Judicial Council to rule next month on constitutionality of three Way Forward plans

By Jessica Brodie

As fall approaches, United Methodists in South Carolina grow ever mindful of the February 2019 Special Session of General Conference called by the denomination’s Council of Bishops.

Slated for Feb. 23-26, 2019, in St. Louis, the purpose of the special session is limited to receiving and acting on a report from the Commission on a Way Forward. The commission was authorized by General Conference 2016 and appointed by the COB to examine paragraphs in The Book of Discipline concerning human sexuality and help the full church explore ways to move beyond its impasse around ministry and human sexuality

The final report of the Commission on a Way Forward has been now released in English, French, Portuguese and Swahili, the four official languages of General Conference. Subject to final copy editing, the report will be printed in the Advance Daily Christian Advocate in November (read English version online here).

In preparation for the February special session, the COB has asked the church’s top court, the Judicial Council, to review the report at its October meeting and rule on whether the proposed legislation (including petitions) is constitutional.

The Judicial Council will gather Oct. 23-26 in Zurich; the matter is on the court’s docket along with other matters.

Elected delegates to General Conference 2016 (a total of 864 delegates) will serve as the delegates to the 2019 Special Session. This includes eight South Carolina clergy and eight South Carolina laity elected in 2015 by the South Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church (see box for names and emails).

What are the plans in the Way Forward report?

The plans developed over the past year by the 32-member Commission on a Way Forward are the One Church, Connectional Conference and Traditional plans. Each are designed to lead the denomination forward in unity despite differences over views on human sexuality.

  • The One Church Plan: This is the plan recommended by the COB; it allows for contextualization of language about 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. In recommending this plan, the COB said it gives United Methodists the ability to address different missional contexts in ways that reflect their theological convictions. It removes the restrictive language of the 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 Traditionalist Plan: This affirms the current language in the Discipline, which states “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” (Para. 304.3).
  • The Connectional-Conference Plan: This creates three connectional conferences based on theology or perspective, each having clearly defined values (accountability, contextualization and justice). The three conferences would function throughout the worldwide church; the five existing United States jurisdictions would be abolished.

Other petitions in harmony with the call (beyond these three plans) may also be submitted for consideration at the GC2019.

Varying groups and caucuses in the UMC have offered support for different plans.

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:



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