I have had the privilege of serving on the Commission on a Way Forward during the past 18 months. Thank you for your prayers and patience as this Commission formed, studied, discerned and developed a report in preparation for the 2019 Special Session of General Conference.
The final report represents the work of 32 Commission on a Way Forward members from four continents, nine countries and a broad range of experiences and theological perspectives. This document includes a historical narrative of the Commission on a Way Forward’s work, key foundational ideas, theological and missional frameworks and three possible plans, including petitions, to go before the 864 voting delegates at the 2019 General Conference. Judicial Council Decision 1360 clarifies that the General Conference will also consider other petitions as long as they are in harmony with the Commission on a Way Forward report.
The Council of Bishops recently requested a declaratory decision on the constitutionality of the three plans. This is to help the General Conference know in advance of our February 23-26, 2019, meeting if there are constitutional issues with any of the plans. This request will allow the delegates to correct constitutional issues with the plans at the 2019 General Conference.
Though the Council of Bishops and Commission on General Conference will wait to publicly release the report until after it is translated in all four General Conference languages on or near July 30, a public version in English only was posted on the Judicial Council web-site last week. (See http://cdnfiles.umc.org/Website_Properties/who-we-are/judicial-council/judicial-council-dockets/docket-10-2018-12.pdf) This meets the requirement in our 2016 Book of Discipline that declaratory decision requests, including relevant documents such as legislative petitions, shall be posted on the Judicial Council website thirty (30) days prior to the filing date of briefs. (The 2016 Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church ¶2608.1)
I encourage you to carefully read the entire Commission on a Way Forward report from start to finish at least once, perhaps twice. It will be necessary to read the report in its entirety to make fully informed decisions about the merits and liabilities of the three proposed plans.
Remember this report and other petitions will be received by elected delegates from around the world. The delegates will then gather in St. Louis, Missouri, on February 23-26, 2019, to prayerfully discern the best way forward for our United Methodist Church. You can find the names of the General Conference delegates elected by the North Alabama Conference at www.umcna.org/gc2019.
I invite each of us to respond to the report in a spirit of respectful dialogue. Though we will have differing perspectives on various aspects of the report, especially which of the plans we believe the church should adopt, we will honor Christ by offering civility and grace as we discuss our opinions.
We will have a follow-up Commission on a Way Forward presentation at each of the Annual Fall Days in the District. These will be a 75-90 minute evening segment which includes a recap of the Commission on a Way Forward and Council of Bishops work . . . a word from General Conference delegates . . . and prayer and praise time. Check with District Offices for specific times. The District days are:
Also, I invite you to join me in “Praying Our Way Forward” as a North Alabama Conference daily from 2:23-2:26 a.m. or p.m., numbers corresponding to the February 23-26 dates of the special General Conference. Prayer for our church’s mission, future and delegates is always important and timely, especially at this juncture in the life of our denomination. In addition those who are able to fast are encouraged to do so weekly from Thursday after dinner to mid afternoon on Friday.
Thank you for the wonderful spirit you have shown through the Commission on a Way Forward process. I look forward to continued conversation about this and other matters related to our beloved United Methodist Church during the upcoming District Days. As always it is a privilege to serve as your bishop.
North Alabama Conference