Bishop Peggy Johnson came to each of the districts last week to share a presentation regarding the Commission on the Way Forward. As many of you know, the United Methodist Church has been struggling for many years with the issue of human sexuality. The denomination has been divided into factions, some very conservative, some very liberal, and the tensions often boil over.
Perhaps you are aware that church law in the UMC mandates that we will not ordain openly gay clergy, and our clergy are forbidden to officiate at same sex marriages. In addition, the wording in the Book of Discipline (p. 161.G Social Principles) currently states the following in regard to human sexuality:
"We affirm that all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God. All persons need the ministry of the Church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship that enables reconciling relationships with God, with others, and with self. The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching. We affirm that God's grace is available to all. We will seek to live together in Christian community, welcoming, forgiving, and loving one another, as Christ has loved and accepted us. We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons."
At the 2016 General Conference, the Council of Bishops proposed the formation of a Commission on the Way Forward to examine and possibly revise every paragraph of the Book of Discipline concerning human sexuality. A special General Conference on Feb. 23-26, 2019 will take up proposals related to church unity and homosexuality.
In addition to keeping this process in your prayers, I'll be sharing the information presented by Bishop Johnson at two sessions this month - Tuesday evening, October 30th at 7 pm and Wednesday morning, October 31st at 10 am. This will not be a time to discuss the topic of homosexuality or to debate the direction the church should take, but primarily to keep everyone informed about the three possible plans that were proposed by the Commission, and the recommendations of the Council of Bishops.
And certainly, above all else, keep the work of the Commission, the Council of Bishops, the Judicial Council, and the upcoming General Conference in your prayers. And let's pray for all churches and all persons, regardless of sexual orientation, who may be impacted by the decisions that will be made in February.