In response to discussions at the 2016 United Methodist General Conference, the Council of Bishops created The Commission on a Way Forward. This body of clergy and laity from across the denomination and across the world is charged with a complete examination and possible revision of every paragraph of the United Methodist Book of Discipline concerning human sexuality. The Commission aims to explore options that could help to maintain and strengthen the unity of the church, especially exploring the denomination's stance on homosexuality.
"In less than a year, The United Methodist Church will reach a crucial crossroads in its 50-year history. A special General Conference is scheduled for Feb. 23 to 26, 2019, in St. Louis, Mo., to address one topic: how shall the church respond to questions related to inclusion of LGBTQ people? At its heart, the issue is how or if homosexuals should be allowed in church leadership. As it stands right now – and as it has been officially in the UMC since 1972 – 'self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve' in the church (2016 Book of Discipline, ¶304.3). In addition, the church prohibits its clergy from conducting same gender weddings (¶2702.b)."
From "UMC Seeks a Way Forward" by Erik Alsgaard, 6 April 2018
News for May 2018
The Commission on a Way Forward presented their final report to the Council of Bishops at their meeting in Chicago, the first week of May. The Commission presented two plans to the Bishops for their consideration: The One Church Plan, and The Connectional Conference Plan.
Here is an excerpt from Bishop LaTrelle Easterling's statement following the Council of Bishops meeting:
"The Council overwhelmingly voted to recommend The One Church Plan to the 2019 General Conference. During the Council's discussion, some bishops believed it would be important to include all of the plans that had been considered.... Therefore, the Council's recommendation will include the other two models for informational purposes. The Council believes this will provide a full, transparent representation of The Commission's work, and our deliberations... The recommended plan will now be sent to the February 2019 Special General Conference for consideration."
The One Church Plan (Recommended by the Council of Bishops):
- Recognizes the diverse theological and scriptural understandings of our global church;
- Provides generous unity for conferences, churches, and pastors;
- Does not require any annual conference, bishop, congregation, or pastor to act contrary to their convictions;
- Maintains the current leadership structure of the denomination as one body;
- Removes the restrictive language from our current Book of Discipline.
The Connectional Conference Plan (not recommended by the Council) would have proposed three values-based conferences in place of the current geographic conferences, with working titles of Progressive, Contextual, and Traditional Conferences based on theology and perspective on LGBTQ+ ministry. The Traditional Church Plan (also not recommended by the Council) would have strengthened the language in the current Book of Discipline and streamlined the process for handling violations of the Book of Discipline.
According to the United Methodist News Service, the One-Church proposal "appears to align with centrist models which would see the removal of restrictive language from the Book of Discipline, letting conferences decide how inclusive to be while protecting clergy who could not, as a matter of conscience, perform a same-sex union or support ordination of openly gay clergy.”
For the full statement from the Bishop of the Baltimore-Washington Conference, please read more here: