1.            Commission on a Way Forward – Mission, Vision, Scope - http://imgsvr.eventrebels.com/ERImg/02/03/21/COWF-MissionVisionScope.pdf

2.            United Methodist women’s historical social policies summaries on human sexuality (4 One-page handouts) - http://imgsvr.eventrebels.com/ERImg/02/03/21/HumanSexualityPolicysummariesofUMW.pdf

3.            Unafraid and Unashamed: Facing the Future of United Methodism, by Robert “Wil” Cantrell  Free downloadable chapter (Chapter One)  - http://www.unafraidandunashamed.com/learn-more.html    (scroll to bottom of page for “Download Free Chapter”)

4.            Holding Together, by Jane Ellen Nickell, June 19, 2017 – blog https://nickellweb.wordpress.com/2017/06/19/holding-together   



10 Things We Know About the 3 Options for the Future of United Methodism

Recently, the Commission on a Way Forward presented an interim report to the Council of Bishops in which they shared their preliminary proposals. In a news release, the Council of Bishops reported they received three different options from the commission.
Proposal #1 – Maintain the current language in the Book of Discipline and strengthen accountability procedures.
Proposal #2 – Remove language forbidding ordination and marriage based on sexual preference from the Book of Discipline. Allow churches and conferences to work out their response to questions regarding LGBTQ inclusion in their local context. (Similar previous proposals have often been referred to as “The Local Option”.)
Proposal #3 – Create a system where 2 or perhaps 3 denominations with different standards regarding LGBTQ inclusion operate and share ministry together under the larger umbrella of United Methodism. In essence this plan would create 2 or 3 sub-denominations within one larger denomination.
Here’s what we know and what we don’t know from the Bishops Report.

  1. We know the commission will most likely create the legislation necessary to implement all three plans. This is a positive development because no matter which proposal wins the day, no one will benefit from hastily crafted haphazard legislation being introduced if the initial proposal fails to gain adequate support.
  2. We do not know if the Council of Bishops will choose a plan to recommend to the General Conference and submit only the legislative proposals related to the chosen plan or if the Council of Bishops will submit legislation for all 3 plans and leave it up to the delegates to decide which plan (if any) should be passed.
  3. We know (from the news release) all 3 options allow an amicable way for churches to leave the denomination if they deem the new structure to be harmful to their attempts to minister effectively in their communities. (Most likely this means such churches would be given the ability to leave the denomination while paying an exit fee to the denomination that is substantially less than the full price of their property – which is required by the current trust clause.)
  4. We know Proposal 1 would result in the United Methodist Church becoming primarily a traditionalist denomination with a number of progressive pastors and churches exiting the denomination to start new expressions of Methodism. Generally speaking, pastors tend to express slightly more progressive views than congregations, so in this set up there could be a number of centrist or progressive pastors who would remain in the denomination due to their connection to their local churches and annual conferences within which traditionalist views of LGBTQ inclusion are the norm.
  5. We know Proposal 2 would result in the United Methodist Church becoming primarily a progressive denomination with a number of traditionalist pastors and churches exiting the denomination in favor of starting a new form of Methodism.
  6. We know Proposal 3 appears attractive to many centrists and those with strong ideological dispositions against schism because it seems to hold progressives and traditionalists together under a big tent expression of United Methodism while allowing each group the autonomy to minister in accordance with their consciences.
  7. We know many others denominations have struggled to find unity amidst diverse views about LGBTQ inclusion. However, no other denomination has taken an approach like Proposal 3. Accordingly, Proposal 3 is attractive because of its creativity, but it remains to be seen if such a proposal could be practically implemented.
  8. We do not know what Proposal 3 would actually look like. Only the bishops and commission members know the real details of this option and it is likely some of those details are still being worked out. If you are looking for an educated guess about what Proposal 3 might actually include, the best guess I have seen so far comes from Rev. Chris Ritter of the Illinois Great Rivers Conference in blog post  which can be read by clicking here.    
  9. We do not know if any of the options can garner a 2/3 majority of the votes at General Conference that will be needed to pass the constitutional amendments necessary for their implementation. If a proposal passes General Conference largely intact, we still do not know if the constitutional amendments upon which proposal relies will be ratified. Ratification requires that each constitutional amendment gain the support of 2/3 of the aggregate total of all voting delegates at each annual conference throughout the world.
  10. We know if nothing changes after the 2019 General Conference some churches will choose to exit the United Methodist denomination and it is likely they will challenge the legality of the application of the trust clause in this particular instance. While it is widely assumed the majority of these churches would hold traditionalist leanings, it is possible some progressive churches could choose to exit as well.           




Statement From Bishop Swanson:

I am currently attending an Active Bishops Learning Retreat that began at the conclusion of our Council of Bishops (COB) Fall Meeting. The majority of our time together during the COB was spent receiving a preliminary report from the Commission on A Way Forward. The official report of what was presented and discussed during our three days together is in the press release following my statement. I ask that you read that document carefully and prayerfully. Please be aware of the following points.

  1. We did not receive a final report from the commission.
  2. We did receive three sketches of organizational structures we might use given our expressed differences on the issue of The UMC’s relationship with LGBTQ persons. 
  3. The Commission on a Way Forward is still hard at work and needs our continuing prayer.

I ask that after you read the press release that you pause and pray for us to be what Jesus prayed in John 17 – that “we would be one.”



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