during the 24 hours immediately following the adoption of this legislation and balloting shall take place at a subsequent session, after the nominees have been published in the Daily Christian Advocate. The whole conference shall vote for all members of the commission, and balloting shall continue until the requisite persons have received a majority vote (50 percent plus one, excluding abstentions).

The commission shall consult with all the general boards and agencies in developing the plan of separation, working particularly closely with the General Council on Finance and Administration and the General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits. The commission may engage other expert legal and financial advisors to assist in their task.

Principles—the following principles shall guide the commission in its work:

1. Annual conference and local church decisions about which new entity to affiliate with shall be made by majority vote after a period of discernment, but with a deadline for action. If three or more new entities are given as options for affiliation, a plurality vote shall be sufficient. Annual conferences or local churches who want to switch affiliation after the deadline shall require a 2/3 vote for such action.

2. The process of separation shall revolve around annual conferences making the initial decision on which entity to affiliate with, followed by decisions made by local churches who dissent from their annual conference’s decision or who are closely divided on the question.

3. Annual conferences whose affiliation vote is less than 75 percent for the chosen affiliation shall be required to divide their assets and liabilities proportionally with those who affiliate with a different entity, based on the number of formerly United Methodist professing members affiliating with each entity, after time is given for such affiliation to take place,.

4. Jurisdictional and General Church assets and liabilities shall be allocated among the new entities based on the number of formerly United Methodist professing members affiliating with each entity, after time is given for such affiliation to take place.

5. Allocation of assets and liabilities at all levels shall be accomplished through negotiation, including mediation if necessary, with the parties involved paying the mediation costs.

6. All disputes over implementation of the plan, including irresolvable allocation issues, shall be decided by the Judicial Council as final arbiter. As long as the plan’s implementation follows the processes outlined in the plan, disputes over implementation shall not be appealed to a secular court.

7. The commission shall consider the possibility that the functions of the General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits, the Publishing House, and the United Methodist Committee on Relief could be constituted as independent agencies serving some or all of the new entities.

8. The existing structure and processes of The United Methodist Church would continue to function while affiliation decisions are being made, until a set implementation date that would signal the changeover to the structures and processes of the new entities.

9. All parties and levels in the church structure shall conduct themselves with Christian love and respect toward those with whom they disagree, seeking an amicable and generous parting where that parting is necessary.

Rationale

There is a principled and conscientious disagreement over the church’s position on same-sex marriage and ordination of active homosexuals as clergy that is not able to be resolved through compromise. Separation would free the church from this controversy, allowing all branches of the church to move forward in ministry as . . .

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