Seeing a Way Forward Series

“Seeing a Way Forward”is  a video series featuring different perspectives of church leaders on the work of the Commission on a Way Forward. Video image courtesy of United Methodist News Service.

Many United Methodists feel uncertainty as the denomination heads toward the special General Conference on Feb. 23-26, 2019. 

United Methodist News Service is featuring different perspectives of church leaders on the work of the Commission on a Way Forward in this special series.

Watch videos now.

 

Many United Methodists feel anxiety as the denomination heads toward a special General Conference in 2019. Louisiana Area Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey, president-designate of the Council of Bishops, offers her thoughts on where we are as a church. Harvey appears in the first installment of “Seeing a Way Forward,” a series of UM News videos discussing the work of the Commission on a Way Forward.

Seeing a Way Forward:
Bishop Harvey

As we head toward special General Conference 2019, UM News will highlight bishops' perspectives on where we are as a denomination, starting with Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey.
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Video image of Bishop Christian Alsted, courtesy of United Methodist News Service. Alsted spoke with UM News as part of a video series featuring different perspectives of church leaders on the work of the Commission on a Way Forward.

Seeing a Way Forward:
Bishop Alsted

As the denomination approaches the 2019 special General Conference, Bishop Christian Alsted says the way to maintain relationships in the church is to continue talking to one another.
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Bishop John Yambasu gives the sermon during morning worship May 19 at the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore. File photo by Paul Jeffrey, UMNS.

Seeing a Way Forward:
Bishop Yambasu

As the denomination approaches the 2019 special General Conference, Sierra Leone Bishop John Yambasu feels that despite the anxiety over the church’s future, God is still in control.
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West Virginia Conference’s Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball talks about the Way Forward process and offers brief overviews of the three plans being considered by the 2019 special General Conference. “Seeing a Way Forward” is a video series featuring different perspectives of church leaders on the work of the Commission on a Way Forward. Video image courtesy of the West Virginia Conference.

Seeing a Way Forward:
Bishop Steiner Ball

West Virginia Conference’s Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball talks about the Way Forward process and offers brief overviews of the three plans being considered.
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Bishop Bruce R. Ough reads a statement about sexuality and the church from the denomination's Council of Bishops on May 18 at the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore. Photo by Paul Jeffrey, UMNS.

Seeing a Way Forward:
Bishop Ough

Dakotas-Minnesota Area Bishop Bruce Ough discusses the commission’s work and his hopes for the upcoming special 2019 General Conference.
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The Rev. Gary Graves, secretary of the General Conference, shares some of the questions he’s been hearing about the special called General Conference taking place in February 2019. Graves spoke with UM News as part of “Seeing a Way Forward,” a video series featuring different perspectives of church leaders on the work of the Commission on a Way Forward. Video image courtesy of United Methodist News Service.

Seeing a Way Forward:
The Rev. Graves

How does GC2019 relate to GC2020? What are the differences? These are some of the questions addressed by the Rev. Gary Graves, secretary of the General Conference, for our video series.
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Bishop Thomas Bickerton speaks during the 2008 United Methodist General Conference in Fort Worth, Texas. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS.

Seeing a Way Forward:
Bishop Bickerton

A member of the commission that plans the General Conference, Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton encourages leaders to approach their work in the right frame of mind, body and spirit to make the best decisions.
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Bishop Kenneth H. Carter answers questions during a press conference about the United Methodist Church's Way Forward plan to address how the denomination ministers with LGBTQ individuals at the conclusion of the church's Council of Bishops meeting in Chicago in May 2018. File photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS.

Seeing a Way Forward:
Bishop Carter

The president of the Council of Bishops shares some of the questions he’s been hearing about the special called General Conference taking place in February, 2019. 
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Bishop Kenneth H. Carter answers questions during a press conference about the United Methodist Church's Way Forward plan to address how the denomination ministers with LGBTQ individuals at the conclusion of the church's Council of Bishops meeting in Chicago in May 2018. File photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS.

Seeing a Way Forward:
The Rev. Tom Lambrecht

Vice president of Good News and a member of the Wesleyan Covenant Association leadership council, the Rev. Lambrecht gives insight into the Traditional Plan and Modified Traditional Plans.
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Rev. Tom Berlin is a native of Winchester, Virginia, and is a graduate of Virginia Tech and the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. In his current appointment, Tom serves as the Lead Pastor of Floris United Methodist Church in Herndon, Virginia.

Seeing a Way Forward:
The Rev. Tom Berlin

A member of the Commission on a Way Forward, the Rev. Berlin explains that the One Church Plan tries to allow different people to “exercise their own judgment in their cultural context.”
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Patricia L. Miller is executive director of the United Methodist Confessing Movement and also served on the Commission on a Way Forward. She submitted the legislation for the Connectional Conference Plan to General Conference.  Miller spoke with UM News as part of “Seeing a Way Forward,” a video series featuring different perspectives of church leaders on the work of the Commission on a Way Forward.

Seeing a Way Forward:
Patricia L. Miller

Patricia L. Miller explains why the Connectional Conference Plan is meant to provide the “most space between theological differences” while maintaining unity. 
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The Rev. Alex da Silva Souto is a co-author of the Simple Plan, which eliminates all restrictions in the Book of Discipline related to the practice of homosexuality, and Karen G. Prudente is a co-signer.

Seeing a Way Forward:
The Rev. Alex da Silva Souto & Karen Prudente

The Rev. Souto is a co-author of the Simple Plan, which eliminates all restrictions in the Book of Discipline related to the practice of homosexuality. Karen G. Prudente is a co-signer.
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Seeing a Way Forward:
The Rev. Kennetha Bigham-Tsai 

The Rev. Kennetha Bigham-Tsai, chief connectional ministries officer for the Connectional Table, reminds all United Methodists that once the conference ends, God will still be calling them to mission in the world.

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Bishop Scott Jones speaks during an oral hearing of the Judicial Council on May 22, 2018, in Evanston, Ill. Photo by Kathleen Barry, UMNS. 

Seeing a Way Forward:
Bishop Scott Jones

In the midst of conflict over the church’s stance on homosexuality, Texas Conference Bishop Scott Jones maintains a hope for unity.

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The Rev. Maxie Dunnam speaks Jan. 12, 2014, in Atlanta at the inaugural gathering of the Wesleyan Covenant Network. Photo by Steve Beard/Good News Magazine. 

Seeing a Way Forward:
The Rev. Maxie Dunnam

The Rev. Maxie Dunnam, president emeritus of Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky, submitted the Modified Traditional Plan.

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Seeing a Way Forward:
Bishop Ciriaco Q. Francisco

Manila Area Bishop Ciriaco Q. Francisco hopes everyone will arrive at the special called 2019 General Conference with “open minds and open hearts.”

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Seeing a Way Forward:
The Rev Forbes Matonga

The Rev. Forbes Matonga discusses possible implications that decisions made at the special 2019 General Conference could have for The United Methodist Church in Africa.

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The Rev. Maxie Dunnam, video image by United Methodist News Service

Seeing a Way Forward:
The Rev. Chris Ritter

The Rev. Chris Ritter helped write language that was eventually included in the Connectional Conference Plan.

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kground-color: #DFDFDF; margin-bottom: 20px; margin-top: 20px;"> Supporters for the Simple Plan hold banners and sing before the afternoon session at the 2019 Special Session of the United Methodist General Conference. The demonstration was held inside the Dome of America's Center in St. Louis on Feb. 24. Photo by Kathleen Barry, UMNS. 
Supporters for the Simple Plan hold banners and sing before the afternoon session at the 2019 Special Session of the United Methodist General Conference. The demonstration was held inside the Dome of America's Center in St. Louis on Feb. 24. Photo by Kathleen Barry, UMNS. 

Before voting even began, delegates learned that the two petitions that are part of the Modified Traditional Plan would first go to the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters. The permanent committee of General Conference deals with legislation that affects central conferences — church regions in Africa, the Philippines and Europe.

Neil Alexander said his unofficial advocacy group Uniting Methodists, which supports the One Church Plan, is not giving up.

“We are in the beginning of a complex legislative process,” Alexander said. “There is much debate and many decisions to come. We will be sharing information and ideas we believe will win broad support.”

The Rev. Edwin Momog, a delegate from Sierra Leone, said the hall was charged and tense during the vote. But he believes a majority of delegates are happy.

“But God has a way of doing things. He has some sense of humor. When we feel so much anxious, that’s when he comes in with his own way. It is God’s church. And, I think the voting just went God’s own way.”

Audun Westad, lay delegate from the Norway Conference, said it saddened him that the disaffiliation petitions got such huge support.

“That does not look good for their willingness to stay together with people of a different mind,” he said.

The German delegation was surprised that the plan was ranked so low with less than 50 percent of the vote, said Klaus U. Ruof, German communicator. They likewise were surprised the delegates wanted to talk pensions and money before talking about a plan, he said.

The Rev. Alex da Silva Souto, an openly gay clergy delegate from the New York Conference, was less surprised. He has championed the Simple Plan.

“Today’s results are not the first time we as LGBTQIA United Methodists have been hurt by our church, and not the first time that our denomination contradicts its mission, and still we are here,” he said. “We will continue to trust in God's priorities for our welfare.”

After the prioritization votes, delegates elected officers for the single legislative committee: The Rev. Joe Harris, Oklahoma, chair; the Rev. Betty Kazadi Musau, North Katanga, vice chair; Carlene Fogle-Miller, Florida, secretary.

The Book of Discipline requires that all petitions receive a vote in a legislative committee.

Usually General Conference has multiple such committees, but because the whole gathering is dealing with the same parts of the Book of Discipline, there is only one committee with all delegates. The legislative work will continue on Feb. 25.

In the legislative committee’s first vote, delegates passed Wespath’s petition 768 to 44, moving it on to the plenary session.

Concerns about being so close to their scheduled adjournment led delegates to vote to adjourn early and take up discussion on the Traditional Plan first thing tomorrow.

Bishop Carter, who was one of three moderators for the Commission on a Way Forward, said in his sermon that his work with the commission was not unlike his 28 years as pastor of local churches. The commission was charged with finding ways to resolve the divisions over the church’s stance on homosexuality.

When people disagree about how to interpret Scripture, “they imagined they were still learning and growing as disciples and had not arrived,” Carter said. “The divisions are easy to see. What would it be like for us to watch and listen for the connections?”

The story was compiled by United Methodist News Service staff and will be updated with additional developments throughout the day. Contact them at (615) 742-5470 or [email protected]. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests.

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