My Question About Bishop Coyner’s Plan

Bishop Coyner of the Indiana Conference has offered some very interesting ideas about one possible way forward in the UMC. The meat of the proposal is this: “What if we allowed each AC around the world to make its own decisions on all matters other than those restricted by the Constitution? What if we allowed each AC to be innovative and flexible on all matters other than our basic doctrine and theological task (as outlined elsewhere in the current Book of Discipline)?” He then asks a number of questions regarding the implications of giving annual conferences much more latitude to establish policies that are now determined by the General Conference.

Here’s my question: Doesn’t this simply shift the problem of division from the General Conference to individual annual conferences? Rather than seeing our entire denomination divide at the level of the General Conferences, won’t we see annual conferences split over the same issues?

I’d be interested in your feedback on this matter.

12 thoughts on “My Question About Bishop Coyner’s Plan

  1. Good point, David. I also wonder this: if we can’t pass legislation that would form the US into its own central conference, how could we possibly do something as fundamentally-altering as what Coyner has proposed (abolishing Jurisdictions, radically changing the episcopacy, etc)?

  2. I doubt this would solve anything. It is not as if this disagreement is one that is regionally resolved. Each AC would have ongoing conflicts.

  3. I sense that a confederation of Methodist conferences would be negative for the Methodist “brand” in public perception. Our society is increasingly skeptical of denominational bureaucracies, and such a proposal would keep the Methodist brand, but all allow many conferences to define the brand differently. In my region of the deep south, I consistently find myself defending the Methodist “brand” from people who assume that the actions of wayward clergy in other geographic areas define doctrine and practice here in south Alabama. As it is currently, I’m not certain that our denominational brand always helps us reach the unchurched in our communities, and I think that this proposed change would make our brand even more confusing to people, and our mission even more challenging.

  4. There are some Annual Conferences where there is a clear majority in favor of LGBT inclusion. There are some where there is not. I’m not sure there are clear majorities in favor of prosecution of those who perform same gender unions anywhere in the U.S. I guess one question is “who are we trying to reach?” We can’t ever “out Baptist the Baptists” or “out Pentecostal the Pentecostals.”

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