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Commission on a Way Forward

The Commission on a Way Forward

The 32-member Commission on a Way Forward was created by the Council of Bishops at the 2016 General Conference in Portland Oregon to completely examine and possibly recommend revisions of every paragraph in the Book of Discipline related to human sexuality. The bishops' focus was the ongoing unity of The United Methodist Church.

The Commission's first meeting was Jan. 23-26. Its members are from nine countries and represent a vast array of viewpoints from throughout the denomination. It submitted a report of their deliberations to the Council of Bishops at a meeting April 29-May 4. That recommendation was for the so-called One Church Plan

A Jan. 22 UMNS article stated that the Commission looked at three possible models for how the denomination treats LGBTQ inclusion. They included:

  • "Affirm the current Book of Discipline language and place a high value on accountability. The church policy book says the practice of homosexuality "is incompatible with Christian teaching" and lists officiating at a same-gender union or being a "self-avowed practicing" gay clergy member as chargeable offenses under church law.
  • "Remove the Book of Discipline's restrictive language and place a high value on contextualization. This sketch also specifically protects the rights of those whose conscience will not allow them to perform same-gender weddings or ordain LGBTQ people.
  • "Create multiple branches that have clearly defined values such as accountability, contextualization, and justice. This model would maintain shared doctrine and services and one Council of Bishops.

In April 2018, the Council of Bishops announced that they were recommending to the church the so-called "One Church Plan." Under this plan, decisions about whether to ordain LGBTQ clergy or to officiate at same-gender unions would be made closer to the congregational level. The plan would remove the restrictive language against the practice of homosexuality in the Book of Discipline, the denomination’s policy book. The plan also adds assurances to pastors and conferences who in good conscience cannot perform same-sex weddings or ordain “self-avowed practicing” gay clergy that they don’t have to do so. Central conferences — church regions in Africa, Asia and Europe — could maintain current restrictions.

The plan “encourages a generous unity by giving United Methodists the ability to address different missional contexts in ways that reflect their theological convictions,” said the bishops’ press release.

The bishops are expected to make this proposal to the church, which will be voted on by delegates from every Annual and Central Conference, at a Special Session of General Conference in St. Louis, Missouri, Feb. 23-26, 2019.

The Special Session of General Conference will also consider other petitions related to human sexuality. The deadline to submit petitions is July 8.

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