United Methodist bishops present a way forward

May 18, 2016
Submitted by the Rev. Jessica Rooks
Clergy Delegate for Rocky Mountain Conference


In a rare and historical action, the General Conference body agreed on a motion requesting leadership from the Council of Bishops. The body requested leadership for moving forward as a denomination. The body spoke out, longing for pastoral and prophetic guidance. The body acknowledged an inability to find agreement, and even an unwillingness to live in the tension of our disagreement regarding the church's stance on human sexuality, ordination, and chargeable offenses for clergy and bishops. 
 
The charge was given to the Bishops on Tuesday, with a request that they return on Wednesday and offer leadership for the future of The United Methodist Church. After hours of conversation, and a very late night drafting a statement, the Council of Bishops responded with a statement titled, "An Offering For A Way Forward." This statement came with the support from a strong majority of the Council, but was not unanimously approved.
 
Addressing those gathered in the convention center, Bishop Bruce Ough, President of the Council of Bishops read the statement. The statement called for unity, prayer, and practical next steps. The Council of Bishops recommended that all votes on human sexuality be referred to a special Commission formed shortly after General Conference. This Commission would "develop a complete examination and possible revision of every paragraph in our Book of Discipline regarding human sexuality." The results of this work could be presented at a called General Conference in 2018 or 2019, or presented at the already scheduled 2020 General Conference.
 
Upon receiving the statement from the Council and spending time in prayer and conversation, the Rev. Adam Hamilton made a motion encompassing the recommendations of the Bishops' statement. After hours of debate and amendments this motion failed, and the body's response was divided between disappointment and relief. When everyone thought we would move on, we realized the Bishop's statement was still properly before the body, and a motion was made to receive the Bishop's recommendation, to receive the statement. Once again we debated. Speakers praised the work of the Bishops, reminded the body that we sought their leadership, and called for the acceptance of the recommendation. This time, the motion passed.
 
The Council of Bishops will name the members of this commission as soon as possible. Bishop Ough made it clear that these members will represent all view points and all regions of the denomination. During a press conference, Bishop Ough recognized there is mistrust within our Church, and the Bishops understand the need for a rebuilding of trust as the Commission works to offer a path forward.
 
There are still questions left unanswered, which might remain unanswered even after we leave on Friday. Some view this as a positive step forward, hopeful that the work of the commission may lead us into a new relationship with another. Others are frustrated, feeling this is a way of maintaining the status quo. At this point, all we can do is wait.