Our United Methodist Council of Bishops, which comprises all active and retired bishops of the Church, met last week April 30-May 4, 2018 in Chicago to do the work of our denomination entrusted to us as general superintendents of the Church. We, the Council, are a diverse group of leaders with varied experiences and insights that help offer a full dialogue to the vast scope that is before us in caring for the Connection.
During our time together we worshiped, prayed daily, and reflected on the charge before us and the days ahead of, us all, as the people known as United Methodists. Our meetings are broad, with many topics that require communal discussion, in-depth review, and follow-up. An example is how our United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and many of the churches across the globe are continuing to support the recovery efforts in Puerto Rico. We also had the opportunity to celebrate as colleagues in ministry with a shared love for The United Methodist Church our 50th Anniversary, as well as the witness that we are and will continue to be to the world.
As we continued through our week, we spent much time in executive session to review the work of the Commission on a Way Forward and to receive their recommendations. The Commission's work since the 2016 General Conference has been cared for by persons with hearts for the Church, for their neighbor, but most importantly, hearts for Jesus Christ. This team has labored for the future of us all and shared the detail of their work in the three plans presented for consideration.
As Christians, our affirmation of the Triune God and being grace-filled followers of Jesus keeps us captives of hope, as well as unapologetic in our pursuit of unity and healing.
The Council will submit a report to the special session of General Conference in 2019 that includes:
- All three plans (The Traditionalist Plan, The One Church Plan, and the Connectional Conference Plan)
- The Council's strong affirmation of the One Church Plan
- A historical narrative of the Council's discernment process regarding all three plans.
The Council did not come to a decision lightly, and our review was paired with prayerful deliberation, reflecting on the diversity of our global denomination, as well as our varied perspectives on human sexuality and the narratives surrounding it throughout the Church. There is strength in diversity, and the Council affirms the value of this diversity and commits to maintain the unity of the Church.
The "One Church" plan was supported by the majority of the council in part because we believe it best fulfills the vision of a global, multicultural church which reflects the Kingdom and allows us to advance our mission. "One Church" will also allow us to continue to work for unity, understanding, and for hearts that are willing to love each other as Jesus loves each of us.
We, all (bishops, clergy, laity, and every congregation), must commit to our mission "making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world," and recognize that we are called to witness to the world. The work of the Commission is for us to be able to continue our mission in as many places as possible, and allows for contextual differences that offer space for us to walk the same road to together for unity (in as many ways as possible).
As bishops, we resolved to lead as pastors in a church of diverse opinions, convicted humility, and a sustained commitment to creating more time for prayer, as well as more space for conversation. With continued attention to our connection to Christ and each other, we will emphasize our rich Wesleyan heritage of grace and holiness; connection and mission; and unity in Christ. And I will note that biblical and theological framing is in each of the proposed plans, and I encourage each of us to read our Bible, in its entirety, each year. However, it may be helpful for each of us to start with reminders to remain connected to Christ and each other through reading John 15, John 17, Romans 5, and I Corinthians 12-14.