A Way Forward Plans
COMMISSION ON A WAY FORWARD REPORT TO THE GENERAL CONFERENCE
MISSION, VISION and SCOPE
The Commission will bring together persons deeply committed to the future(s) of The United Methodist Church, with an openness to developing new relationships with each other and exploring the potential future(s) of our denomination in light of General Conference and subsequent annual, jurisdictional and central conference actions. We have a profound hope and confidence in the Triune God, and yet we acknowledge that we do this work in a climate of skepticism and distrust, from a human point of view. We are a connection, and we admit that our communion is strained; yet much transformative mission across our world is the fruit of our collaboration. The matters of human sexuality and unity are the presenting issues for a deeper conversation that surfaces different ways of interpreting Scripture and theological tradition. The work is meant to inform deliberation across the whole church and to help the Council of Bishops in their service to the next General Conference in finding a way forward.
The Commission will design a way for being church that maximizes the presence of a United Methodist witness in as many places in the world as possible, that allows for as much contextual differentiation as possible, and that balances an approach to different theological understandings of human sexuality with a desire for as much unity as possible. This unity will not be grounded in our conceptions of human sexuality, but in our affirmation of the Triune God who calls us to be a grace-filled and holy people in the Wesleyan tradition.
We should be open to new ways of embodying unity that move us beyond where we are in the present impasse and cycle of action and reaction around ministry and human sexuality. Therefore, we should consider new ways of being in relationship across cultures and jurisdictions, in understandings of episcopacy, in contextual definitions of autonomy for annual conferences, and in the design and purpose of the apportionment. In reflection on the two matters of unity and human sexuality, we will fulfill our directive by considering “new forms and structures” of relationship and through the “complete examination and possible revision” of relevant paragraphs in the Book of Discipline. We will give consideration to greater freedom and flexibility to a future United Methodist Church that will redefine our present connectionality, which is showing signs of brokenness. If we ignore this work, fracturing will occur in more haphazard and even self-interested ways across the church. If we do this work only to address our preferences and self-interest, we will fail to place our complete trust in God’s steadfast love and faithfulness. If we do this work with complete surrender to God’s unlimited imagination and kingdom purposes, we will be blessed beyond our limited human imagination. God remains God; God is with us; God will never let us go. To God be the glory!
THE THREE PLANS
THE ONE CHURCH PLAN
The One Church Plan gives churches the room they need to maximize the presence of a United Methodist witness in as many places in the world as possible. Changes to the adaptable paragraphs in The Book of Discipline apply only to the Jurisdictional Conferences in the United States. Central conferences, through the work of the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters, will have the authority to retain the present language regarding chargeable offenses of clergy and questions of ordination related to homosexuality found in The Book of Discipline (2016) or adopt wording in these paragraphs that best serves their missional contexts.
THE CONNECTIONAL CONFERENCE PLAN
The Connectional Conference Plan reflects a unified core that includes shared doctrine and services. This plan creates three values-based connectional conferences that have distinctive definitions of accountability, contextualization and justice. Current central conferences have the choice of becoming their own connectional conference (up to five additional connectional conferences) or joining one of the three values-based connectional conferences. A redefined Council of Bishops focuses on ecumenical relationships and shared learning. Episcopal oversight, accountability, elections, assignments and funding occur within the College of Bishops of each connectional conference.
THE TRADITIONALIST PLAN
The request to include a full Traditionalist Model was received by the Commission on a Way Forward just prior to its last meeting, which began on May 14, 2018. Members of the Commission on a Way Forward registered concern that the time available did not allow for the full conciliar process utilized for the other two plans offered by the Commission on a Way Forward. The One Church Plan and the Connectional Conference Plan both received intensive and comprehensive participation from the Commission and the Council of Bishops over an extended period of time. While there was some support within both the Commission and the Council of Bishops for a Traditionalist Model, the support was modest enough in both groups to discontinue the Commission’s earlier work on this model. In order to serve the May, 2018 request from the Council of Bishops, the Commission on a Way Forward resubmits the sketch sent to the Council of Bishops in November, 2017 as our work on the Traditionalist Model along with the history of this work and its implications for various bodies in The United Methodist Church.
FULL WAY FORWARD REPORTS IN ALL FOUR OFFICIAL LANGUAGES OF THE GENERAL CONFERENCE:
ENGAGING RESOURCES TO HELP YOU UNDERSTAND THE WORK OF THE COWF AND WORK AHEAD OF US:
RECENT STORIES FROM AROUND THE CONNECTION
PLANS PRAYERFULLY PONDERED BY UNITED METHODISTS
Margie Briggs, a certified lay minister for two small rural churches in Missouri, is a delegate to the special General Conference.
“I have been a delegate at the past six General Conferences. I have read with exhausting pain the three plans. There is not much I can say about them except I know what I have read will not be the final form that will be voted on,” she said, talking about the hours of debates that legislation often goes through before a final version is brought to the floor for a vote.“I pray that not a single delegate takes off for St. Louis in February 2019 with their mind made up. I’m counting on God to lead us in a mighty way where we can be what God has called us to be, ‘disciple makers,’” she said.
Many people are also praying and dreaming of what the church will be.
“My greatest prayer as we approach General Conference 2019 is that we will seek to love one another in the midst of significant disagreement,” said the Rev. Beth Ann Cook, an Indiana pastor and a delegate.
COURT DOCKET DETAILS PROPOSED PLANS FOR UMC
The Council of Bishops has asked the Judicial Council, the denomination’s top court, to rule on whether the proposed legislation for the One Church, Connectional Conference and Traditional plans passes the constitutional test. The Judicial Council meets Oct. 23-26 in Zurich.
Included in the 231-page request from the bishops is the full Way Forward Commission report, 17 petitions related to implementation of the One Church Plan, 14 petitions for implementation of the Connectional Conference Plan and 17 petitions for implementation of the Traditional Plan.
LGBTQ ADVOCATES CONFLICTED ON WAY FORWARD
When it comes to the One Church Plan, advocates for LGBTQ equality in The United Methodist Church don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye.
Those differences were on display during the July 26-29 “For Everyone Born” convocation, which drew some 325 LGBTQ United Methodists and their allies to St. Louis.
The Love Your Neighbor Coalition, which sponsored the gathering, includes unofficial advocacy groups as well as official United Methodist racial and ethnic caucuses. Most of the participants came from across the United States, with a few from the Philippines and African nations.
The convocation was a time of worship, Bible study and strategizing for the 2019 special General Conference, which aims to move the denomination past longtime divisions over homosexuality.
Among other petitions, the 864 delegates will receive a report from the Commission on a Way Forward, which details three possibilities for the denomination’s future including the One Church Plan.
Coverage and updates on A Way Forward (starting in 2017)