Reflections on the Council of Bishops RecommendationPosted: May 7, 2018
As I have returned from the meeting of the Council of Bishops (COB), I want to thank you for your thoughtfulness, prayers, and concern. Your many expressions of connection were powerful to me and I give thanks to God for all.
In this blog post, I’d like to offer my perspective and hopefully some helpful information. You may also wish to read the statement released by the Council of Bishops. It is available here: http://www.umc.org/news-and-media/united-methodist-bishops-recommend-a-way-forward
First of all, this was the most prayerful, painful, and honest Council of Bishops meeting I have attended since November of 2012. If you followed the COB on social media, perhaps you saw pictures of bishops on their knees praying.
Second, I want to lift up a core value of the COB as we do this work: convicted humility. (I Corinthians 12-14) I simply want to invite you into a prayerful posture of humility as you reflect both on my words and on the report of the Council of Bishops.
It is no secret that the COB holds a wide range of positions regarding human sexuality. Each member also operates out of sincerely held beliefs. Just as many of you hold differing views, bishops also are convinced of the moral views they espouse and seek to be faithful to what they see as the truth that God calls the church to uphold. While it is true that even the views of bishops on this matter are distinctly different, we see our differences as a strength and pray they will not divide us.
We also recognize and affirm that as United Methodists we hold in common many more fundamental theological commitments—commitments which bind us together despite our real differences. These also have implications for how we understand and express our disagreements and what we do about them.
Therefore, we seek to advocate a stance we have termed convicted humility. 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 correction.
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 another post, I will lift up our shared values that seek wisdom and holiness in our life together.
Third, at the heart of the work we have carried out has been the mission, vision, and scope of the task assigned to the Commission on the Way forward:
- Design a way for being in the church that maximizes the presence of the United Methodist witness in as many places as possible.
- Allow for as much contextual differentiation as possible.
- Create as much unity as possible.
With the above stated, the COB expressed clear support for the One Church Model. The Commission on the Way Forward advanced this model because it allows contextualization across a global church. It will allow local churches to adapt to their mission fields. It gives a spiritual home within our denomination to the LGBTQ community. And yet it also builds protections for the conscience of those who cannot perform same-gender marriages or ordain LGBTQ persons.
We also agreed that all three plans considered by the Commission and the bishops would be shared as a part of the report to General Conference. Along with this will be a historical narrative in order to provide a transparent look at the journey of the Council’s discernment process regarding all three plans.
Although not recommended by the COB, the Council did the feel the values of the Traditionalist Plan and The Connectional Conference Plan are present in the spiritual lives of United Methodists and therefore should be included in the report to General Conference. Tomorrow a brief outline of the three plans will be posted here on the blog as well.
It is clear that not everyone will agree with the recommendation of the COB. What must be remembered at this juncture is this: The COB’s discernment process was to honor the General Conference’s request for the Council to help the church find a way forward. With that being said, the General Conference is the body who will determine the future of our denomination. The General Conference is the legislative branch of our UMC. The desire of the Council of Bishops is to strategically help the General Conference do its work. We believe we have done that.
I call on all United Methodists across the Nashville Episcopal Area to read Ephesians 4 from The Message. This will be the text for the Service Ordering Ministry at Annual Conference in June.
To Be Mature
4 1-3 In light of all this, here’s what I want you to do. While I’m locked up here, a prisoner for the Master, I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.
4-6 You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness.
7But that doesn’t mean you should all look and speak and act the same. Out of the generosity of Christ, each of us is given his own gift.
On the Sunday after the special session of General Conference in February 2019, every United Methodist Church in the Nashville Episcopal Area will worship the risen Christ. Youth groups will gather, children will sing. Food pantries will be stocked. Mission teams will make plans to be in mission across the world. In many churches, there will be professions of faith and baptisms.
Let us travel the same road, in the same direction, together, focused on the mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ so that the world may be changed.