[caption id="attachment_2220" align="alignright" width="360"] Bishop Lowry presiding over a plenary session at General Conference 2016[/caption] Members of the Council of Bishops delayed their leaving Portland, Ore. following the end General Conference 2016 by a day and came together to work on issues referred to us by the General Conference. In major part, we worked to share a common understanding with regard to the adoption of “An Offering for a Way Forward” – a statement from the Council of Bishops on Human Sexuality, which establishes a Commission on Human Sexuality based on action by the 2016 General Conference. You can read this statement at ctcumc.org/COB-awayforward. It is important to faithfully consider the contents of the statement from the Council of Bishops, which was adopted by General Conference. My colleague, Bishop Scott Jones, resident bishop of the Great Plains Conference UMC, has written a useful summary, which I share with his permission below. “Please read the statement carefully, and study it closely. It has many important sections about prayer, continuing conversation, and the unity we have in Christ. At the same time, there have been social media statements, which are based on misunderstandings of the document. The following key points will help you understand what it does and does not say:
- We [The United Methodist Council of Bishops] are committed to the unity of The United Methodist Church and will seek to strengthen it.
- We will lead the church in every part of the world in times of worship, study, discernment, confession and prayer for God's guidance.
- We are called to work and pray for more Christ-like unity with each other, rather than separation from one another.
- We have heard that some believe there is "contradictory, unnecessarily hurtful, and inadequate language concerning human sexuality in the Book of Discipline." However, no agreement about the truth or falsity of this claim has been reached, either by the Council of Bishops or by the General Conference.
- The Council of Bishops will form a commission to study all of the paragraphs in our Book of Discipline regarding human sexuality. The subject has been referred to this commission, which will be named sometime between now and Nov. 2, 2016.
- The Council of Bishops may choose to call a special session of the General Conference before 2020 to deal with recommendations of the commission. No decision has been made about whether this is a wise use of the church's money and time.
- The Council of Bishops will have conversations about how the church can best live in grace with one another, including discussion about ways to avoid further complaints, trials and harm.
- The bishops will uphold the discipline of the Church while these conversations continue.
- All provisions of the 2012 Book of Discipline on matters of human sexuality will remain in force until a General Conference changes them.”