For several decades, the UMC has been at an impasse when it comes to the issue of full inclusion of LGBTQ persons in the life of our church. Though we are of one body, the Body of Christ, we are clearly not of one voice on this subject. Conservative, progressive, and moderate voices all find a home within our denomination partly because we do share so much in common. On the issues of same-sex unions and the ordination of LGBTQ persons, we find it harder and harder to find common ground.
At the 2016 General Conference, the Commission on a Way Forward was created to help the Council of Bishops develop a path that would help us move forward on these issues, all while holding fast to our greater mission to make disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world (the mission statement of the UMC). The Commission on a Way Forward developed three models for the future of the UMC:
THE ONE CHURCH PLAN
(Endorsed by Council of Bishops)
- Removes the restrictive language from the Book of Discipline
- Does not require any annual conference, bishop, congregation, or pastor to act contrary to their convictions
- Maintains the current leadership structure of the denomination as one body
- Provides conferences, churches, and pastors flexibility while retaining the connectional nature of the UMC
- Permits central conferences (Africa) to retain disciplinary authority to adapt the Book of Discipline and continue to include traditional language and values
THE TRADITIONAL PLAN
- Strengthens the current language of the Book of Discipline
- Streamlines the process for violations of the Book of Discipline
- Maintains the structure of the UMC as it currently exists
- Continues the relationships between the church and all general agencies and commissions
THE CONNECTIONAL CONFERENCE PLAN
- Allows conferences to choose between three Connectional Conferences (Traditionalist, Progressive, or Variety of Approaches)
- Each Connectional Conference would have its own Book of Discipline
- Each Connectional Conference would have its own College of Bishops
- Central Conferences may become their own Connectional Conference
- Redefined Council of Bishops focused on ecumenical relationships and shared learning
- Would require significant amendments to the Constitution (requires 2/3 majority of General Conference plus 2/3 affirmative vote of aggregate members of annual conferences)
The Council of Bishops has overwhelmingly endorsed the “One Church” model and will be recommending that model for the special 2019 General Conference to be held next February. The General Conference is the highest legislative body of the UMC. It’s the only body that speaks for our denomination.
In the meantime, I’d like for you to consider watching two videos, from the Rev. Tom Berlin, which I find to be extremely helpful resources to help frame the discussion. The first video is approximately 20 minutes long; the second, from this year’s Annual Conference, is approximately an hour.
Grace and peace,