Arnold & Watson: 7 modest proposals

David Watson writes about seven “modest proposals” for a way forward in the United Methodist Church. He and Bill Arnold assembled these ideas with the goal of shoring up our fraying polity. They provide an open door for congregations that wish to leave the denomination along with tighter accountability in some places where it has proved elusive in recent years. Watson argues that one virtue of their proposals is that they do not require constitutional amendments to pass.

Of course, they do require General Conference action.

Watson invites conversation and critique at his blog.

Local option already here?

In a story from the Get Religion blog on the New York Times’ coverage of the Frank Schaefer refrocking, this paragraph jumped out at me:

Now, anyone who knows anything about United Methodist polity knows that it is dominated by what has — literally for decades — been a functional “local option” policy. There is no one United Methodist Church; there are several radically different bodies, with the content of the faith depending on where in the United States (and the world) one happens to live.

It reminds me of the “A Way Forward” Proposal.

The story also had a link to this interesting story about the 7 Churches of United Methodism.

Why I prefer Good News to the IRD

These two reactions to the refrocking of Frank Schaefer highlight my distaste for the rhetoric of the IRD compared to the measured tone of Good News.

The IRD response.

The Good News response.

In the name of rounding all the bases, here is the Reconciling Ministries Network response.

And in case you have not heard, Schaefer has been appointed to a ministry in the Cal-Pac Annual Conference.


The refrocking

I’ll leave to others the deep analysis of the “refrocking” of Frank Schaefer.

It does appear to me that Judicial Council Decision 240 rules out the kind of penalty imposed on him. Here is the paragraph that seems most relevant to me:

Thus the Trial Court had the power to impose one of three alternate penalties, each of different severity. It is a well established rule that statutes prescribing penalties are to be strictly construed. When punishment is imposed under one of the alternative procedures, that particular punishment should be applied justly without added penalty or onerous condition borrowed from the other alternatives which were not invoked.

It seems as well that the trial court should have known about Decision 240 when it devised its penalty the first time. It appears that the 30-day suspension – whatever its motivation — was an error if the court felt he deserved to be defrocked.

I’ll be curious to see if there is another line of argument that emerges in an appeal or among those who defend the original penalty.