The Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church came together earlier this week (Feb.25-28) with the primary purpose of receiving the most recent report from the Commission on A Way Forward. As you’ll recall, the Commission on A Way Forward (COWF) is a 32-member commission appointed by the Council of Bishops to assist them in their charge from the 2016 General Conference to lead the church forward amid the present impasse related to LGBTQ inclusion and resulting questions about the unity of the church. For more information on COWF, visit umc.org/wayforward, or check them out on social media via Facebook, Twitter(@UMCFoward) and/or Instagram
After receiving the report, the Council discussed, debated and Holy conferenced about the report in executive session. “The work of the Commission on A Way Forward is deeply appreciated – personally and I believe by all my fellow bishops,” stated Bishop Lowry
. “I continue to relish your prayers for the Council of Bishops, the Commission on A Way Forward and the future of the United Methodist Church. As we collectively continue this journey and beyond, may we always walk with Christ.”
The following was released by the Council of Bishops late Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018
What is Christ’s way forward for doing mission and ministry in the worldwide United Methodist Church? That was the question pondered by the Council of Bishops (COB) as they received an updated report from the Commission on a Way Forward
during their February meeting in Dallas.
In the report given to the COB, the Commission shared with the bishops two sketches that carry forward many of the values and principles of the three sketches that were presented to the bishops at the November COB meeting
“The sketches of these two models represent the values, concerns and feedback we have received since we reported to the Council in November,” said Bishop Ken Carter, one of the moderators of the Commission. “The two sketches provide avenues for unity, contextualization and mission.”
While the bishops offered feedback on the two revised sketches, they did not vote. Instead they requested that the Commission continues its work to prepare a final report to be presented to the bishops at their April/May meeting.
Summary of the sketches of the models
Here is a high-level summary of the two sketches in process. Please note that these are not the final sketches and details may change based on the Commission’s work prior to the April 29-May 4 COB meeting.
ONE CHURCH MODEL
§ The One Church Model gives churches the room they need to maximize the presence of United Methodist witness in as many places in the world as possible. The One Church Model provides a generous unity that gives conferences, churches and pastors the flexibility to uniquely reach their missional context in relation to human sexuality without changing the connectional nature of The United Methodist Church.
MULTI-BRANCH: ONE CHURCH MODEL
▪ This model is grounded in a unified core that includes shared doctrine and services and one Council of Bishops, while also creating different branches that have clearly defined values such as accountability, contextualization and justice. The five U.S. jurisdictions would be replaced by three connectional conferences, each covering the whole country, based on theology and perspective on LGBTQ ministry (i.e. progressive, contextual, traditional branches). Annual conferences would decide which connectional conference with which to affiliate; only local churches who choose a branch other than the one chosen by their annual conference would vote to join another conference.
The Commission on a Way Forward will meet in Los Angeles in a few weeks and then give its final report to Council of Bishops at the April/May meeting in Chicago.
The COWF report wasn’t the only business conducted
During this week’s meeting in Dallas, the bishops also heard reports on the impact of both models on pension benefits, the connection, central conferences and fiscal responsibilities.
Council President Bishop Bruce Ough noted that the process of seeking a way forward was grounded in three major values:
1. A renewed attention to our public mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, especially with those who are not yet a part of our churches.
2. A focus on contextuality in a global church, and our continuing call to learn from each other, listen to each other.
3. Continuing to work with traditional, contextual and progressive values that are present in two models, one that is more aligned with a contextual church with the removed language about human sexuality, a second which differentiates between these values as different branches of one church.
At the close of the meeting, the Council of Bishops offered condolences to the family of the Rev. Dr. Billy Graham, the noted evangelist, who passed away recently.