Commission on a Way Forward

Commission on a Way Forward Town Hall Report

Posted by on Feb 19, 2018 in Headlines, Way Forward | 0 comments

Commission on a Way Forward Town Hall Report

The Arkansas Conference Commission on a Way Forward Town Hall Report is now available for viewing online at: https://goo.gl/X1nwJ1

The report, town hall results, and online survey results are also available for download at: https://goo.gl/9CSoqR

Thank You:

To everyone who participated in a Town Hall event or the online survey, thank you for sharing your feedback concerning the future of The United Methodist Church. Your responses were exceptionally valuable. Please continue to be in prayer for our denomination.

Commission on a Way Forward Town Hall Tool Kit

Posted by on Feb 7, 2018 in Headlines, Way Forward | 0 comments

Commission on a Way Forward Town Hall Tool Kit
As promised during the Commission on a Way Forward Town Hall meetings, we have prepared a church tool kit to share the materials used during the meetings. You are free to use this tool kit to host a Commission on a Way Forward Town Hall meeting at your church.

This tool kit includes:

  • Agenda Template
  • Town Hall Power Point
  • Town Hall Power Point Script
  • Table Discussion Handouts (PDF and Editable Format)
  • Mentimeter Handouts (PDF and Editable Format)
  • Invitation Templates
  • Potential Survey Questions
  • Editable Documents Folder (All Materials in an Editable Format)
If you use this tool kit in your local congregation, we hope you find it beneficial.
 

Commission on a Way Forward Town Hall Meetings RSVP

Posted by on Jan 31, 2018 in Headlines, Way Forward | 0 comments

Commission on a Way Forward Town Hall Meetings RSVP


It is time to RSVP for the Commission on a Way Forward Town Hall Meeting closest to you! If you plan to attend one of these events, please take the time to register your attendance. Seating is limited. https://arkansasconferencetownhallmeetings.eventbrite.com

Commission on a Way Forward – PRESS RELEASE – January 22, 2018

Posted by on Jan 22, 2018 in Headlines, Way Forward | 0 comments

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – January 22, 2018

 

Commission on a Way Forward prepares updated report to bishops

DALLAS – The Commission on a Way Forward is nearing the completion of its task of making recommendations of possible ways forward for The United Methodist Church regarding the inclusion of LGBTQ persons in this global denomination.

The 32-member Commission concluded its three-day meeting in Dallas, Texas, on Saturday after reworking sketches of possible models of the future of the denomination that will be part of the final report to the Council of Bishops in May.

Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball, one of the moderators of the Commission, noted that the members who have had six meetings since January last year, are confident that the Commission will succeed in its work.

“The common work of God’s spirit moves in each one of our lives.  The spiritual gifts that are gifted to each of us by God are given to be used for the common good of all people.  It is this Spirit that both unifies us and inspires us to use the diversity of spiritual gifts to be visionaries and to consider the whole realm of what is possible; to dream dreams, big dreams, to the glory of God.”

She said the Commission, in the unity of God’s Spirit, continues to take a fresh look at the church and what is possible.

“We seek a way forward for The United Methodist Church that strengthens and expands Christ’s mission in ways that value and enable the Church to reach more people in different contexts around the world and to minister with faithfulness, humility, creativity, and generosity,” said Bishop Steiner Ball.

Council of Bishops President Bishop Bruce Ough and Area Resident Bishop Michael McKee both addressed the members on Thursday, the first day of the meeting.

“Time is running short and we need to focus. Simple is better than complex. Reasonable detail is better than ambiguity. Fewer disciplinary changes is better than more. Honor the parameters and values of the Mission, Vision and Scope document –  unity, contextualization and enhanced mission,” said Bishop Ough.

Bishop Ough also asked the Commission to provide the Council with a draft theological statement that both informs the structural models and creates a compelling narrative for the models.

Each day of the three-day meeting began with devotions that were led by the moderators, Bishop Steiner Ball, Bishop Ken Carter and Bishop David Yemba, using the 1 Corinthians 12 scripture on the importance of being one body of Christ despite the differences.

In reviewing the feedback from the Council of Bishops, the Commission worked on incorporating the UMC theological foundation in proposed models for the future of the UMC.

“We understand that a way forward must go deeper than structural change and legislative revision.  A way forward for the church draws upon the deep consensus of all that we believe and teach, especially about the grace of God which leads to mission and holiness, “said Bishop Carter as he reflected on the theological work.

“At the same time, we approach this theological work with a ‘convicted humility’—we are grounded in important convictions, and yet we ‘see through a glass darkly,’ in Paul’s words, and so we hold these convictions with humility before God and each other,” he added.

The Commission members also discussed the importance of maintaining the missional focus of the UMC in any future structural changes.

“As the commission continues its efforts to dream anew, it also continues to work to paint a picture of the dream for people in ways they can catch glimpses of and have hope for a wholly and holy way forward that enables the UMC to better reach new people, and more people with the good news of Jesus Christ in all parts and contexts of the world.” Bishop Steiner Ball noted.

With Central Conferences being integral parts of any way forward, the Commission spent time working on how those conferences outside of the United States would be incorporated in any possible structural models in this global denomination.

“We are a global church and every decision we make should be seen in that context,” noted Bishop Yemba as he shared a report on Central Conferences. “As the United Methodist Church continues the struggle on how to find a way forward on the burning issue of human sexuality, we need to continue using our collective wisdom as Connection in order to create space and flexibility that allow central conferences to stay and work together to fulfill our missional mandate.”

Bishop Yemba further noted that: “Many United Methodists outside of the United States would like to see the context be taken into consideration seriously. Whatever models the Council of Bishops will come up with and recommend to General Conference as a way forward, it is expected that such a recommendation will provide space to focus on what unites us and not what separates us as well as what we can say together as basic principles on human sexuality in the light of the Gospel.”

The Commission plans to share its reworked models of possible ways forward with the Council of Bishops next month at a meeting that has been called to specifically hear more from the Commission.

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Contact: Rev. Dr. Maidstone Mulenga
Director of Communications – Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church
mmulenga@umc-cob.org
202-748-5172 (office)

United Methodists asked to join Week of Pray for Christian Unity

Posted by on Jan 18, 2018 in Headlines, Way Forward | 0 comments

United Methodists asked to join Week of Pray for Christian Unity

The Council of Bishops is urging all United Methodists to join with other Christians throughout the world to participate in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which begins tomorrow, January 18, 2018.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is promoted by the World Council of Churches, most regional councils of churches, and most mainline denominations, including The United Methodist Church.

This year’s Week of Prayer (January 18-25, 2018) uses Exodus 15:6 with the theme “Your Right Hand, O Lord, Glorious in Power.”  An ecumenical group from the churches of the Caribbean have taken the lead this year in writing the materials and creating the theme.

The contemporary Caribbean is deeply marked by the dehumanizing project of colonial exploitation. During 500 years of colonialism and enslavement, those who brought the Bible to this region used the scriptures to justify their subjugation of a people in bondage. Yet in the hands of the enslaved, the Bible became an inspiration, an assurance that God was on their side, and that God would lead them into freedom.

Thus, Christians are reminded of Jesus’ prayer for his disciples that “they may be one so that the world may believe.” (see John 17.21).

Congregations and parishes all over the world are invited to celebrate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity by exchanging preachers, holding special ecumenical worship or prayer services, or however seems appropriate in your local setting. Check for events in your area.

Click here to read a prayer offered for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity by Bishop B. Michael Watson, Ecumenical Officer of the Council of Bishops, and the Rev. Dr. Jean Hawxhurst and Rev. Dr. Kyle R. Tau, ecumenical staff officers of the Council of bishops.

Click here for more details about Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

 

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Media Contact: Rev. Dr. Maidstone Mulenga
Director of Communications – Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church
mmulenga@umc-cob.org  202-748-5172 (office)

Commission on a Way Forward Town Hall meetings

Posted by on Jan 12, 2018 in Headlines, Way Forward | 0 comments

Commission on a Way Forward Town Hall meetings

Greetings in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ!

As I shared in the video message you just viewed, I would like to invite you to participate in the Commission on a Way Forward Town Hall meetings. These meetings will be strategically facilitated to allow participants to provide feedback and ask questions about the conceptual models the Commission on a Way Forward proposed to the Council of Bishops in November.

The Commission on a Way Forward Town Hall meetings have a threefold purpose.

  • Provide attendees with an overview of the history, process, three preliminary models, and next steps of The Way Forward. (Click here to read about the three models.)
  • Facilitate discussion among attendees about strengths, weaknesses, and questions regarding the three preliminary models.
  • Gather feedback to share with The Commission on a Way Forward.

Your participation and input will be extremely beneficial, so I invite you to attend any of the scheduled gatherings at your convenience. I will be hosting the first three listed meetings at FUMC North Little Rock, FUMC Jonesboro and Central UMC Fayetteville. District Superintendents will host the remaining eight meetings. It is important to note that all meetings will be the same.

  • Saturday, January 13, 10 am at FUMC North Little Rock
  • Sunday, January 14, 2:30 pm at FUMC Jonesboro
  • Saturday, January 20, 10 am at Central UMC Fayetteville

District Commission on a Way Forward Town Hall meetings:

  • Saturday, January 20, 10 am – Southwest, El Dorado FUMC
  • Sunday, January 21, 2:30 pm – Southwest, Arkadelphia FUMC
  • Sunday, January 21, 2:30 pm – Northeast, Searcy FUMC
  • Sunday, January 21, 2:30 pm – Southeast, Monticello FUMC
  • Saturday, January 27, 10 am – Central, Salem Conway
  • Sunday, January 28, 3 pm – Northwest, Russellville FUMC
  • Sunday, January 28, 2:30 pm – Southeast, Pine Bluff FUMC
  • Sunday, February 4, 2:30 pm – Southeast, Forrest City FUMC

This is a very important time in the history of the United Methodist Church. Please pray every day for our church. I look forward to seeing you in January,

Register: https://arkansasconferencetownhallmeetings.eventbrite.com

Bishops uphold values of mission, unity, space, contextuality in interim report on Way Forward’s work

Posted by on Jan 12, 2018 in Headlines, Way Forward | 0 comments

Bishops uphold values of mission, unity, space, contextuality in interim report on Way Forward’s work

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CAROLINA _ Placing emphasis on the values of unity, space and contextuality – all for the sake of mission – the Council of Bishops (COB) is exploring sketches of three models as possible directions for a way forward for The United Methodist Church over LGBTQ inclusion.

With the mission of God through the risen Christ at the core, the bishops this week received an interim report from the Commission on a Way Forward that offered three sketches of models that would help ease the impasse in the church, noting that the power of the Holy Spirit trumps and guides all the church’s activities. The Commission serves the COB, helping prepare the COB to fulfill its mandate to make a recommendation for a way forward to the General Conference.

Just as the Commission did not express a preference for any of the models in its interim report to the COB in order for the bishops to fully do their work, the COB is also not now expressing a preference for any model, while engaging deeply with them and the implications for their church and their leadership. This will provide the space bishops need to teach and engage leaders in their episcopal areas.

After receiving the interim report of the sketches of the three possible models, the bishops engaged in prayerful discerning and offered substantial feedback to the Commission, but did not take any vote on any of the sketches.

The moderators of the Commission on a Way Forward noted that the values highlighted in any one model also live within the fabric of the other models. Values expressed by any one model are not exclusive to one or absent in another. The values that may be associated with the identity of any one model are there because it may be a value lifted to a higher level of preference or differentiation among the models.

“Operate with a heart of peace and an openness. All three models grew out of mission, vision and scope. Each one of these models connects to a story and experience that is represented in this body,” Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball, one of the moderators told her fellow bishops.

She added: “As we talk about it, let’s be respectful of each model. When we speak about one of the models in a less than respectful way, we are speaking of someone’s experience or someone’s conscience. How we talk about these models is important because they are representative of where people are standing and how people are experiencing the church.”

The Commission and the COB acknowledge the interaction between the values of unity, space and contextuality, and the tension this interaction often creates, as part of what completes the UMC as a denomination rather than what divides it.

The Commission shared sketches of three models, with the awareness that the Commission and the COB are not restricted to these sketches and are open to learning, listening and improvement. It is likely that additional models or sketches may emerge as this process continues. Here is the summary about the sketches of the models presented to the bishops:

  • One sketch of a model affirms the current Book of Discipline language and places a high value on accountability.
  • Another sketch of a model removes restrictive language and places a high value on contextualization. This sketch also specifically protects the rights of those whose conscience will not allow them to perform same gender weddings or ordain LGBTQ persons.
  • A third sketch of a model is grounded in a unified core that includes shared doctrine and services and one COB, while also creating different branches that have clearly defined values such as accountability, contextualization and justice.
  • Each sketch represents values that are within the COB and across the church.
  • Each sketch includes gracious way of exit for those who feel called to exit from the denomination.

The values underlying these proposed models are found in two documents; The Mission, Vision and Scope document, which was affirmed by the COB; and the Status Report of the Commission, released in July 2017. As part of the ongoing discernment within the church, resident bishops are being equipped to lead discussions in their episcopal areas by emphasizing the values of the proposed models as found in these two important documents.

The Commission will process the feedback received from the bishops at the Lake Junaluska meeting and will continue to welcome further input from members of the church through conversations and discussions with their respective bishops on the strengths and limitations of each model. The basic resources for these conversations were shared in a handbook with the bishops, and this handbook will be available on the Commission on a Way Forward’s website as a PDF.

The COB and the Commission have a series of meetings scheduled for early 2018 designed to continue the preparations for the Special Session of the General Conference in 2019. This includes Commission meetings in January and March; an additional COB meeting in February before a final report is discussed at the May meeting of the COB.

The COB is committed to prayerfully seeking God’s future for the UMC and continues to invite the entire church to be engaged in praying for a way forward.

“Pray for the work of the Commission and for the bishops as they continue to discern God’s plan for the future of the UMC; a future that shows love for all of God’s people and a future with hope,” said COB President Bishop Bruce R. Ough.

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Contact: Rev. Dr. Maidstone Mulenga
Director of Communications – Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church
mmulenga@umc-cob.org
202-748-5172 (office) or 585-455-5683 (cell)

UMC Bishops call for respectful conversations in time of uncertainty

Posted by on Nov 10, 2017 in Featured, Headlines, Way Forward | 0 comments

UMC Bishops call for respectful conversations in time of uncertainty


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Friday, November 10, 2017

LAKE JUNALUSKA, NORTH CAROLINA _ United Methodist Church bishops are calling on members of the denomination to engage in respectful conversations amidst growing conflict over political, religious and justice issues in many places in our world.

In a pastoral letter released at the end of the Council of Bishops (COB) meeting at Lake Junaluska in North Carolina today, COB President Bruce R. Ough reminded the members that the UMC was a Church which is diverse in its theological understanding of Scripture and Christ’s call in our lives.

“Conflict and differing opinions, a natural part of the human and faith experience, come in a variety of forms. We are called to address our differences with authenticity and respectful conversations which enrich our understanding of God and of one another,” Bishop Ough said.

The bishops reminded United Methodists about Ephesians 4:1-2 which admonishes us “to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Read the full letter.

 

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Contact: Rev. Dr. Maidstone Mulenga
Director of Communications – Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church
mmulenga@umc-cob.org
202-748-5172 (office) or 585-455-5683 (cell)

Council of Bishops Pastoral Letter

Posted by on Nov 10, 2017 in Headlines, Way Forward | 0 comments

November 10, 2017

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Jesus Christ,

Ephesians 4:1-2 admonishes us “to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

All of us are witnesses to increased animosity and growing conflict over political, religious and justice issues in many places in our world in word and deed. We believe this serves to threaten our safety and security. In antagonistic discussions about our faithful witness in the world, we may encounter verbal abuse, disruptive behavior, harassing emails, letters and phone messages, and confrontations.

As Bishops of your United Methodist Church, we serve a Church which is diverse in its theological understanding of Scripture and Christ’s call in our lives. Conflict and differing opinions, a natural part of the human and faith experience, come in a variety of forms. We are called to address our differences with authenticity and respectful conversations which enrich our understanding of God and of one another.

In recent months, we have experienced these negative behaviors escalating into more aggressive, and violent expressions of hate, prejudice, and anger directed against others. We are hearing of and observing angry words now escalating to actions that are resulting in fear, anxiety, loss of security, and even physical harm. These actions are repugnant to us as your bishops.

We renew our covenant to one another to lead as a council and in our respective residential areas in ways that reflect our commitment to do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God. We renew this covenant within the Council of Bishops to engage in holy conversation and Christ-like behavior especially when we do not agree with one another. We call upon all United Methodists, even in the midst of disagreement and uncertainty about our future as a church, to do the same, and to love each other as Christ loved us (John 12:34).

In Christ’s shalom,

Bishop Bruce R. Ough, President
The Council of Bishops


100 Maryland Avenue NE, Suite 300
Washington, DC 20002
202-547-6270

Commission Moves Onward and Forward

Posted by on Mar 3, 2017 in Way Forward | 0 comments

United Methodist Communications

umcpresscenter.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 2, 2017

Commission moves onward and forward

Atlanta, Ga.: Meeting in Atlanta, Georgia this week, the Commission on a Way Forward continued to make progress towards completing the groundwork for their task, building relationships, engaging in learning, information gathering, working and worshiping together.

On Wednesday, the Rev. Donna Pritchard led a morning Bible study of Galatians 2. Later, Commission members joined the staff of the General Board of Global Ministries in the stained-glass sanctuary of Grace United Methodist Church for an Ash Wednesday service.

The day concluded with Bishop David Yemba reminding the Commission that people across the Connection are praying for the Commission. He shared a meditation about Ephesians 1:15-23, noting that Paul is sharing through prayer the things believers have in common, not only what is dividing them. “Above all is that you have the Lord Jesus Christ in common and then you have in common faith in him and you have common hope in him and you have God’s promises in him,” said Bishop Yemba.

Team reports

In January, the Commission formed learning teams to take on various aspects of their work and the teams have been diligently pursuing their assignments. The work of some teams will take longer than others, but the following generally summarizes work to date.

• Initial research has involved interviewing bishops, pastors and laypersons from other denominations and gathering data and resources to report to the Commission. Denominations are unique in terms of polity and experience, and none is a perfect match with The United Methodist Church.

• One team shared information with the group about the power of language and culture, sexual orientation and gender identity. Conversations have taken place with reconciling congregations and research gathered on experiences and perspectives from Africa.

• There is ongoing research seeking clarification about the rules, petitions, logistics, and the roles of the Council of Bishops and the Commission on the General Conference.

• One team led a learning session describing the current landscape and the different strategies at work of the Confessing Movement and other renewal groups, Reconciling Ministries and progressive strategies, the Wesleyan Covenant Association, and groups in the Central Conferences with general discussion and questions.

• There was a report on a plan for gathering information within the Central Conferences related to the diversity of attitudes regarding LGBTQ issues and the different social, cultural and religious contexts. There was a strong recommendation to explore the subject of unity with the Central Conferences.

A tale of two centuries

Dr. Russ Richey of Candler School of Theology says the unity and disunity of the church has been, in a sense, his life’s work. He shared insights about how Methodism has historically dealt with disagreement and the different ways the church dealt with conflict over two centuries.

The 19th century saw separation and organizational division among American Methodists every decade. The century following brought unity, even amidst divisions that were more internal than structural. “By and large we stayed united, but there were serious divisions and controversies.”

Richey said there was “separation between” in the former and “separation within” in the latter.

The earliest disputes were over a variety of causes, sometimes over big issues such as slavery. “We were a very popular movement. In some ways for the 19th century, we were the most popular and dynamic movement, so the big issues the country wrestled with were ones we as Methodists took on.”

The result was division, and those divisions had costs, he says. “We didn’t speak with a common voice, but churches competed with one another and reached out and evangelized.”

“Beginning in the very late 19th century and continuing in the 20th, there was a sense that these denominational divisions tore apart the cloak of Christ, that we were dividing Christ’s gift to us,” he said. “There was really a Biblical mandate and Christ’s injunction to bring us together and so a lot of energy was put into unitive efforts,” said Dr. Richey in an interview.

Following the presentation was a discussion about takeaways that might be important to the Commission’s process and what other historic perspectives or information might be needed, including learning more about our history globally.

Gathering additional input

The Commission also continued discussion both in small groups and as a body regarding the input they need from other groups and individuals, including:

• Conversations with caucus groups

• Conversations with strategic denominational leadership groups at meetings that are already a part of their schedule and at which the commission might ask for time

• Conversations with seminary students

• Engaging bishops and annual conferences in supporting the work of the commission

• Engaging annual conferences to develop their own strategies by which they can offer feedback and information to the Commission so that local church members, participants and clergy have a voice

The group worked together on beginning to compile a comprehensive list.

The Commission began its last day with a Bible study on Galatians 3 led by the Rev. Helen Cunanan of the Philippines. There was also a discussion of a timeline for their work ahead. The Commission’s next meeting will be April 6-8 in Washington, DC.

More information on the Commission is available on their website at UMC.org/wayforward.

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About the Commission on a Way Forward

The 32-member Commission on a Way Forward was appointed by the Council of Bishops to assist the bishops in their charge from the 2016 General Conference to lead the church forward amid the present impasse related to human sexuality and resulting questions about the unity of the church.

Media contact:

Diane Degnan ddegnan@umcom.org

615-483-1765