Way Forward

May 18 Update

Bishop’s clarify May 4 Press Release: http://www.umc.org/who-we-are/bishops-clarify-statement-on-commission-on-a-way-forward-recommendation

Initial Posting

Thank you for visiting to learn more about our denominational conversation regarding human sexuality. The information below follows-up on the email/letter you received the week of May 14, 2018. We will update the website as more information becomes available.

To learn more about our structure, our beliefs, and our current state as a denomination in total, be sure to sign-up for the Adult Confirmation Class beginning in August of 2018! Email or text Ted to sign-up. The class will meet in the evening on the following dates: August 22, September 26, October 24, November 28, December 12.

About the One Church Model 

Reaction to the Recommendation by the Council of Bishops

General Links

Helpful things to know

  • Our church is in the North Central District of the South Georgia Annual Conference
    • As a district, which is a subunit of the Annual Conference, we are led by our District Superintendent, Rick Lanford
  • Our Annual Conference is the South Georgia Annual Conference
    • As an Annual Conference, we are led by our bishop, Lawson Bryan
  • Our Annual Conference is in the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference
  • The United Methodist Church has three branches, each overseen by an authoritative body
    • A legislative branch, called the General Conference; the only authority that can change the Book of Discipline, our doctrine, rules, and regulations guide
    • A judicial branch, called the Judicial Council
    • An executive branch, called the Council of Bishops

A Brief History of our Denominational Conversation about Human Sexuality

This debate has been ongoing since 1972. In that time, we have held that “The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.” (¶161, 2016 Book of Discipline) Out of that conviction, we have held that our churches may not be used nor may our pastors preside over gay weddings and our Annual Conferences may not ordain “self-avowed, practicing, homosexuals.” (¶304.3, 2016 Book of Discipline). Otherwise, we welcome gay folks to our churches, we allow them to serve in leadership positions within local churches and participate fully as lay members. The issues for debate, thus, revolve around gay weddings and ordinations.

Between 1972 and 2016, this debate has grown steadily louder and more contested. Advocacy groups on the left and the right have gained power and voice, using both to push their agendas that have furthered the debate. Because this issue can inflame passions, and because during this same time period it inflamed secular political passions, this particular issue took on a life of its own by the early part of this decade. The rancor of the debate spilled over into the last General Conference, which precipitated our current moment.

In 2016, the regularly scheduled General Conference met an impasse over this issue of whether or not we would change our current stance. That impasse, the disruption to the proceedings of the General Conference, was the greatest sign to date that we faced the threat of division. To break the impasse, the Council of Bishops scheduled the special 2019 session of General Conference and formed a task force to make recommendations on how to remain a unified church while not of the same mind regarding this issue.

That task force, called the Commission on a Way Forward (http://www.umc.org/who-we-are/commission-on-a-way-forward), met for about the last two years. The thirty-two members, both lay and clergy, were selected by the Council of Bishops and represent some of the brightest minds and most highly respected individuals across our world-wide denomination. They chose to keep their work confidential, seeking to create a sense of group unity so they could find the wisdom that comes from having “the mind of Christ.” They made their final report and closed out their work to the Council of Bishops last week, resulting in the recommendation of the “One Church Plan,” what they believe to be the best compromise solution for remaining a unified church while in disagreement about human sexuality.