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United Methodist Church “Commission for the Way Forward” Updates

April 24, 2018

Statement from the NEJ College of Bishops
 
As Bishops of The United Methodist Church, we affirm that WE ARE OF ONE HEART in our desire to discern the mind and will of Jesus Christ for our leadership and the church. In the Northeastern Jurisdiction and around the world we experience great diversity of thought and practice within The United Methodist Church. In partnership with Bishops from around the world, we will continue to lead collectively and individually to value and provide room for our diversity as United Methodists.
 
                                                                                                                                                                                                             
Statement from Bishop Peggy Johnson – Philadelphia Area
 
In 2016, the General Conference asked the bishops of the United Methodist Church to lead a process that would find a way forward for the church concerning the matter of human sexuality and, in particular, the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people in the church. At the Council of Bishops meeting last week we have decided on what we will present to the delegates for their work at the special-called session of General Conference in February 23-26, 2019.
 
The proposed way forward for our church keeps the mission of Jesus Christ, the unity of the church, and the affirmation of context based ministry as the key foundational points for the future of the church. The Council of Bishops is recommending a “One Church Plan” * that honors these diverse contextual and theological approaches in a proposal that offers space and grace for ministry to unfold.
It also allows for the Central Conferences, especially those in Africa to retain traditional language and values.
 
The Council of Bishops will include the other two plans (“Traditional Plan”** and “Connectional Plan”***) in their statement to the delegates and also explain the process that was involved in reaching this conclusion. These will be transparent narratives of the two other options that were are a part of our discernment and consideration. The final details of this will be available after July 8th when all of the translations of the documents are complete.  The Council of Bishops agree to not discuss details or legislative proposals of the plans until they are available to everyone.
 
I want to assure you that there has been considerable prayer, theological reflection and deep conversation this week.  We are of many hearts in this denomination and also among the bishop colleagues there is diversity of thoughts. 
 
What do we do now in the meantime? 
 
-We remain prayerful for the unity of the church.  The bishops are calling for everyone to consider pausing to pray each day from 2:23 and 2:26 (both a.m. and p.m as is possible).  Those times are the exact dates of our special called session of General Conference (February 23-26).  Also we ask that you consider entering into a Wesley Fast (sundown on Thursday until noon on Friday) each week in preparation for General Conference.  Other prayer suggestions and gatherings across the connection will be organized as well.
 
-We as United Methodists need to enter into an attitude of “convicted humility.”  According to the COB “This is an attitude which combines honesty about the differing convictions which divide us with humility about the way in which each of our views may stand in need of corrections. It also involves humble repentance for all the ways in which we have spoken and acted as those seeking to win a fight rather than those called to discern the shape of faithfulness together. In that spirit, we wish to lift up the sacred core commitments which define the Wesleyan movement and ground our search for wisdom and holiness.”
 
Most importantly we keep doing the mission of the church.  The overwhelming work that we all support is making disciples for the transformation of the world. We do this by church development and redevelopment, encouraging new leaders, engaging in ministry with the poor and improving global health.  United Methodists are people of grace, peace and hope.  May it be so!
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*One Church Plan (Formerly “Centrist Plan”) – removes the restrictive language in the Discipline around same gender marriage and the practice of and ordination of lesbian and gay people.  It will allow each conference and church to operate from their context.  No one would be forced to go against their conscience around these issues.  There would be no changes in the constitution.
 
**Traditional Plan – keeps the Discipline as it is with the restrictive language around same gender marriage and the practice of and ordination of lesbian and gay people.  Stronger accountabilities would be a part of this plan.
 
***Connectional Plan (Formerly “Multi-branch” Plan) – allows jurisdictions to vote to become in one of three groups: traditional, contextual, and justice.   The central conferences could also become a group if desired.  All groups would share some of the common denominational services and some agencies.  The individual groups would organize their own programming.  Conferences may affiliate with another group if the one that their jurisdiction is a part of is not where they wish to join.  There would be seven constitutional changes needed to empower this plan to be enacted.
 


A recommended reading list for all United Methodists is provided below:

Unity of the Church and Human Sexuality: Toward a Faithful United Methodist Witness, Study Guide [Book]

by Gbhem · 112 pages · ISBN 0938162306
Join the conversation. Suitable for a four-week study, this resource addresses how the church can be a witness and provide for a diversified human community. Based on the research of Dr. Charles M. Wood, this study guide offers United Methodists an opportunity to think about what has become a cultural and ecclesial flash point--human sexuality--and comes out of the conviction that the church is thirsty for theological conversation. Methodism is no stranger to controversy. John Wesley addressed the contentious issues of his day and strove to hold the Methodist societies together across many lines of difference. This guide plumbs the depths of the Wesleyan heritage to enhance our faithful witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ at a time when devout followers are deeply divided.Contents: Foreword by Dr. Kim Cape; Session One: The Conversation Matters; Session Two: Loving God with Our Mind Matters; Session Three: The United Methodist Church Matters; Session Four: Finding a Way Forward Matters; Afterword by Bishop Kenneth H. Carter; Appendix A: "An Ecclesial Vision for The United Methodist Church" by Dr. Charles M. Wood; Appendix B: Helps for Group Leader

Unity In Mission: A Bond of Peace for the Sake of Love Paperback – July 10, 2015

by C Andrew Doyle (Author)A book and study guide to understand how The Episcopal Church, its churches, and congregations and diocese across the Anglican Communion may stay together in the midst of division over same-sex marriage. It includes and updated prefaces from Secretary James A. Baker III. It has been used as primary reading material for leaders engaging processes in over 17 dioceses, and in over 4 Provinces of the Anglican Communion.
 

The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict Paperback – July 13, 2015

by The Arbinger Institute NEW EDITION, REVISED AND UPDATED

What if conflicts at home, conflicts at work, and conflicts in the world stem from the same root cause?
What if we systematically misunderstand that cause?
And what if, as a result, we systematically perpetuate the very problems we think we are trying to solve?
Every day.
From the authors of Leadership and Self-Deception comes an international bestseller that instills hope and inspires reconciliation. Through a moving story of parents who are struggling with their own children and with problems that have come to consume their lives, we learn from once-bitter enemies the way to transform personal, professional, and global conflicts, even when war is upon us.

Additional reading material:

            

Other Resources:

Wonder, Love, and Praise: Sharing a Vision of the Church 
A Guide for Small Group Study Based On Wonder, Love, and Praise: Sharing a Vision of the Church 
 
 A PowerPoint of the information above
Word Document of the information above