The Extended Cabinet of the Indiana Conference releases statement regarding A Way Forward
We, the members of the Extended Cabinet of the Indiana Conference, are aware of the uncertainty concerning our United Methodist Church. We hear the many concerns and understand the discomfort of these uncertain times. This statement is our collective encouragement and commitment to continue listening, loving, and praying for our congregations, clergy, and communities.
We hope that all United Methodists in Indiana will navigate these times with a “humble openness,” as we listen to the ways the Holy Spirit is prodding us to refocus on the mission, and recommit to the cause of Christ, so that we strengthen our witness and extend the invitation into relationship with Jesus Christ.
As we journey over the next several months, and beyond February 2019, we ask all to engage and commit to the following.
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:
LOCATIONS AND DATES
2:00 – 4:00 p.m. (EST)
Sunday, November 18
Indianapolis Christ Church
8540 US 31 S, Indianapolis IN, 46227
9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. (EST)
Saturday, December 1
Union Chapel United Methodist Church
4622 N Broadway Ave, Muncie, IN 47303
NORTH CENTRAL DISTRICT
3:00 – 5:00 p.m.
Sunday, January 20
Carmel United Methodist Church
621 S Rangeline Road, Carmel, IN 46032
Sunday, January 27
Scottsburg United Methodist Church
615 S Honeyrun Pkwy, Scottsburg, IN 47170
Please click here for more information.
Resources provided by the Indiana United Methodist Conference
“I believe I am being led by the Holy Spirit”
Laity and Clergy coming to differing conclusions regarding homosexuality
The Rev. Dr. Adolf Hansen, Theologian-in-Residence at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Indianapolis shares a booklet resource for laity and clergy.
In the addendum Dr. Hansen shares, “I’ve written these pages to show one way United Methodist laity and clergy might carry out their responsibilities if the proposed “one church model” is adopted (without a move to a congregational form of governance). If the UMC adopts a different model, the organizational layout delineated in this booklet might still be useful. My deepest hope is that all of us who are a part of the UMC will find a resolution that will enable us to expend our full energy on leading persons to become disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
Hansen also wrote the book, Is it Time? Helping Laity and Clergy Discuss Homosexuality One Question at a Time, which was included in the 2018 Bishop’s Lenten Study for critical conversation throughout the districts of the Indiana Conference.
Updates on the Commission on a Way Forward and 2019 Special Session of the General Conference
Arguments mount on Way Forward plans
Nearly 30 briefs, totaling more than 400 pages, confront the Judicial Council as it prepares to consider the constitutionality of three plans for dealing with The United Methodist Church’s schism-threatening division over homosexuality.
Both the One Church and Traditional plans as proposed would require multiple changes in church law, but not changes in the church constitution. Many of the briefs, though, argue that certain petitions in those plans would violate the constitution and thus would have to be approved as constitutional amendments.
Changing the constitution is a high hurdle, requiring a two-thirds vote of General Conference and two-thirds ratification votes in the annual conferences. Other changes to denominational policies require a majority vote at General Conference.
New group pushes Simple Plan as way forward
A new group of United Methodists has formed to champion a “Simple Plan” at the special General Conference in 2019. If approved, the legislation would open the door to full participation of LGBTQ individuals in the life of the church, said Methodists for the Simple Plan. The proposal eliminates all restrictions in the denomination’s Book of Discipline related to the practice of homosexuality. So far, 115 United Methodists — including 13 General Conference delegates — have signed on to support the plan.
Korean United Methodists choose prayer over plans
The Korean Assocation decided to form an Alternative Plan Task Force to handle (the three plans) this issue during the Central Committee meeting held in October 2017. The Alternative Plan Task Force, which was newly organized during a gathering of the association held in April 2018, as well as the Central Committee and the executive committee recently held a joint meeting.
During the opening worship service of this meeting, the Rev. Hannah Ka said, “We must change our life’s value from doing to being. This means we respect each and every person in the body of Christ as a being of equal value before God.”
“Jesus was interested in a Samaritan woman, a leper, a blind man, a bleeding patient, a child of a Gentile woman, a sinner, a tax collector and Judas Iscariot,” said Ka.
“We have to realize that the thoughts of God are deeper and wider than our thoughts, and that our thoughts are only a part of God’s infinite will. Even though our life experiences, situations and colors of faith are different, we are to hear the word of God rather than to pay attention to human beings,” she concluded.
Commission on a Way Forward offers more video resources for 2019 General Conference
In its continued efforts to inform The United Methodist Church on its processes and work, the Commission on a Way Forward has released four videos this week that document the experiences, hopes, dreams, concerns, approach, and learnings of the 32-member Commission. Learn more about these video resources, here: bit.ly/COWFVideos.
Bishops respond to Judicial Council Decision 1360, in relation to the 2019 General Conference
Here is the statement from the Council of Bishops, issued by COB President Bishop Ken Carter of the Florida Area, in response to Decision 1360:
We want to thank the Judicial Council for their service to the church through the affirmation of two key principles—the specific nature of the call for the special session, to receive and act on the report of the Council of Bishops based upon the work of the Commission on a Way Forward; and the General Conference’s authority to decide on what is in harmony with the call.
Our Call to Serve
Our motivation in making the request for the Declaratory Decision is in recognition of the historic nature of the special session of the General Conference in 2019, the need for focus on the stated purpose during these three days, and to create an orderly environment without distraction and chaos, so that the delegates can do their best work.
I am grateful for Bishop Bruce Ough, who spoke on behalf of the Council’s petition for a Declaratory Decision. This was an appropriate exercise of service to the church (Book of Discipline, 414, 415), as we have responded to the request for leadership from the 2016 General Conference. We will continue to serve our beloved denomination under the guidance of the decision, and in consultation with the Commission on the General Conference.
Bishop Ken Carter
President, Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church
Bishops, The Upper Room launch Phase 3 of Praying our Way Forward
The Council of Bishops in partnership with The Upper Room is launching Phase 3 of Praying our Way Forward. Phase 1 involved 84 members of the Council of Bishops praying for The United Methodist Church’s way forward for 15 minutes daily, from August to December 2016. This was followed by Phase 2, which resulted in 18 continuous months of daily individual and corporate prayer by faithful members of annual conferences around the globe.
“Now we are ready to launch Phase 3, which begins June 3 and continues through the Special Session of General Conference in February 2019. In this phase, we are encouraging every United Methodist to fast weekly and to pray daily with the Council of Bishops,” said Bishop Al Gwinn, the Prayer Team Coordinator.
In Phase 3, all United Methodists are invited to:
- Engage in a weekly Wesleyan 24-hour fast from Thursday after dinner to Friday mid-afternoon. Those who have health situations causing food fasts to be unadvisable might consider fasting from social media, emails or another daily activity.
- Pause and pray for our church’s mission and way forward daily for four minutes from 2:23 through 2:26 am or pm in their own time zone OR at another time. This is because the Special Session of General Conference will be held February 23 through February 26, 2019.
- Pray using a weekly prayer calendar that will be posted on the UMCPrays.org website from June 2, 2018, through the end of February 2019. The calendar will list a unique cluster of names each week. The names will balance USA bishops and delegates with Central Conference bishops and delegates. It will also include General Secretaries, Commission on a Way Forward members, the Commission of the General Conference and the staff of the General Conference.
“We urge every Annual Conference to use the video available on the umcprays.org website to promote Phase 3 of Praying Our Way Forward. There will also be a local church media kit with downloadable resources including logos, social media posts, and bulletin inserts available by Memorial Day,” said Tom Albin, director of Spiritual Formation for The Upper Room.
Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett, Council of Bishops Life Together chair, added: “We believe that the acts of weekly fasting and prayer will help us approach General Conference both individually and corporately in a posture of humility and receptivity to one another and to the leadership of God’s Holy Spirit,”
For more details, visit UMCPrays.org.
May 17, 2018
Commission ends its work; hears bishops’ recommendation for a way forward
NASHVILLE — The 32-member Commission on a Way Forward for The United Methodist Church concluded its ninth and final meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, yesterday (May 16).
The Commission met nine times over 17 months. The Commission reviewed a wide variety of petitions presented as legislation to previous General Conferences regarding human sexuality and examined how other faith communities and denominations are responding or have responded to the question of inclusion of LGBTQ persons.
“The key part of the early work was to build trust and intentional community among a group of people who had good reasons not to trust each other,” said Bishop David Yemba, one of the moderators of the Commission.
At the heart of the work on relationship building was the book, The Anatomy of Peace, from the Arbinger Institute. The focus of The Anatomy of Peace is to help people build the capacity for living through conflict with a heart of peace instead of a heart at war. A heart of peace helps us to see and treat others as people while a heart at war tends to see and treat others as objects, obstacles, or problems.
“A heart at war exaggerates our differences. A heart at peace sees what we have in common,” said Bishop Yemba.
The Commission wrote a covenant with each other that both guided the work of the Commission and helped to build community and trust. Commission members focused on finding a way forward rather than on representing groups or constituencies.
“The Commission’s practice of voicing differing theological views and interpretations of scripture stands as a model for what kind of ministry we are both called and empowered by God to do,” said Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball, one of the moderators. “This led us to discover the interests behind the various positions and opened up multiple possibilities for how the church can continue to fulfill the ministry of Christ in both unity and with diversity.”
The Commission spent significant time listening to the church through an open framework for receiving documents, ideas, and testimonies. The Commission received and processed feedback from boards and agencies, local churches, annual conferences, individual lay and clergy persons, candidates for ministry, and seminary students. Conversations took place with individuals and interest groups across the globe.
Along the way, Commission members worked on possible models for a way forward.
In November 2017, the Commission presented an extended interim report to the Council of Bishops. The report included three sketches: one that focused on accountability within the context of the current Book of Discipline language; one that focused on removing restrictive language and placing a high value on contextuality and protections of various perspective; and one that reimagined the church as a unified core with multiple branches.
In February 2018, the bishops held a special meeting to hear more details on the proposed plans from the Commission and to offer feedback.
With continued input from bishops and constituencies around the church, the Commission refined and adapted the models and presented its final report to the Council of Bishops in May 2018.
The Council of Bishops is in the process of revising and perfecting their report and recommendation based on the work of the Commission to the special session of General Conference 2019.
“We anticipate the report will be released in early July. Future work will be with delegations to create a culture that will listen to God, receive the report, and do this work with a heart of peace and not a heart of war,” said Bishop Ken Carter, president of the Council of Bishops.
Although their work is officially over, members of the Commission will collaborate with residential bishops in equipping delegations between now and 2019 General Conference, which will be held Feb. 23-26 in St. Louis, Missouri.
About the Commission: The Commission on a Way Forward was created after the 2016 General Conference approved a motion for the Council of Bishops to name a commission that would explore options to keep the unity of the church that had been threatened over the question of inclusion of LGBTQ persons. The Commission is a diverse body that represents the global church with members coming from nine countries with a variety of theological perspectives. The Commission is one-third laity, one-third clergy, and one-third bishops and includes younger persons, LGBTQ persons, professors, administrators, pastors, youth ministers, campus ministers, lay leaders, large church pastors, and persons identified with renewal and advocacy groups.
May 4, 2018
United Methodist Bishops Recommend a Way Forward
CHICAGO – United Methodist bishops, meeting in Chicago, engaged in a prayerful process to discern a way forward. At the conclusion of the discernment process, the Council of Bishops strongly approved the following motion and rationale:
Having received and considered the extensive work of the Commission on a Way Forward, the Council of Bishops will submit a report to the Special Session of the General Conference in 2019 that includes:
- All three plans (The Traditionalist Plan, The One Church Plan, and the Connectional Conference Plan) for a way forward considered by the Commission and the Council.
- The Council’s recommendation of the One Church Plan.
- A historical narrative of the Council’s discernment process regarding all three plans.
Rationale: In order to invite the church to go deeper into the journey the Council and Commission has been on, the Council will make all the information considered by the Commission and the Council of Bishops available to the delegates of the General Conference and acknowledges there is support for each of the three plans within the Council. The values of our global church are reflected in all three plans. The majority of the Council recommends the One Church Plan as the best way forward for The United Methodist Church.
Guided by the mission, vision and scope document, the bishops agreed to recommend the One Church Plan. This plan provides conferences, churches, and pastors the flexibility to uniquely reach their missional context while retaining the connectional nature of The United Methodist Church.
The One Church Plan allows for contextualization of language about human sexuality in support of the mission; and allows for central conferences, especially those in Africa, to retain their disciplinary authority to adopt the Book of Discipline and continue to include traditional language and values while fulfilling the vision of a global and multicultural church.
This plan also encourages a generous unity by giving United Methodists the ability to address different missional contexts in ways that reflect their theological convictions. The One Church Plan removes the restrictive language of the Book of Discipline and adds assurances to pastors and Conferences who due to their theological convictions cannot perform same-sex weddings or ordain self-avowed practicing homosexuals.
The Council’s discernment process was guided by the over-arching desire to strategically help the General Conference do its work and to honor the General Conference’s request for the Council to help the church find a way forward.
“With convicted humility, bishops want to be pastors and shepherds of the whole church in order to maximize the presence of a United Methodist witness in as many places in the world as possible and with as much contextual differentiation as possible,” said newly installed Council of Bishops President Ken Carter.
The bishops expressed deep appreciation for the diligent work that the 32-member Commission on a Way Forward Commission did in formulating the three plans; the Traditionalist Plan, the One Church Plan, and the Connectional Conference Plan.
While the bishops recommended the One Church Plan they affirmed that the Connectional Conference Plan and the Traditionalist Plan held values that are important to the life and work of the church and will be included in the final report to the Special Session of General Conference that the bishops have called for Feb. 23-26 in St. Louis, Missouri, USA.
Bishop Carter, who served as one of the moderators of the Commission, said the bishops are adopting a spirit of collaboration with the Commission, and an attitude of respect for the delegations who will take up this work on behalf of the whole church.
“The Council’s prayerful deliberation reflected the diversity of the global denomination on the matter of homosexuality and many other matters. The Council affirms the strength of this diversity and our commitment to maintaining the unity of the church,” Bishop Carter said.
Full details of the plans and accompanying legislative proposals will be released as soon as final editing of the entire report is completed and translated into the official languages of the General Conference. It is estimated this will be no later than July 8.
Hitting the road for Way Forward
Of late, North Texas Conference Bishop Mike McKee’s life has become a road show, as he hustles to meet a schedule of 11 open meetings across the conference’s four districts.
His purpose: to give briefings on and take questions about the Commission on a Way Forward and Council of Bishops’ efforts to hold the denomination together amid longstanding division over homosexuality.
“We (bishops) were all encouraged to do something, in any way we saw fit,” McKee said.
On Thursday, April 12, he held the eighth of what he’s calling district conversations, spending two hours before some 200 Metro District clergy and laity gathered at First United Methodist Church of Richardson.
Experience has taught McKee to expect the unexpected.
“One gathering I received no questions about sexuality. None,” he said.
That wouldn’t be the case in Richardson, a Dallas suburb. But McKee managed to make the evening as much a pep rally for unity in the interest of Christian mission as an info-session on the commission and council’s work.
The host pastor, for one, was grateful.
“He laid a really groundwork, helping us focus on what’s most important rather than getting into these (theological) camps,” said the Rev. J. Clayton Oliphint of First Richardson.
General Conference, the denomination’s top policymaking body, in 2016 authorized creation of the commission to help the bishops review church law regarding homosexuality and consider changes that might help the church avoid splitting.
The Council of Bishops meets April 29-May 4, and has a July 8 deadline to submit legislation to a special General Conference next February in St. Louis.
Bishops have taken strikingly different approaches to communicating about the work of the council’s work with the commission. Some have shared press releases from those groups, or written columns or blog posts. Others have hit the road.
Even there, the styles have been highly individual.
Greater Northwest Area Bishop Elaine Stanovksy has worked with facilitators in having what she calls table talks in various settings across four states, encompassing three conferences. Participants are asked to “stay curious, be kind and listen with the same amount of passion with which they want to be heard.”
Earlier this year, in the North Carolina Conference, Bishop Hope Morgan Ward held eight district forums, which began with a service of baptismal renewal, then featured table discussion and a question and answer time.
East Ohio Conference Bishop Tracy S. Malone and her staff organized a series of “Conversations on a Way Forward,” focused on four questions, including: “What is our witness and what can be our witness to the world in relation to our differences?
In the Arkansas Conference, Bishop Gary Mueller and superintendents led 12 town hall meetings attended by 1,740 people.
Participants got to weigh in on the commission’s sketches for how church law and structure might be changed to help maintain unity. Those who couldn’t attend could give their views through an online survey.
The conference has quantified and analyzed the input, posting the results online.
Of the meetings, Mueller said: “It was really positive conversation and we got people talking in very civil ways who might not have talked.”
For McKee, the goal has not been so much to gather opinions but to share what he can about options under consideration by the council and commission. And to talk up unity.
McKee was introduced in Richardson by the Rev. Camille Gaston, Metro District superintendent, who stressed the connectional ties of those present.
“Tonight we come together as a family, and families at Thanksgiving — think about it — maybe don’t all agree with one another, but we love one another,” she said.
McKee led the crowd in reading aloud Bible verses projected on a screen, as well as the Wesleyan Covenant Prayer. He then had the group, seated around tables, discuss among themselves their experiences of unity in the church, their hopes for their respective congregations and their hopes for the denomination.
Later, McKee elaborated on two options or “sketches” put forward by the commission and under consideration by the bishops.
One, called the multi-branch model, would replace the five current U.S. jurisdictions with three “connectional conferences,” that annual conferences could choose among for affiliation. The connectional conferences would align based on theology or perspective on LGBTQ ministry — be it traditionalist, progressive or allowing for a variety of approaches.
McKee noted that numerous amendments to the church constitution would be required for this approach. He added that he would not look forward to presiding if the North Texas Conference had to decide which connectional conference to affiliate with.
“Friends, I tell you if we sell tickets to that, it will be worthy of the cost, because there will be that type of conflict,” he said.
McKee spent more time on a sketch, called the one-church model, which he said would remove from church law the statement that the practice of homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching” and let churches decide whether to host same-sex weddings and conferences (through their boards of ordained ministry) whether to ordain gay clergy.
He noted that at previous district meetings he’d been asked whether a pastor would have to do same-sex weddings.
“Your pastors do not have to ever do a wedding,” he said, adding that the discretion they enjoy now on heterosexual weddings would continue if same-sex weddings are permitted.
During a break, McKee had participants submit questions on 3×5 cards. He chose a few to read aloud and answer.
One dealt with whether a church could be sued for refusing to have a same-sex wedding.
“No one has to worry about getting sued over this,” McKee said. “It won’t happen.”
Another question concerned the possibility of “exodus” from the denomination, and whether bishops have prepared for that.
“My goal is to work as diligently as I can — with your help — (to see) that no one leaves,” McKee said.
The bishop devoted much of his time to arguing for unity in the interest of mission. He described how traditional and progressive churches in the North Texas Conference had provided financial support for Christ’s Foundry United Methodist, a thriving Hispanic mission church in Dallas.
“There are 300 people worshipping there each weekend, and that’s because churches that didn’t agree with each other agreed with the mission,” he said.
Jeanie Runion, lay leader of Axe Memorial United Methodist Church in Garland, Texas, called McKee’s briefing “very enlightening” and said it encouraged her in her dream for greater LGBTQ inclusivity in the denomination.
“I’m for change,” she said.
Elijah Neypes, a layperson from Faith United Methodist Church in Richardson, also praised the session. But he said he’s concerned about “the church being changed by the world versus us changing the world.”
Though more of a traditionalist, he joins Runion in hoping The United Methodist Church can hold together.
“In the end, we’re all people who love God,” he said.
Commission moderators emphasize mission as key to way forward
The moderators of the Commission on a Way Forward are urging United Methodists to engage in reflections on where they see mission at the heart of the denomination as well as seeing mission as significant for resolving a conflict. Below is the statement from Bishops David Yemba, Sandra Steiner Ball, and Ken Carter.
Mission and the Way Forward in the Season after the Epiphany
At the conclusion of the recent meeting of the Commission on a Way Forward, the members were asked to share three words that expressed their prayer for the church in the present moment. The 32 persons reflect the global nature of the church and a profound diversity of gender, age, theological perspective. They are laity, deacons, elders, and bishops. The three words each shared then helped to create a word cloud. The more often a word is named, the larger it becomes in the word cloud (picture). This was the result:
In the Mission, Vision, and Scope given to the Commission by the Council of Bishops, we are seeking to “design a way for being a church that maximizes the presence of a United Methodist witness in as many places in the world as possible.” This vision is deeply rooted in the movement of the gospel from a small village in Bethlehem to the ends of the earth. The revelation of the Christ to the Magi (the Gentiles) in Matthew 2 signals the church’s calling to share the good news with all people. At our best, this has been the vocation of a missionary church and is the root of a global church, where we are sent “from everywhere to everywhere” in the name of Jesus.
What does it mean that the commission sees “mission” at the heart of the way forward for our denomination?
Could it be that we discover our unity as we are in mission together?
What if mission became the primary framework for our work in resolving conflict?
How are we called to be in mission together more fully with our brothers and sisters in the LGBTQ community?
And what three words would express your prayer for the church in the present moment?
Bishops David Yemba, Sandra Steiner Ball, and Ken Carter
Moderator Team of the Commission on a Way Forward
Commission on a Way Forward prepares updated report to bishops
DALLAS – The Commission on a Way Forward is nearing the completion of its task of making recommendations of possible ways forward for The United Methodist Church regarding the inclusion of LGBTQ persons in this global denomination.
The 32-member Commission concluded its three-day meeting in Dallas, Texas, on Saturday after reworking sketches of possible models of the future of the denomination that will be part of the final report to the Council of Bishops in May.
Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball, one of the moderators of the Commission, noted that the members who have had six meetings since January last year are confident that the Commission will succeed in its work.
“The common work of God’s spirit moves in each one of our lives. The spiritual gifts that are gifted to each of us by God are given to be used for the common good of all people. It is this Spirit that both unifies us and inspires us to use the diversity of spiritual gifts to be visionaries and to consider the whole realm of what is possible; to dream dreams, big dreams, to the glory of God.”
She said the Commission, in the unity of God’s Spirit, continues to take a fresh look at the church and what is possible.
“We seek a way forward for The United Methodist Church that strengthens and expands Christ’s mission in ways that value and enable the Church to reach more people in different contexts around the world and to minister with faithfulness, humility, creativity, and generosity,” said Bishop Steiner Ball.
Council of Bishops President Bishop Bruce Ough and Area Resident Bishop Michael McKee both addressed the members on Thursday, the first day of the meeting.
“Time is running short and we need to focus. Simple is better than complex. Reasonable detail is better than ambiguity. Fewer disciplinary changes are better than more. Honor the parameters and values of the Mission, Vision and Scope document – unity, contextualization and enhanced mission,” said Bishop Ough.
Bishop Ough also asked the Commission to provide the Council with a draft theological statement that both inform the structural models and creates a compelling narrative for the models.
Each day of the three-day meeting began with devotions that were led by the moderators, Bishop Steiner Ball, Bishop Ken Carter and Bishop David Yemba, using the 1 Corinthians 12 scripture on the importance of being one body of Christ despite the differences.
In reviewing the feedback from the Council of Bishops, the Commission worked on incorporating the UMC theological foundation in proposed models for the future of the UMC.
“We understand that a way forward must go deeper than structural change and legislative revision. A way forward for the church draws upon the deep consensus of all that we believe and teach, especially about the grace of God which leads to mission and holiness, “said Bishop Carter as he reflected on the theological work.
“At the same time, we approach this theological work with a ‘convicted humility’—we are grounded in important convictions, and yet we ‘see through a glass darkly,’ in Paul’s words, and so we hold these convictions with humility before God and each other,” he added.
The Commission members also discussed the importance of maintaining the missional focus of the UMC in any future structural changes.
“As the commission continues its efforts to dream anew, it also continues to work to paint a picture of the dream for people in ways they can catch glimpses of and have hope for a wholly and holy way forward that enables the UMC to better reach new people, and more people with the good news of Jesus Christ in all parts and contexts of the world.” Bishop Steiner Ball noted.
With Central Conferences being integral parts of any way forward, the Commission spent time working on how those conferences outside of the United States would be incorporated in any possible structural models in this global denomination.
“We are a global church and every decision we make should be seen in that context,” noted Bishop Yemba as he shared a report on Central Conferences. “As the United Methodist Church continues the struggle on how to find a way forward on the burning issue of human sexuality, we need to continue using our collective wisdom as Connection in order to create space and flexibility that allow central conferences to stay and work together to fulfill our missional mandate.”
Bishop Yemba further noted that: “Many United Methodists outside of the United States would like to see the context be taken into consideration seriously. Whatever models the Council of Bishops will come up with and recommend to General Conference as a way forward, it is expected that such a recommendation will provide space to focus on what unites us and not what separates us as well as what we can say together as basic principles on human sexuality in the light of the Gospel.”
The Commission plans to share its reworked models of possible ways forward with the Council of Bishops next month at a meeting that has been called to specifically hear more from the Commission.
Bishops uphold values of mission, unity, space, contextuality in interim report on Way Forward’s work
Placing emphasis on the values of unity, space and contextuality – all for the sake of mission – the Council of Bishops (COB) is exploring sketches of three models as possible directions for a way forward for The United
Methodist Church over LGBTQ inclusion. With the mission of God through the risen Christ at the core, the bishops this week
received an interim report from the Commission on a Way Forward that offered three sketches of models that would help ease the impasse in the church, noting that the power of the Holy Spirit trumps and guides all the church’s activities. The Commission serves the COB, helping prepare the COB to fulfill its mandate to make a recommendation for a way forward to the General Conference.
A prayer offered for The Council of Bishops and the Commission on A Way Forward
As The Council of Bishops meet in Chicago April 30 through May 4 our Conference Prayer Coordinator, Darlene Neckers offers the following request and prayer.
One important matter of business during this meeting will be listening to the Commission On A Way Forward who will present their final recommendation as we prepare for the special called General Conference in February 2019. Please be in prayer throughout the coming week.
Call to Prayer for Commission on a Way Forward
Prayer brings us near to God. It is a vital part of our personal relationship with God. It’s where we give God thanks and praise, seek the will of God, present our requests, release our concerns, receive the Lord’s gracious forgiveness, and channel His power in order to forgive others. Prayer is also an opportunity to draw close to God, affirm our faith, and strengthen our relationship with the God we serve. May we always be grateful for the privilege of spending time this way with God, the Creator of the universe.
Sometimes it is not easy to pray. One of the many superb quotes of Oswald Chambers is, “Prayer is not preparation for the battle, it is the battle.” We do not know what goes on in the spiritual realm when we pray. We do know, however, that when we pray according to God’s will we receive access, through Jesus Christ, into the very presence of God who has authority over all enemies; visible and invisible. Let us put our trust in our Victorious Warrior and go to God in prayer, spending time with Him, and seek His will.
Isaiah 55:8-9 tells us that God’s ways and thoughts are higher than our ways and thoughts. Let us turn our ear to listen for God’s voice and then pray boldly, in Jesus’ name.
The Commission on a Way Forward was proposed by the Council of Bishops and approved by the 2016 General Conference to do a complete examination and possible revision of every paragraph of the Book of Discipline concerning human sexuality and explore options that help to maintain and strengthen the unity of the Church.
The worldwide United Methodist Church is in prayer for this effort. Our Indiana Conference has been assigned the week of October 15th to focus our prayers on The Commission on a Way Forward. Let us set aside our personal thoughts and agendas, and join together seeking God’s hand in prayer.
Each church can decide on their own plan of individual and corporate prayer and fasting during this designated week. Please inform prayer coordinators and prayer warriors in your congregations. Also, please announce this request during your services the weekend of October 7 and 8, as well as October 14 and 15. May we cover this mission in prayer during the entire week, starting October 15.
Thank you for your faithfulness to pray.
Darlene Neckers, Conference Prayer Coordinator
Prayers for the Week of October 15 – 21 Bulletin Insert
We do not know what goes on in the spiritual realm when we pray. We do know, however, that when we pray according to God’s will we receive access, through Jesus, into the very presence of God, who has authority over all enemies; visible and invisible. Let us put our trust in our Victorious Warrior and pray. Spend time with Him and seek His will. Listen for His ways
and thoughts and pray boldly, asking in the powerful name of Jesus.
The Commission on a Way Forward has the responsibility to do a complete examination and possible revision of every paragraph of the Book of Discipline concerning human sexuality and explore options that help to maintain and strengthen the unity of the Church. Our responsibility is to pray for them. All of us are important in this process. Let us allow God to search our hearts and lead us in our prayers. May God be glorified!
Almighty God, help us to trust you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Lord, we worship you as King of kings and Lord of lords. Thank you that your ways are perfect. We thank you for the members of the Commission on a Way Forward. Please guide them in the great responsibility they carry for the future of our denomination. As they seek you in truth, give them your path of wisdom. In the powerful name of Jesus we pray. Amen.
Thank you, Lord, that you are near to all who call upon you in truth. We ask that the Commission on a Way Forward pour out their hearts and emotions before you, as we do the same. Please remove any fear and give us all a new depth of understanding and love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Help us all, Lord, do our part in keeping peace with one another. We ask that your peace fill each member of the Commission on a Way Forward as they seek you. Renew a right spirit in us all. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
God, we ask that all 32 members of the Commission on a Way Forward obey your leading as they draw up plans to present to the Bishops for their November meeting. May your will be done. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Dear God, we trust you with the future of our denomination. Only you know the way we should go. Help us all to be aware of your constant presence as we wait upon you for answers. We want you to be glorified. In the strong name of Jesus, Amen.
Lord, we pray for the next meeting of the Commission on a Way Forward– October 30 through November 1. We pray for each member to sincerely seek you. Please give them wisdom and clarity. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Lord, remind us to continue to pray for the Commission on a Way Forward. Our desire is to see people come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Thank you for hearing our prayers and answering according to your perfect will and in your timing. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
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