Reflections on GC2019: Where Was the Bible?

Posted: 2019/03/09 in Uncategorized

A special General Conference held in St Louis 23-26 February 2019, met to decide what to do with the report from the Commission on a Way Forward, which described several plans to deal with how the UMC might move forward amidst the differences among its membership on whether to ordain LGBTQIA persons and perform same-gender weddings. In the end it would have to decide what to do with the The Discipline‘s language asserting the “incompatibility of homosexuality with Christian teaching.”  By a vote of 57% the so-called Traditional Plan was accepted, a plan which retains the UMC’s ban on homosexual clergy and same-gender marriage and adds rigor to the enforcement of these bans.

Did I miss something . . . something critically important to the arguments, way-forward plans, and decisions made at GC2019?  I read through the plans (One-Church, Traditional, and Connectional Conference), watched much of the live stream from St. Louis, listened to lots of speeches, and heard how the One-Church Plan allows for our expression through our polity of Christ’s love for all, while the Traditional Plan upholds biblical truth and authority.  Somehow, I missed the discussions/debates over the fundamental issues around our understanding of what the Bible says related to the questions GC2019 met to answer.  I do not remember hearing anything about how the UMC interprets scripture.  I realize that diversity within the UMC prevents our settling on a consensus about we interpret scripture, both in general and specific.  Even so, I have not seen anything in documentation to provide the detailed exegesis upon which to base the various plans and positions, especially vis-a-vis LGBTQIA and marriage.  At the risk of sounding naive, do we not need to do careful, critical, and comprehensive exegesis of all relevant biblical material?  How can we appeal to the Bible’s revelation and authority without such a foundation?

For example, I heard a number of supporters of the Traditional Plan cite Jesus’ teaching that marriage is a coupling of a man and a woman but I have yet to hear their, or the plan’s authors’, exegesis to support this claim.  In the places where Jesus quotes Genesis regarding marriage, one may use the cotext of those quotes to argue that Jesus is not concerned about whether marriage involves a man and woman since its composition is assumed within his tradition and culture, but about the strength of the marriage covenant and its longevity, not to be undone by easy divorce. In other words, Jesus cites marriage as involving a man and woman because there was no other conceptualization of its composition, and what he is truly concerned about is treating the marriage relationship as something a man can void on a whim.

My big question then is this:  Did anyone involved in the plans that were before GC2019 do the necessary exegetical work to provide defensible biblical foundations for their plans, or did the Commission on a Way Forward, Traditional Plan authors, and GC2019 move forward without having established such a foundation?

If I missed this step, then I apologize for wasting your time having read this. . .

Comments are closed.