Council of Bishops Announces 32 Members of the Commission on A Way Forward
Rev. Casey Orr one of two deacons named to the Commission.
The United Methodist Council of Bishops (COB) has announced the 32 persons who will comprise the membership of the Commission on a Way Forward. The Commission's mission is to "bring together persons deeply committed to the future(s) of The United Methodist Church, with an openness to developing new relationships with each other and exploring the potential future(s) of our denomination in light of General Conference and subsequent annual, jurisdictional and central conference actions."
"After three months of diligent and prayerful discernment, we have selected 8 bishops, 11 laity, 11 elders and 2 deacons to serve on the Commission," said Bishop Bruce R. Ough, president of the Council of Bishops. "This group is representative of our theological diversity." The commission was expected to be named by Aug. 31, but the overwhelming number of nominations received (more than 300) caused the COB Executive Committee to delay that decisionin order to give each nomination thoughtful and prayerful consideration.
One of the 32 chosen to be on the commission is the CTC’s own Casey Langley Orr. Currently serving as a Deacon appointed to First UMC Fort Worth, Casey was “incredibly surprised and deeply humbled” when she received the invitation to be a part of the Commission on a Way Forward. She is also eager to begin the work and serve the UMC connection.
“There are so many wise and more experienced people in our conference – both laity and clergy.” Casey said upon learning of her being named to the Commission. “As I’ve settled into the possibility of serving on the Commission, I have to assume that God was and is at work in this process and have become convicted that maybe my experience and wisdom – however limited they may seem - could be used to serve our church. I’m humbled and thankful to Bishop Lowry and the Council of Bishops for entrusting me with this opportunity to serve, and hope to serve in a way that honors that trust.”
Bishop Lowry, who’s five nominees from the CTC encompassed all age, race and gender demographics and contained those on “both sides of the issue,” believes Casey will represent the Central Texas Conference and the church universal very well. “Casey [is] an outstanding choice who will prayerfully see a way forward in these tumultuous times.” Bishop Lowry writes in his latest blog post. “I ask us all to keep the entire Commission, and indeed the United Methodist Church as a whole, in our prayers. I especially ask that you be in prayer for Casey.”
In the announcement from the COB, Bishop Ough commented that the 32-member commission (14 female, 18 male) is roughly comparable to U.S. and Central Conference membership. The Commission has 21 members from the U.S., seven from Africa and two each from Europe and the Philippines – each of which is charged with assisting the COB fulfill the mandate given by the 2016 General Conference to lead The United Methodist Church in discerning and proposing a way forward through the present impasse related to human sexuality and the consequent questions about unity and covenant.
While the Commission will not determine a resolution to these issues - clergy and laity will vote at a General Conference on these matters – it is expected to inform and help guide the Council of Bishop’s leadership of the called General Conference. A responsibility for which Casey has high hopes.
“I hope that the Commission can set an example to our Church for listening to one another, disagreeing with one another and growing in understanding of one another, Casey remarked. “Each person and community is complex and I hope we give space for people to be wholly themselves and be altogether heard.”
“I hope for creativity and that the Commission will be open to dream,” she continued. “The task is messy and the work will be under a microscope, but maybe with the courage to dream, there will be a spark that gives life to an idea or option that hasn’t yet been considered – and option that offers hope and a way forward to our church.”
When asked how she plans to make those hopes a reality and represent the CTC as a member of the Commission, Casey shared that she plans to represent the church as a whole first and foremost. “I am, of course, a young female deacon from Central Texas. It is very tempting to start thinking about and feel responsibility to all of the groups I am ‘representing.’ However, I am going to focus my energy on being a faithful disciple. That’s about the best I can hope for.”
The team of moderators – Bishop Ken Carter, Bishop Sandra Steiner-Ball and Bishop David Yemba - will convene the Commission to begin to organize their work and finalize their meeting schedule as soon as possible. At their fall meeting (Oct. 30 – Nov. 2), the Council of Bishops will make a decision about a called General Conference and will review a plan to conduct additional and complementary work in annual conferences designed to broaden the conversation with hundreds of lay and clergy members.
Here are the 32 members of the Commission on a Way Forward (listed alphabetically by last name)
Jorge Acevedo - USA, Florida, elder, male
Brian Adkins - USA, California, elder, male
Jacques Umembudi Akasa - Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo, laity, male