The United Methodist Church has released its final report on three options from which the denomination can choose how it will treat LGBTQ members and pastors.
The report on what the church calls “A Way Forward” was released Tuesday in the four official languages of the church: English, French, Portuguese and Swahili. In announcing the release, the United Methodist News Service said the report will be presented at the February 2019 Special Session of the General Conference, the meeting of the denomination’s governing body.
The 93-page report is the product of years of debate that led to the church’s Council of Bishops creating a commission to meet with United Methodist conferences across the nation and listen to the ideas of church members, lay leaders and clergy. The discussions have been aimed at upholding the church’s ideology while avoiding complaints, church trials and the harm they cause within congregations and throughout the church.
Much of the talk has been about whether the issues would split the church and, if so, what the broken pieces would look like.
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The commission’s report explains each plan in the historical and theological context of the United Methodist Church and details how the church would be organized under each. In May, the new service said, a majority of the denomination’s Council of Bishops recommended the One Church Plan.
The options are:
▪ The One Church Plan, in which the United Methodist Church remains united but in which no annual conference, bishop, congregation or pastor is compelled to act contrary to their convictions. For example, a pastor who believes same-sex marriage should not be sanctioned by the church would not be required to perform same-sex marriages.
▪ The Connectional Conference Plan, which would replace the denomination’s five current U.S. jurisdictions with three “connectional conferences,” each covering the whole country but distinct in theological perspectives on LGBTQ ministry. The General Conference would still have authority over shared doctrine and would serve as a venue to connecting the conferences.
▪ The Traditionalist plan, under which the denomination would hold to the current language in the Book of Discipline, broadening the definition of “practicing homosexual” to anyone living in a same-sex marriage or civil union and anyone who publicly says they are gay. It would require every annual conference to enforce the ban on performing gay marriages and ordaining ministers who are gay. Annual conferences that don’t promise to enforce the ban would be “encouraged to form something similar to an ‘autonomous, affiliated or concordat church.’” As of 2021, those conferences would not be allowed to use the United Methodist name and logo and would no longer receive money from the United Methodist Church. Local churches that wanted to uphold the ban — when their conferences would not promise to do so — could vote to remain within the denomination.
In 2010, according to the denomination’s website, the United Methodist Church had nearly 7.7 million members in the United States. It has two conferences in North Carolina, based in Garner and Huntersville.