While the story of the UMC's General Conference 2016 is being told as a story about debates over sexuality (which it is), looked at another way, this General Conference has been all about bishops and their role in leading the church, as the following recommended readings indicate.
The bishops have been at the center of the drama of the debate over sexuality. After rumors surfaced of a possible denominational schism, they issued a call for unity Tuesday morning, though they recognized that they were not of one mind themselves. The conference responded by calling on the Council of Bishops to present a plan for moving forward in light of intractable disagreements over sexuality. The bishops answered by recommending the formation of a study committee, tabling all sexuality-related legislation for this General Conference, and possibly calling a special General Conference to discuss the committee's recommendations. After contentious debate, General Conference narrowly approved the bishops' plan.
While this drama has taken up most of the attention, it has not been the only episcopal development at this General Conference. Also related primarily to the issue of sexuality, but occurring before the events described above, the Council of Bishops affirmed "A Covenant of Accountability."
This General Conference has seen debate over episcopal term limits as well, which were ultimately voted down.
Moreover, General Conference approved five new bishops for Africa, all starting in 2020, deciding against an amendment to add two immediately.
Bishops have also been trying to lead the conference and the denomination in prayer.
While much has been and will be written in the coming days about what this week's decisions mean for the denomination's stance on sexuality, the denomination would also do well to reflect on what this conference's events mean for our ecclesiology of the episcopacy, and how our historical ecclesiological understandings of the episcopacy can help us think through how to continue to faithfully work together to build the future of The United Methodist Church.