Special called session will address UMC impasse over homosexuality
By Jessica Brodie
Other petitions beyond the Council of Bishops’ that are in harmony with the stated call for the 2019 special session of General Conference can be submitted for consideration.
That is the ruling from the Judicial Council, the top court of The United Methodist Church.
“The purpose of the special session of the General Conference 2019 stated in the Bishops’ call is limited to receiving and acting upon a report from the Council of Bishops based on the recommendations of the Commission on a Way Forward,” the Judicial Council said in Decision 1360; the way forward commission was established after General Conference 2016 and tasked to lead the UMC forward in unity through differences over human sexuality.
“Petitions to the special session of the General Conference 2019 may be filed by any organization, clergy member and lay member of the United Methodist Church as long as the business proposed to be transacted in such petition is in harmony with the purpose stated in the call.”
The ruling noted business not in harmony with the purpose stated in the call is not permitted unless the General Conference by a two-thirds vote determines that other business may be transacted (per Para. 14 of the UMC Constitution).
The 2019 General Conference is set for Feb. 23-26, 2019, in St. Louis.
Petitions for the special session are now being accepted and may be submitted to the petitions secretary through July 8.
Petitions may be submitted digitally through the GC2019 website or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Typed petitions with an accompanying digital version on a USB drive may also be submitted by mail. Typed petitions without digital media and handwritten or hand printed submissions will not be accepted.
Detailed instructions for formatting and submitting a petition are available here.
What is the Council of Bishops’ recommendation?
The UMC Council of Bishops is recommending The One Church Plan for the denomination’s way forward through differences over human sexuality, though information about two other plans developed by the way forward commission will be shared with the delegates.
According to the COB, The One Church Plan allows for contextualization of language about human sexuality in support of the mission and allows for central conferences, especially those in Africa, to retain their disciplinary authority to adapt the Book of Discipline and continue to include traditional language and values while fulfilling the vision of a global and multicultural church.
The bishops said the plan gives United Methodists the ability to address different missional contexts in ways that reflect their theological convictions. It removes the restrictive language of the Book of Discipline and adds assurances to pastors and conferences who, because of their theological convictions, cannot perform same-sex weddings or ordain self-avowed practicing homosexuals.
The COB is offering a video outlining the One Church Plan as a resource for annual conferences as they prepare for the 2019 Special Session of General Conference. View the video here: https://youtu.be/14Ff9KHV7Io
COB President Bishop Ken Carter expressed gratitude to the Judicial Council for its decision.
“We want to thank the Judicial Council for their service to the church through the affirmation of two key principles—the specific nature of the call for the special session, to receive and act on the report of the Council of Bishops based upon the work of the Commission on a Way Forward; and the General Conference’s authority to decide on what is in harmony with the call,” Carter said. “We will continue to serve our beloved denomination under the guidance of the decision, and in consultation with the Commission on the General Conference.”
What are the three plans the way forward commission developed?
In addition to The One Church Plan, the commission offered The Traditionalist Plan and The Connectional-Conference Plan:
- The Traditionalist Plan affirms the current Discipline language: that while all people are of sacred worth and may attend worship service, the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore, self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in the UMC, and that ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by UMC ministers or conducted in UMC churches.
- The Connectional-Conference Plan would create three connectional conferences based on theology or perspective, each having clearly defined values (accountability, contextualization and justice). The three connectional conferences would function throughout the worldwide church and the five existing U.S. jurisdictions would be abolished.
Appointed by the COB and authorized by General Conference, the 32-member commission comprised eight bishops, 13 clergy members and 11 laity of varying gender, race and sexual preference. It met nine times over 17 months and concluded its final meeting in Nashville May 16.
The regular General Conference 2020, for the full business of the denomination, remains as scheduled for May 5-15, 2020, in Minneapolis.
Prayers sought for S.C. delegation
Prayer is being lifted for South Carolina’s delegates to the 2019 Special Session of General Conference. These are the same delegates elected to serve South Carolina at General Conference 2016 in Portland, Oregon:
- Barbara Ware
- James Salley
- Dr. Joseph Heyward
- Herman Lightsey
- Jackie Jenkins
- Michael Cheatham
- Martha Thompson
- Dr. David Braddon
- Alternates: Lollie Haselden and Emily Rogers Evans
- Dr. Tim McClendon
- Rev. Ken Nelson
- Rev. Tim Rogers
- Dr. Robin Dease
- Rev. Tiffany Knowlin
- Rev. Narcie Jeter
- Rev. Mel Arant Jr.
- Rev. Susan Leonard
- Alternates: Rev. Telley Gadson and Rev. Michael Turner
Petitions can be submitted now through July 8. For instructions, click here.