LATEST DEVELOPMENT: Judicial Council Okays Submission of Other Petitions to General Conference 2019
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)