I write this blog at the conclusion of the Spring Council of Bishops meeting in Chicago. Many of you have been in prayer about this particular meeting in which the Council of Bishops determined the Way Forward recommendation that we will send forth to the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference.
Our 5½ day meeting included daily worship, much prayer and significant time in executive session with honest and caring conversation. We determined to send the 2019 General Conference three detailed models of potential ways forward for our denomination. All three models received support within the Council of Bishops with one model being recommended as the preference of the majority of resident bishops.
The Council of Bishops adopted the following:
Having received and considered the extensive work of the Commission on a Way Forward, the Council of Bishops will submit a report to the special session of the General Conference in 2019 that includes:
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.
A historical narrative of the Council’s discernment process regarding all three plans.
Rationale: In order to invite the church to go deeper into the journey the Council and Commission have been on, the Council makes all the information considered by the Commission and the Council of Bishops available to the delegates of the General Conference and acknowledges there is support for each of the three plans within the Council. The values of our global church are reflected in all three plans. The majority of the Council recommends The One Church Plan as the best way forward for The United Methodist Church.
While the majority of The Council of Bishops indicated a preference for the One Church Model, the recommendation adopted reflects the wide diversity of perspectives within the Council of Bishops on our best way forward as a denomination. It also provides the General Church with three specific and detailed possibilities including legislation for moving out of our current impasse. Ultimately the decision on this matter lies with the 800+ clergy and lay delegates from around the world who will convene at the Special Session of the General Conference in St. Louis on February 23-26, 2019.
Full details of the plans and accompanying legislation will be forthcoming once they are edited and translated into the multiple languages of the General Conference (no later than July 8). This will allow United Methodists from all around the globe to receive the information at the same time. As bishops we have covenanted to not discuss details or legislation of the three plans until they are available to everyone.
Over the next several months the church will participate in considerable conversation about the three plans and the upcoming General Conference. Each United Methodist is also invited to participate in the third phase of Praying Our Way Forward which begins in June 2018 and continues through the 2019 Special Session of General Conference (February 23-26). Praying Our Way Forward phase 3 includes:
This is indeed a challenging season in our beloved United Methodist Church. It is also a time when God continues to do amazing work in the lives of individuals and communities through the United Methodist Church. United Methodists are people filled with grace, peace and hope. Mission is alive as we make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
Blessings to each of you in your ministry in your church and community. As always it is a privilege to serve as your bishop.
North Alabama Conference