This is from United Methodist News Service …
This is a statement from the Council of Bishops, with links to the three basic plans going to the called General Conference in 2019…
— First posted Aug. 1, 2018
Here’s an update on developments surrounding the called General Conference in 2019. I’m trying to be as brief as possible, but as you’ll see, the situation is complicated.
If you’ve been through one of my overview classes, it will help to remember the UM church, like the United States, has what amounts to three branches of government. The General Conference is our legislative branch; the Council of Bishops is our executive branch.
The Judicial Council is our judicial branch. It reviews whether the other branches’ actions meet the “constitutional” demands of our rules, recorded in the Book of Discipline.
There have been some recent Judicial Council rulings related to the scope of the called conference, which is intended to resolve the church’s stance on homosexual marriage and ordination. The church’s Discipline expressly forbids marriage or ordination of “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals,” but several conferences, churches and individual pastors are ignoring the Discipline, often without repercussions.
Without getting into the complicated legalities and the history of what has transpired since 2016, I’ll just say that those Judicial Council rulings caused our Council of Bishops to withdraw recommendations made to the 2019 General Conference. Instead, three plans from a study commission are going for consideration.
One of those, the “traditionalist” plan, would leave the system the way it is, possibly with more enforcement in place. The other two plans would, in one way or another, allow conferences, clergy and churches to make their own decisions regarding homosexual marriage and ordination.
Because of complications in translating the three plans, they are not officially public yet, but English-language versions did surface during the Judicial Council processes. Click the link below to read those petitions in full.
Additionally, if my reading of the United Methodist News Service is correct, 48 other plans, some of them variations on the basic three, have been submitted for consideration by the 2019 General Conference, to be held Feb. 23-26 in St. Louis. At least one of those petitions simply calls for the dissolution of the UMC. Ultimately, committees at 2019 General Conference will determine what petitions reach the floor.
I also know enough people heavily involved in the process to give you a little “inside baseball.” There is some talk among orthodox, centrist and progressive groups about suspending the rules of General Conference and first creating an exit plan. Ideally, it would guarantee that no matter what happens, unhappy churches could leave the denomination in a financially painless way.
The delegates would then move on to deciding the church’s stance on homosexuality.
Let’s continue to be in prayer for all involved in this process, and that God’s will be done through the General Conference in 2019.
— Pastor Chuck Griffin, July 30, 2018
Note: What is below is older information. It has been left here for background purposes, but some of it has been overridden by developments mentioned above. In particular, it should be noted that the Council of Bishops is no longer sending any sort of recommendation to GC2019.
For about four decades now, the United Methodist Church has been grappling with the issue of homosexuality, in particular whether the church should ordain practicing homosexuals and allow clergy to officiate at homosexual marriages. Our UMC Discipline continues to forbid any of this, despite proposals coming up at General Conference every four years.
In recent years, UM clergy and even whole conferences have knowingly violated the Discipline, performing marriages and ordaining openly gay or lesbian people. In 2016, the Western Jurisdiction of the UMC elected and installed a married lesbian, Karen Oliveto, as bishop over the UMC’s Mountain Sky episcopal area, which covers all of Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Utah and a small portion of Idaho. Oliveto formerly led a large church in San Francisco.
In all of this, one truth has become clear: There is no way for the larger UMC to enforce the Discipline where entire conferences defy it. For all practical purposes, we are currently experiencing a schism.
At the 2016 General Conference, delegates decided on a plan to end this schism one way or another. Bishops were authorized to create a planning commission, and based on its recommendations, call a special General Conference in 2019 focused solely on settling the UMC stance on homosexuality.
The commission, known as The Way Forward Commission, for several months considered three options. The first would leave our Discipline the way it is, except stronger accountability to its rules would somehow be put in place. The other two options would, in different ways, allow homosexual marriages and ordinations to happen within the UMC, either on a conference-by-conference and church-by-church basis, or under a system where the UMC would essentially be an umbrella with two or more denominations under it.
On May 4, the UMC Council of Bishops decided to send all three options to General Conference 2019 for consideration. The bishops did express a preference for the option that would remove from the Discipline language currently prohibiting homosexual ordinations and marriages. The press release from the Council of Bishops can be read here.
The church’s Judicial Council also has made clear that additional petitions to GC2019 can be heard, so long as these petitions “are in harmony with the purpose stated in the call.” This ruling means there will be additional options on the table, some sent from clergy, laity or advocacy groups.
Below are some links to the United Methodist Church, and to advocacy groups and publications attempting to influence the church. These links are provided so people trying to develop a better understanding of the situation can explore the matter further on their own.
— Pastor Chuck Griffin
Reconciling Ministries Network Home Page (Advocating the “progressive” or “liberal” position)