"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
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 was charged with discerning a path forward for our denomination concerning human sexuality, same-gender unions, and full inclusion of our LGBTQIA+ brother and sisters within all aspects of ministry. The Commission was tasked with making a complete examination of every paragraph of the United Methodist Book of Discipline concerning human sexuality and to develop possible revisions. The Commission's goal was to explore options that could help to maintain and strengthen the unity of the church, especially with regards to the denomination's stance on homosexuality.
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 2018. The Commission also presented possible plans to the Bishops for their consideration.
According to BWC Bishop LaTrelle Easterling, "The Council [of Bishops] 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):
- 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.
- Recognizes the diverse theological and scriptural understandings of our global church;
- Provides generous unity for conferences, churches, and pastors.
The Connectional Conference Plan (not recommended by the Council) 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 concerning human sexuality and streamlined the process for handling violations of the Book of Discipline.
According to the United Methodist News Service, the recommended 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:
Ecumenical Prayer Vigil for LGBTQ+ Rights
Monday February 25
7:30 p.m. at Silver Spring UMC (8900 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring MD 20910)
Pray alongside Methodist brothers and sisters for a future of full inclusion of LGBTQ+ persons.
Prayer Conference Calls
Feb. 23, 6:00 a.m. & 12:00 noon
Feb. 24, 6:00 a.m.
Feb. 25, 6:00 a.m. & 12:00 noon
Feb. 26, 6:00 a.m. & 12:00 noon
Phone (605) 313-4100 and use access code 379540#. Clergy from participating churches in southwestern Montgomery County will take turns leading a 3-5 minute time of prayer.
Live-Stream Discussion Following General Conference
Saturday, March 2
Hughes UMC (10700 Georgia Ave ., Wheaton, MD 20902)
Following the conclusion of the General Conference, our Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference will host a live-stream event to discuss any legislation passed, answer questions about how local churches can respond, and outline our next steps as a conference. Hughes UMC in Wheaton will be one of the official host sites.
The Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church has compiled a number of useful resources regarding the Way Forward.
These resources include understanding the history of the church and its policies about human sexuality, the full-length report from the most recent special commission, summaries of current information, a statement from the Bishop, recommended reading, and guides for having discussions at the local level.
Getting ready for what The United Methodist Church decides about human sexuality and church policy.
On Saturday, May 19, 2018, we held the Way Forward at St. Paul's Workshop. The free workshop included 75 people, from youth age eleven to adults in their nineties.
Through breakout groups, activities, and discussions, this group attempted to ask and answer questions about essential beliefs and values of the people of St. Paul's. Our objective: To explore how our St. Paul’s congregation might respond to and address the United Methodist Church’s forthcoming decisions (not yet known) regarding policies addressing sexual orientation and homosexuality.
Our gathering was guided by three main questions:
- As Christians and United Methodists, what do different people at St. Paul's believe? Among these varying beliefs, which ones would all of us at St. Paul's agree on? In other words, what makes up the shared bedrock of our faith? This question was further divided into sections focused on what people believe about God's relationship to us, the Bible, worship, how people relate to each other, and how we address differences.
- What, concerning human sexuality and our church, might members of St. Paul's disagree on?
- Of the different ways decisions are made at St. Paul's, what might be a good way to proceed when choices related to human sexuality arise?
The goal was not to focus on debating individuals' personal opinions, but rather to fathom and report on the diversity of beliefs and thoughts that might be found across the congregation.
A longer summary of the workshop and details about our discussions are available as *pdf files for download here:
The Way Forward Workshop was organized for the St. Paul's UMC community by Bill Butz and Emily Sama-Miller.
We give special thanks for these Breakout Group facilitators:
Meg Baker, Alison Clark, Jay Codner, Rich Higgins, Steve Lillie, Martha Lipscomb, Phil Rush, Ray Ruskin, Susan Schwarz, Micah Smartt, and Travis Stalcup.
Since January 2017, United Methodist Conferences worldwide have been engaged in "praying our way forward," a vigil of prayer for the important work of the Commission on A Way Forward. The Baltimore-Washington Conference's designated time of prayer was held in July 2017. Please click here for a personal reflection by St. Paul's member Emily Sama-Miller, and a prayer from our July 23, 2017 worship service.