Monday, May 7, 2018

Recommended Readings: Bishops on A Way Forward

The United Methodist Church's Council of Bishops met last week to, among other things, act on the recommendations of the Commission on a Way Forward regarding proposals for a special called General Conference in February of 2019. This special called General Conference is intended to address the denomination's long-standing division over homosexuality, especially the practices of ordination of LGBTQ+ persons and gay church marriages.

The bishops made a recommendation, which is available in full here. A UMNS news article summarizes that recommendation.

There are three main takeaways:

1. The Council of Bishops has endorsed the One Church Plan, which would remove the restrictive language around homosexuality and make ordination and marriage matters of local and/or regional choice.

2. In their report to General Conference, the Council of Bishops will also include some description of the other two models considered: a Traditionalist Plan than focuses on stronger accountability to current standards on homosexuality and a Connectional Conference Plan that sort the denomination into three separate groups in the US based on views of homosexuality. There is some confusion whether the bishops intended to present these other two plans as legislation for consideration by General Conference or as appendixes to illustrate a historical narrative for how they reached their recommendation.

3. The bishops are not in agreement on which plan is the best. A majority of active bishops has endorsed the One Church Plan, but there is some level of support for each of the other two plans. Two bishops ([1] and [2]) referred to this support as "significant," but it is unclear what the exact level of support for each plan is, and the Council of Bishops has decided not to release vote totals.

More details about the bishops' recommendations will be forthcoming, with a full report issued by the deadline of July 8, and perhaps as soon as mid-June.

The Judicial Council will also be meeting May 22-25 to consider constitutional questions related to the special General Conference and the various proposals.

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