FUMC of Arlington

Information for the Commission on a Way Forward

Information for the Commission on a Way Forward

In July of 2018, the United Methodist Council of Bishops received a report from the Commission for a Way Forward. That commission was formed in 2016 to look at how the denomination could move forward with many different approaches, beliefs and opinions about human sexuality and how churches are to be in ministry with LGBTQ persons. At the center of the Commission's study and report is same-sex marriage and ordination of LGBTQ persons.

The report, downloadable here, includes three proposed church plans to be considered for a vote at a special called 2019 General Conference.

Conversations about a Way Forward

FUMC of Arlington is hosting two events to help answer questions about this report’s recommendations: 

Sunday September 30 at 4:00 pm in the Banquet Room, facilitated by Rev. Jason Valendy
Thursday, October 18, at 7:00 pm in the Banquet Room, facilitated by Chris Hayes

An Overview of the Commission Recommendations

One Church Plan

  • Removes restrictive language in the Book of Discipline
  • Outlines pension responsibility for churches who cannot abide by these changes
  • Leaves it to BOM [The Board of Ordained Ministry: this is the body within each annual conference responsible for determining the readiness of persons for commissioned and ordained ministry.] and clergy session on ordination of LGBT persons
  • Allows each congregation to decide about allowing same-sex weddings to take place in local churches. That decision would be made in a church conference.
  • Allows for clergy to marry all couples they deem fit, no one is forced to preside at a same-sex wedding
  • Defines marriage in the Social Principles as “between two people”
  • Inserts new wording into the “Our Theological Task” section of the Discipline, ¶105 stating that we are in disagreement as a denomination regarding human sexuality
  • Allows for ministry to continue as it currently is at all levels of the church
  • Makes clear that Central Conferences have adaptability regarding ordination and what weddings they will/will not perform 

Connectional Conference Plan

  • Requires a number of constitutional amendments
  • Would take until 2025 to fully implement 
  • Abolishes the Jurisdictional Conferences in the US and creates three new Connectional Conferences
  • Three new Connectional Conferences are established based on beliefs on human sexuality: Traditional, Both/And, Full Inclusion
  • Central Conferences are renamed Connectional Conferences and have the option to join one of the newly formed Connectional Conferences in the US
  • Placement in the US into the newly formed Connectional Conferences begins with a Jurisdictional Conference vote and works down, all the way to local churches and individual clergy
  • A global Book of Discipline is established, with each Connectional Conference being able to supplement with their own unique Discipline

Traditional Plan

  • Maintains the Book of Discipline “as is” while adding additional, clearer language regarding accountability.
  • Outlines procedure for the Council of Bishops to hold their membership accountable to upholding the Discipline in its fullness regarding self-avowed practicing homosexuals
  • Adds multiple layers of accountability and enforcement for clergy candidates and BOM’s for enforcing the Discipline regarding the ordination of “self-avowed practicing homosexuals”
  • Inserts minimum punishments for clergy persons convicted of performing same-sex weddings
  • Develops extensive “Gracious Exit” plans for both annual conferences and groups of 50 or more churches to leave the denomination, circumventing existing exit policy in the Discipline  

The Path to the Present

In 1968, The Methodist Church and The Evangelical United Brethren Church united to become the denomination we are a part of today, The United Methodist Church.

Until this point, there was no mention of homosexuality in either Discipline, no prohibitions on same-sex marriage, and no mention of the ordination of “self-avowed practicing homosexuals.”

At the 1972 General Conference, a committee developing the new Social Principles for the UM Church included in it’s report this statement:

“We declare our acceptance of homosexuals as persons of sacred worth, and we welcome them into the fellowship of the church. Further, we insist that society ensure their human and civil rights.” 

Following debate, this was added to the statement:

“though we do not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.” 

Since 1972, there has been significant disagreement regarding homosexuality and how to be in ministry with LGBTQ persons at each General Conference held every four years. In 2016, General Conference was in a similar place: embattled and stuck, with a split of the denomination possible. During the second week of General Conference, the body voted to table all legislation dealing with human sexuality, and instead, ask the bishops to lead the denomination on this matter. A commission was formed to devise a “Way Forward” for The United Methodist Church and this commission delivered its report to the Bishops in July.

A called session of the General Conference is scheduled for February 23-26, 2019 in St. Louis, Missouri where delegates will receive each of these plans and deliberate as to how the church is to move forward. All legislation submitted to General Conference is open to amendment by the body. The final outcome of the 2019 General Conference may be the passing of some version of one or more of these plans, or possibly no action at all. We simply do not know what the final outcome of the 2019 General Conference will be.

What does all of this mean for FUMCA?

As in most churches, members of FUMCA hold diverse positions regarding human sexuality and, especially, regarding ministry with and by LGBTQ people. Consequently, we cannot make “agreement” on these issues be the driving force of our life together as the followers of Jesus. Something bigger than a single issue must be the center of our life and the guiding force of our decisions.

Our life together centers on God’s claim on our lives as beloved children of God and God’s call to live as the followers of Jesus, faithfully living the ways of the Kingdom of God that Jesus taught and lived. The New Testament language for this center is “Jesus is Lord!” As the followers of Jesus, our commitment is to grow in and live out of the ways of the Kingdom, loving others in Jesus’ name. Our purpose is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. If we are to be faithful, our commitment and our purpose must guide our response to these issues and the decisions that will be made regarding them.

Ultimately, on February 27, 2019, regardless of the action of the General Conference, we will still be FUMCA. Our commitment and purpose will not change. We will continue to seek to be faithful in our own discipleship as we love others into becoming disciples, too. In the season after the 2019 General Conference there will be decisions to be made and possible changes to be put in place.
The following are some possible effects if one of the above plans is to be passed in its entirety by the General Conference.

The One Church Plan: If the One Church Plan were to pass, a Church Conference will be held to determine if our facilities will be available for a same sex wedding. A Church Conference is a meeting in which the entire membership of the church is allowed to vote. A change in building use policy requires a 51% majority. It is possible that an openly gay or lesbian married person could be appointed to serve FUMCA sometime in the future.

The Connectional Conference Plan: This plan has an incredibly slim chance of passing the General Conference. If the Connectional Conference Plan were to pass, FUMCA would choose to become aligned with one of the newly formed Connectional Conferences. Those Conferences are aligned around theological positions, not geography.

The Traditional Plan: The primary impact of the Traditional Plan will be on clergy and LGBTQ individuals. Clergy would have to decide about their alignment with and participation in a denomination with prohibitions on same-sex marriage and the ordination of openly gay and lesbian persons. LGBTQ individuals would have to decide if they would participate in a denomination that views their sexual orientation and lifestyle as incompatible with scripture. Ultimately, individual members would also have to decide if they would participate in a denomination with this stance.

Moving Forward

Between now and the special session of General Conference in February 2019, we invite the congregation to a time of prayer, discernment, and conversation regarding these issues. Underlying these conversations are several key questions. What is the distinguishing mark(s) of a follower of Jesus? How does scripture inform our position? How we are to be in ministry with LGBTQ people? Who are we to be as the people of FUMCA?

The first opportunity for guided conversation will take place on Sunday, September 30 at 4:00 pm, and Thursday, October 18, at 7:00 pm in the Banquet Room.

More Information & Resources

Here are some links to resources related to the Commission on a Way Forward.