Second in a series on local reactions to the Traditional Plan approved last week by the Methodist General Conference
In his first Sunday sermon after the Methodist Church’s special General Conference last week voted to move backwards on LGBT equality and inclusion by adopting the anti-LGBT Traditional Plan, the Rev. Eric Folkerth told his congregation had the Traditional Plan been in place earlier, he wouldn’t be standing before them.
Folkerth is pastor at The Woods United Methodist Church in southwest Dallas County.
At the special General Conference, The Methodist Church voted down the One Church Plan, which would have permitted each congregation to decide for themselves whether to ordain gays and lesbians and whether to perform same-sex weddings, in favor of the Traditional Plan, which continues the ban on LGBT clergy and same-sex weddings and adds additional penalties for ignoring those prohibitions.
Folkerth said the idea of imposing one point of view goes against the core of Methodist ideology. He quoted founder John Wesley: “Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may. Herein all the children of God may unite, notwithstanding these smaller differences. These remaining as they are, they may forward one another in love and in good works.”
Then Folkerth paraphrased and said, “We don’t all have to think alike. We don’t all have to act alike.”
That’s why the One Church Plan would not have forced congregations to perform same-sex marriages and didn’t require the various dioceses to ordain LGBT clergy. The plan would have allowed each church to decide and would have respected each church’s decisions on the issues.
“It’s clear to me we have failed,” Folkerth said, referring to efforts to save the American church in its current format. He added that he expects to see a broad-based rebellion against the Traditional Plan.
He noted that various churches are considering a number of options moving forward, including the possibility of withholding apportionments, or payments to the diocese and the denomination. Folkerth said he hopes that going into the upcoming regular General Conference, Methodists will find a way to protect the American church, where about 65 to 70 percent supported the One Church Plan. That path failed in the special conference because the 30 percent of American churches opposing it teamed up with the 80 percent of overseas churches opposing it.
To show it’s opposition to the Traditional Plan, the sign outside Folkerth’s church, The Woods UMC, read simply, “ALL.”
“I feel this decision has stained the Methodist Church,” Folkerth said. And when a member of his congregation said, “I feel like my church has been stolen,”
he responded, “It has.”
— David Taffet