Bishops get ‘Way Forward’ report
BY BISHOP JIMMY NUNN
The Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church received a report from the Commission on a Way Forward during the Council’s meeting April 30-May 4 in Chicago.
The Commission had been assigned to examine all paragraphs about human sexuality in the denomination’s Book of Discipline and to explore options to maintain and strengthen the Church’s unity amid conflicting theological views. The work of the Council and Commission was guided by the mission, vision, and scope of that task.
Emerging from this guidance, the Council’s recommendation seeks to maximize the global presence of a United Methodist witness, allow for as much contextualization as possible, and create as much unity as possible.
The Council’s discernment process was guided by its overarching desire to strategically help the General Conference do its work and to honor the request of the 2016 General Conference to help the Church find a way forward.
The Council of Bishops will submit a report that includes the following three points to the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference.
(1) All three plans — the Traditionalist Plan, the One Church Plan, and the Connectional Conference Plan — will be submitted to that General Conference.
(2) The Council of Bishops will recommend the One Church Plan.
(3) The report will include an extensive historical narrative of the Council’s discernment process regarding all three plans.
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,” explains a May 4 public statement issued by the Council.
The One Church Plan, which the Council will recommend, provides for differing practices and approaches to human sexuality. The plan allows for contextualization of language about human sexuality in support of the denomination’s mission. It allows central conferences — the churches in Africa, Asia, and Europe — to retain traditional language and values. It achieves as much unity as possible to maximize the mission within a global, multicultural Church.
The Traditionalist Plan retains the current language of the 2016 Book of Discipline and adds various points of detail.
The Connectional Conference Plan opens a way for the emergence of autonomous churches that are affiliated with one another yet have different approaches and policies related to human sexuality.
The three plans reflect the diverse hopes and passions across the Church.
The full report will be released by July 8. This deadline allows time to translate the report into the major languages spoken at the General Conference.
The members of the Council of Bishops have agreed to avoid discussing details or legislative proposals until documents are available to everyone. Information can be found on the Council of Bishops News & Statements webpage, which is the Council’s official news site.
Please seek to balance what you read from other sources.
The Council of Bishops has made its recommendation. Bishops preside but do not vote at General Conference. It will be up to the 2019 General Conference delegates to act on the recommendation. That meeting will be Feb. 23-26, 2019, in St. Louis, Missouri.
In the meantime, the 2016 Book of Discipline continues to guide the Church in matters of polity.
Let us continue to pray for The United Methodist Church.