During the Annual Conference session in Shreveport this year, Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey provided an update from the Commission on a Way Forward, including the work that is currently before the delegates as they get set for the special called session in February of 2019 in St. Louis, MO.
The Commission on a Way Forward was proposed by the Council of Bishops and approved by the 2016 General Conference to do a complete examination and possible revision of every paragraph of the Book of Discipline concerning human sexuality and explore options that help to maintain and strengthen the unity of the church.
This past year, the Commission sent its extensive work to the Council of Bishops for consideration and the Council voted to submit:
All three plans (The Traditionalist Plan, The One Church Plan and the Connectional Conference Plan) for a way forward considered by the Commission and the Council.
The Council’s recommendation of the One Church Plan.
An historical narrative of the Council’s discernment process regarding all three plans.
Guided by the mission, vision and scope document, the bishops agreed to recommend the One Church Plan. This plan provides conferences, churches, and pastors the flexibility to uniquely reach their missional context while retaining the connectional nature of The United Methodist Church.
The One Church Plan allows for contextualization of language about human sexuality in support of the mission; and allows for central conferences, especially those in Africa, to retain their disciplinary authority to adapt the Book of Discipline and continue to include traditional language and values while fulfilling the vision of a global and multicultural church.
This plan also encourages a generous unity by giving United Methodists the ability to address different missional contexts in ways that reflect their theological convictions. The One Church Plan removes the restrictive language of the Book of Discipline and adds assurances to pastors and Conferences who due to their theological conviction.
Bishop Harvey shared the following video from the Council of Bishops regarding the One Church Plan.
Bishop Harvey also encouraged anyone with questions regarding this plan, the work of the Commission on a Way Foward or the special called session in February to email: WayForwardQuestions@la-umc.org
The Council of Bishops, in partnership with The Upper Room, is launching Phase 3 of Praying our Way Forward.
Phase 1 involved 84 members of the Council of Bishops praying for The United Methodist Church’s way forward for 15 minutes daily, from August to December 2016. This was followed by Phase 2, which resulted in 18 continuous months of daily individual and corporate prayer by faithful members of annual conferences around the globe.
“Now we are ready to launch Phase 3, which begins June 3 and continues through the Special Session of General Conference in February 2019. In this phase, we are encouraging every United Methodist to fast weekly and to pray daily with the Council of Bishops,” said Bishop Al Gwinn, the Prayer Team Coordinator.
Engage in a weekly Wesleyan 24-hour fast from Thursday after dinner to Friday mid-afternoon. Those who have health situations causing food fasts to be unadvisable might consider fasting from social media, emails or another daily activity.
Pause and pray for our church’s mission and way forward daily for four minutes from 2:23 through 2:26 a.m. or p.m. in their own time zone OR at another time. This is because the Special Session of General Conference will be held February 23 through February 26, 2019.
Pray using a weekly prayer calendar that will be posted on the UMCPrays.org website from June 2, 2018, through the end of February 2019. The calendar will list a unique cluster of names each week. The names will balance United States bishops and delegates with Central Conference bishops and delegates. It will also include General Secretaries, Commission on a Way Forward members, the Commission of the General Conference and the staff of the General Conference.
“We urge every Annual Conference to use the video available on the umcprays.org website to promote Phase 3 of Praying Our Way Forward. There will also be a local church media kit with downloadable resources including logos, social media posts, and bulletin inserts available by Memorial Day,” said Tom Albin, director of Spiritual Formation for The Upper Room.
Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett, Council of Bishops Life Together chair, added: “We believe that the acts of weekly fasting and prayer will help us approach General Conference both individually and corporately in a posture of humility and receptivity to one another and to the leadership of God’s Holy Spirit,”