The Commission on a Way Forward has drafted an interim report to share with the Council of Bishops in its task of finding a way forward for The United Methodist Church (UMC). During the meeting in Nashville, Oct. 30-Nov. 1, members of the Commission agreed on presenting an interim report that emphasizes the need for unity of the UMC, yet recognizing the different theological understanding on LGBTQ identity.
“We are convinced that with love, we will continue to discern God’s vision for our church and listen and see what God wants us to be and to do,” said Bishop David Yemba, one of the moderators of the Commission.
The three-day meeting at the United Methodist Publishing House featured heartfelt and spirit-filled devotions led by Tom Salsgiver, Pat Miller and Scott Johnson and a deep desire to share the love of God with all of God’s people in the global church. Significant contexts and realities were also kept before the group:
- the growing complexity of cultures in the United States and across the world;
- the need to see the LGBTQ conversation through a missional frame;
- the sin of prejudice against persons with LGBTQ identity,
- and the call to be an evangelical church that reaches more people with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The members, working in small groups, explored models that are shaped by the original “Mission, Vision and Scope” document: “To design a way for being church that maximizes the presence of a United Methodist witness in as many places in the world as possible, that allows for as much contextualization as possible, and that balances an approach to different theological understandings of human sexuality with a desire for as much unity as possible”.
Commenting on the work, commission member Jasmine Smothers, a pastor in the North Georgia Conference noted that "this work has not been done in a vacuum. Every letter, email, book, presentation, proposal and constituent voice submitted to us has been reviewed, heard and considered. I am prayerful and hope-filled as we submit an interim report to the Council for Bishops for their review and direction (the Commission was formed through General Conference by the Council of Bishops). There is more work to be done. The Commission has three more meetings after we receive the interim feedback from the Bishops.”
The commission is aware of the desire for a more open and public engagement with the substance of our work. Much of this engagement occurs between meetings, as moderators and members have:
- listened and shared with annual conferences, leadership gatherings, general secretaries, caucus groups, theological schools;
- posted letters, articles and testimonies from United Methodists across the world for reading by commission members;
- engaged in a conference call with communicators from annual conferences across the connection;
- collaborated with the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry on two colloquies, one on “Unity and Human Sexuality” held at Emory University, and the second on “The Missio Dei (Mission of God) and the United States” to be held at Boston University this fall;
- began a conversation with the United Methodist Publishing House about resources that will tell the stories of unity across our global church; and
- recorded a series of brief podcasts and videos that will be shared through the Commission Facebook page. The latest video, a conversation among the three moderators (David Yemba, Sandra Steiner Ball and Ken Carter) will be posted this week.
The interim report of the commission will be given to the bishops during their meeting at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina, next week. This sharing will draw upon the work of the Status Report, given to the whole church in July. The members expect the bishops to offer feedback that would help the commission in advancing a final report next year in readiness for the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference.
As an additional note, the Way Forward conversation is proceeding in the Florida Conference in three important ways:
- Several district gatherings for clergy and lay leaders to hear a status report of the commission’s work. These will be led by Alex Shanks in partnership with the district superintendents. Please contact your district office for details.
- Resources for local churches are being developed by a planning team that includes laity and clergy, delegates to the 2019 called General Conference and cabinet members. These resources should be available in 2018.
- Time is being set aside at the June 2018 Annual Conference for listening and sharing in anticipation of the commission's recommendations.
~Bishop Ken Carter, Florida Conference, The United Methodist Church, and Moderator Team, Commission on a Way Forward