The Uniting Methodists movement is animated by a vision of The United Methodist Church as a body of faithful disciples who are united in their commitment to the primacy of scripture, the historic affirmations of the Christian faith in the Wesleyan tradition, and the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
We expect and welcome diversity of biblical interpretations, affirm the importance of shaping ministry that is resonant with varied cultural contexts, and honor the importance of making room for all by allowing faithful expressions of Christian conscience. This includes providing for differences around church teachings and practices with regard to same-sex relationships.
Through reflection, prayer and “holy conferencing,” we came to support the One Church Plan as a starting place to give contemporary expression of Wesley’s “Catholic spirit” in UMC life. By a narrow margin the delegates at 2019 General Conference chose instead to institute measures that amplified harm to LGBTQ persons and enhanced penalties for those whose consciences required a different way of living into the promise of the gospel.
The actions in St. Louis ignited a strong and widespread reaction of concern and rejection of the punitive measures adopted at the Special Session of General Conference. It is apparent by the subsequent actions of the vast majority of the 54 U.S. annual conferences that there are stark differences in convictions and aspirations about living as Jesus’ disciples. As a result, we need a different way of sharing in common mission wherever and whenever we can, but also for ordering ministry in ways that better reflect the calling and commitments of people with contrasting understandings.
Although we are pained and reluctant to pursue different paths, we believe the UMCNext set of principles and guidelines helps to reset the ongoing existence and ministry of The United Methodist Church while providing an honorable way for those who desire to be set free to follow a different path.
The UMCNext framework affirms the global commitments of our church, does not require dissolution of The United Methodist Church, and assures self-determination in governance of ministry by each region. Importantly, it maintains and makes room for expansion of many existing mission partnerships among the regional conferences. It also sets in motion the revitalization of current denominational structures while offering a path for the formation of new expressions of ministry in the Wesleyan tradition.
There will be more work to perfect the UMCNext principles and translate the concepts into enabling legislation for consideration by the 2020 General Conference. We view this dynamic process as a positive way forward and give thanks for the people of varying convictions who have labored together to search for gracious ways to (in the words of Charles Wesley) “bid our jarring conflicts cease.” We continue to pray that the Holy Spirit will be at work in the conversations that prepare the way for General Conference 2020 in the spirit of Ephesians 4 (1-5). And we look forward to the day when the whole Body of Christ will be gathered together and all are “lost in wonder, love and praise.”
This post is republished from Uniting Methodists’ newsletter.