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Moving forward: A statement from the United Methodist Council of Bishops

Moving forward: A statement from the United Methodist Council of Bishops

The Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church released a statement today following its President’s message yesterday at General Conference. The statement reflects on the division within the church over LGBT inclusion, structured under the concepts of Unity, Prayer, Processes, Next Steps and Continuing Discussions. Following are excerpts; the entire statement can be read here.

We share with you a deep commitment to the unity of the church in Christ our Lord. Yesterday, our president shared the deep pain we feel. We have all prayed for months and continue to do so. We seek, in this kairos moment, a way forward for profound unity on human sexuality and other matters. This deep unity allows for a variety of expressions to co-exist in one church. Within the Church, we are called to work and pray for more Christ-like unity with each other rather than separation from one another. This is the prayer of Jesus in John 17:21-23…

UNITY
We believe that our unity is found in Jesus Christ; it is not something we achieve but something we receive as a gift from God. We understand that part of our role as bishops is to lead the church toward new behaviors, a new way of being and new forms and structures which allow a unity of our mission of “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world” while allowing for differing expressions as a global church. Developing such new forms will require a concerted effort by all of us, and we your bishops commit ourselves to lead this effort. We ask you, as a General Conference, to affirm your own commitment to maintaining and strengthening the unity of the church. We will coordinate this work with the various efforts already underway to develop global structures and a new General Book of Discipline for our church. Strengthening the unity of the church is a responsibility for all of us.

NEXT STEPS
We recommend that the General Conference defer all votes on human sexuality and refer this entire subject to a special Commission, named by the Council of Bishops, to develop a complete examination and possible revision of every paragraph in our Book of Discipline regarding human sexuality. We continue to hear from many people on the debate over sexuality that our current Discipline contains language which is contradictory, unnecessarily hurtful, and inadequate for the variety of local, regional and global contexts. We will name such a Commission to include persons from every region of our UMC, and will include representation from differing perspectives on the debate. We commit to maintain an on-going dialogue with this Commission as they do their  work, including clear objectives and outcomes. Should they complete their work in time for a called General Conference, then we will call a two- to three-day gathering before the 2020 General Conference. (We will consult with GCFA regarding cost-effective ways to hold that gathering.)

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John Roberts

I think it is really interesting that the Cafe has been reporting on the UMC General Conference. Many Episcopalians come from that tradition. Some of us were even clergy, gay clergy, in that communion. I think the UMC needs to find their own way through the sexuality debate. We should hold them up in our prayers but until they can get it figured out or at least agree to disagree our discussion of full communion with them should cease. They are so side tracked by sex they rejected legislation about accepting the Nicene Creed into their doctrinal standards (see minutes from Faith and Order Committee for this General Conference). Of course, the matter of lay presidency at Eucharist, widespread acceptance of baby dedication and rebaptism, and a professional diaconate also creates problems. I think we need to step back in our communion talks with them until they can move a little closer to the Episcopal Church in matters of doctrine and inclusion.

Paul Woodrum

Justice delayed is still justice denied.

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