Commission on a Way Forward

The Council of Bishops has called a Special Session of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church to be held February 23-26, 2019, in St. Louis, Missouri. The purpose will be to receive and act on a report from the Commission on a Way Forward based on the recommendations of the Council of Bishops. The 32-member Commission was authorized by General Conference 2016 and appointed by the Council of Bishops to examine paragraphs in The Book of Discipline concerning human sexuality and exploring options to strengthen the unity of the church.

Here are some resources to help you and your church engage in conversations about the Special Session.

NEWS UPDATES: Judicial Council asked to rule on validity of plans - United Methodist News Service story (Oct. 23, 2018) 
                                   Judicial Council issues its rulings on validity of plans - United Methodist News Service story (Oct. 26, 2018)
                                   Read the Advance Daily Christian Advocate. The Advance Daily Christian Advocate (ADCA) contains the agenda, rules, delegate listings, petitions, reports from the general agencies/commissions and study committees, information for delegates, and codes of                                                                                                                                conduct for the General Conference



  • NEW (Nov. 12, 2018)Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton is episcopal leader of the New York Conference and also a member of the commission that plans the General Conference. As the special called 2019 conference approaches, Bickerton addressed some concerns he’s heard and acknowledged that delegates have a lot of work to do in a very short time frame.
  • Bishop Bruce Ough is the resident bishop of the Dakotas-Minnesota Episcopal Area. He was also president of the Council of Bishops during the 2016 General Conference that authorized the Commission on a Way Forward. Watch his series of videos.
  • Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball, resident bishop of the West Virginia Conference and one of the moderators for the Commission on a Way Forward, filmed a series of videos offering brief overviews of the three plans being considered by the special 2019 General Conference. Watch them here.
  • On Sept. 15, 2018, the Rev. Tom Berlin, pastor of Floris UMC in Herndon, Va., and a member of the Commission on a Way Forward, spoke for several hours about the 2019 Special Session of General Conference and the three plans being presented there. You can watch the video here. Pastors, especially, are invited and encouraged to share the information about the Special Session with their congregations, and to begin conversations (see below) about what is happening in their church. The PowerPoint slide presentation that Berlin used may be downloaded here.
  • Watch videos: Louisiana Area Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey, president-designate of the Council of Bishops, offered her thoughts on where we are as a church. Harvey spoke with UM News as part of a video series featuring different perspectives of church leaders on the work of the Commission on a Way Forward.
  • The BWC recommended at its 2018 Annual Conference Session that a covenant be used by local churches as they explore the way forward and how churches address homosexuality and other critical conversations. View "Finding our Way Forward."

small group discussion

  • Churches are encouraged to have conversations about The Way Forward.  Discipleship Ministries has this resource, including outlines, question starters, and more.
  • Cokesbury, the publishing arm of The United Methodist Church, has issued several books to engage conversation about human sexuality and the church. The books cover a wide variety of the theological spectrum. Learn more about "Faultlines."
  • At the urging of Bishop LaTrelle Easterling, the 12-member BWC delegation is studying the Book Anatomy of Peace, which the Commission has also read. The Arbinger Institute has a discussion and study guide for The Anatomy of Peace.
  • The Virginia Annual Conference has developed a resource on Dialoguing with Dignity.


a word from our bishop

  • Bishop LaTrelle Easterling, in her October 2018 "Word from the Bishop," writes about why she supports the One Church Plan.  
read the reports
other resources
  • The Commission on a Way Forward sought additional expertise from Wespath regarding the potential pension impacts of the Commission’s three proposals to the 2019 Special General Conference. Wespath provided information and analysis about how various scenarios under consideration might impact clergy pensions (U.S. plans), as well as related effects on local churches and annual conferences. Learn more.
contact our delegation to the 2019 Special Session - The BWC General Conference Delegation going to the 2019 Special Session are: (click on the name to contact them by e-mail)



The Special Session of General Conference will also consider other petitions related to human sexuality. The deadline to submit petitions has passed.

news articles

Tom Berlin's Powerpoint

Commission on a Way Forward Final Report -- translated into four languages

"Gil Rendle: a parable for today" 
is a video featuring Commission on A Way Forward Consultant Gil Rendle.  Gil shares a story that illustrates the difference between positions and interests. When we are able to move from holding onto our positions to seeking to understand each other’s underlying interests we are better able to move forward together.

"Purpose, Principles and Importance of the work of the Commission on a Way Forward." 
This video was recorded during the final May 2018 Commission meeting of the Commission on A Way Forward and gives an in depth theological and technical overview of the work of the commission that helps to frame the work that is being asked of the delegates to the February 2019 General Conference.

Bishop Grant Hagiya 
a member of the Commission on A Way Forward, shares reflections about the book "Anatomy of Peace."  Bishop Hagiya shares why the principles of this book help us make a fundamental shift from battleground to a place where people can have open and honest dialogue with one another. 

Donna Pritchard (clergy, Pacific Northwest Conference), Tom Salsgiver (clergy, Susquehanna Conference) and Leah Taylor (laity, Texas Conference)
are all Commission on A Way Forward members.  They share reflections on their work, the value of connection and the relationships they formed during their time together on the Commission. 

Commission on A Way Forward Moderators Overview: 
Bishops Sandra Steiner Ball, David Yemba and Ken Carter share an overview of their role as moderators for the Commission and how service was one of their primary focus.

Jasmine Smothers, Julie Hager Love and Tom Berlin
are all Commission members who are also clergy serving in the SEJ. In this interview they reflect on their experience and their hopes for the future of the United Methodist Church.

Dave Nuckols (laity, Minnesota) and Helen Cunanan (clergy, Philippines)
have a conversation about the Commission on A Way Forward sharing their experiences from very different places in the world.

Bishops Gregory Palmer and Robert Schnase
 who are members of the Commission, talk about how the work of the Commission points to the larger mission of The United Methodist Church.