Below you will find Bishop Peggy Johnson's response dated 5/5/2018 to the recommendation of the Council of Bishops in regard to the work of the "Way Forward" Commission. The Commission was charged with the task of preparing for the special session of General Conference to be held in February 2019. The goal of this special conference is to vote on a "way forward" for the United Methodist Church on the issue of human sexuality. Please keep this process in your thoughts and prayers. There is an explanation of the plan the bishop's are recommending ( "One Church Plan") as well as the other two options at the conclusion of her statement.
Statement from Bishop Peggy Johnson - Philadelphia Area
In 2016, the General Conference asked the bishops of the United Methodist Church to lead a process that would find a way forward for the church concerning the matter of human sexuality and, in particular, the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people in the church. At the Council of Bishops meeting last week we have decided on what we will present to the delegates for their work at the special-called session of General Conference in February 23-26, 2019.
The proposed way forward for our church keeps the mission of Jesus Christ, the unity of the church, and the affirmation of context based ministry as the key foundational points for the future of the church. The Council of Bishops is recommending a "One Church Plan" * that honors these diverse contextual and theological approaches in a proposal that offers space and grace for ministry to unfold.
It also allows for the Central Conferences, especially those in Africa to retain traditional language and values.
The Council of Bishops will include the other two plans ("Traditional Plan"** and "Connectional Plan"***) in their statement to the delegates and also explain the process that was involved in reaching this conclusion. These will be transparent narratives of the two other options that were are a part of our discernment and consideration. The final details of this will be available after July 8th when all of the translations of the documents are complete. The Council of Bishops agree to not discuss details or legislative proposals of the plans until they are available to everyone.
I want to assure you that there has been considerable prayer, theological reflection and deep conversation this week. We are of many hearts in this denomination and also among the bishop colleagues there is diversity of thoughts.
What do we do now in the meantime?
-We remain prayerful for the unity of the church. The bishops are calling for everyone to consider pausing to pray each day from 2:23 and 2:26 (both a.m. and p.m as is possible). Those times are the exact dates of our special called session of General Conference (February 23-26). Also we ask that you consider entering into a Wesley Fast (sundown on Thursday until noon on Friday) each week in preparation for General Conference. Other prayer suggestions and gatherings across the connection will be organized as well.
-We as United Methodists need to enter into an attitude of "convicted humility." According to the COB "This is an attitude which combines honesty about the differing convictions which divide us with humility about the way in which each of our views may stand in need of corrections. It also involves humble repentance for all the ways in which we have spoken and acted as those seeking to win a fight rather than those called to discern the shape of faithfulness together. In that spirit, we wish to lift up the sacred core commitments which define the Wesleyan movement and ground our search for wisdom and holiness."
Most importantly we keep doing the mission of the church. The overwhelming work that we all support is making disciples for the transformation of the world. We do this by church development and redevelopment, encouraging new leaders, engaging in ministry with the poor and improving global health. United Methodists are people of grace, peace and hope. May it be so!
*One Church Plan (Formerly "Centrist Plan") - removes the restrictive language in the Discipline around same gender marriage and the practice of and ordination of lesbian and gay people. It will allow each conference and church to operate from their context. No one would be forced to go against their conscience around these issues. There would be no changes in the constitution.
**Traditional Plan - keeps the Discipline as it is with the restrictive language around same gender marriage and the practice of and ordination of lesbian and gay people. Stronger accountabilities would be a part of this plan.
***Connectional Plan (Formerly "Multi-branch" Plan) - allows jurisdictions to vote to become in one of three groups: traditional, contextual, and justice. The central conferences could also become a group if desired. All groups would share some of the common denominational services and some agencies. The individual groups would organize their own programming. Conferences may affiliate with another group if the one that their jurisdiction is a part of is not where they wish to join. There would be seven constitutional changes needed to empower this plan to be enacted.
Bishop Peggy A. Johnson