Sussex County Methodist Churches React to Adoption of the Traditional Plan
""There were a number of plans that were submitted to the general council this year. The two that were the leading options were the Traditional Plan, which has been adopted and the One Church Plan, which was voted down," says Reverand Todd Shultz, Associate Pastor at Epworth United Methodist Church in Rehoboth Beach.
Senior Pastor Vicky Starnes says, "We were hoping that we could change our rules, which are so out of date, that we could begin to do gay marriages and that we could ordain gays and lesbians."
Starnes says that Epworth wanted to see those changes made at the United Methodist General Conference on Tuesday but delegates instead passed the Traditional plan. "It will mean a whole lot of pastors having to claim that they're not LGBT, bishops having to sign rules they've never had to sign before, it's just really discouraging and restrictive," she says.
Epworth was instead hoping that the One Church Plan would be adopted, a plan that Shultz says would've given churches the flexibility to express themselves in different ways. "A traditional church could've stayed with traditional theology and progressive churches could've gone with a more progressive theology," he says.
Delagates adopted the Traditional plan in a 438 to 384 vote. Shultz adds that the One Church Plan may have been adopted if the vote was only at a national level. "Two-thirds in favor and one-third against in the United States. With the global cultures weighing in on this, it was a 55/45 split in favor of the Traditional Plan," he explains.
At Conley's United Methodist Church in Lewes, Pastor Bill Davis spoke about Tuesday's conference results in Sunday's service. He says that this church is moderate. There are people here to support each side.
"I have people on both sides and I try to be sensitive to that and make them all feel welcome and let them know that what unites us is greater than what divides us," says Davis.
The new rules don't take effect until 2020 and right now neither Epworth nor Conley's see any major changes to be made.
"What it means for our church is absolutely nothing at all. We'll continue doing what we're doing," says Davis.
"Epworth is still going to be Epworth. We're not going to change who we welcome, we welcome everyone," says Starnes.
Shultz adds that their governing board met this week to start planning on how to proceed. He says they'll continue to add details to this plan as they learn more about the outcome of the general conference.
Starnes adds that Epworth does however hope for a national coalition of churches to form and operate similarly to the Western Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church.