Since its inception in 2017, the Uniting Methodists movement has remained steadfast in its commitment to seeking and building unity among the many diverse groups who hold competing visions of the future for The United Methodist Church.
Consistent with those values and beliefs, we fully support the decision to chart a new path forward as determined by the results of the Special Session earlier this year. Our goal is to provide our members with critical information about the current Next Generation UMC Proposal (legislation presented by UMCNext), which in many ways is a departure from the earlier vision that The Commission on a Way Forward outlined in the One Church Plan. We hope this will result in greater clarity and allow us all to move forward together with one voice into the future.
As many of you have observed, there is agreement between the two proposals on some broad principles. Both reinforce the respect that the Church has for diversity of opinion and strive for continuity even as we adapt to changing practices and new structures. While the Next Generation UMC Proposal is offered only a few months after the called 2019 General Conference, it addresses different concerns of a different time in the life of the UMC. It unequivocally calls for a moratorium on trials arising from the Traditional Plan as well as the repeal of all of its provisions in the Book of Discipline. The proposal calls the church to a life where all are affirmed for their gifts in ministry and where no class of persons would experience discrimination. The proposal continues to trust pastors with the capacity to choose when they will perform marriage ceremonies. The Board of Ordained Ministry will have the ability to ordain, license, or certify all persons who are duly qualified to be in ministry.
The Next Generation UMC Proposal outlines a process that will enable delegates to General Conference to create the church they long to experience. Unlike the One Church Plan, the Next Generation UMC Proposal does not call the church to a unity that we now fully understand will only lead to more conflict. This proposal acknowledges the need for separation and the ability to give churches the capacity to separate or join a new denominational expression of Methodism.
The Next Generation UMC Proposal addressed the need for resource allocation via its petition for grants to New Denominational Expressions of Methodism. It offers a set of factors for General Conference delegates to consider when forming the financial pools from which grants would be drawn. At the same time, it observes past commitments that cannot be compromised as such a pool is created.
In Summary, the Proposal:
- Keeps intact the United Methodist Church as a denomination while calling for greater regional autonomy across the entire connection.
- Retains the current doctrinal standards of The Book of Discipline, including our commitment to the historic essentials of the Christian faith.
- Removes language and policies from The Book of Discipline that are harmful to and exclusive of LGBTQ persons.
- Retains the ability of pastors to determine if a couple is ready for marriage and of annual conferences to determine if a candidate meets the criteria for ordination.
- Provides a method for groups of churches to form new expressions of Methodism.
- Creates a Commission on the 21st Century Church to prepare a comprehensive structure and governance plan that addresses historic inequities and injustice and includes clarification related to the adaptability of The Book of Discipline.
In this season of reformation, the proposal calls for a Special Session of the General Conference in 2023 to sustain momentum, receive the work of the Commission on the 21st Century Church, and take the next faithful step toward a gracious, just and Spirit-fueled new life for The United Methodist Church.
Though we are pained and reluctant to pursue different paths, we believe the Proposal’s 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 Next Generation UMC Proposal affirms the global commitments of our church, does not require dissolution of The United Methodist Church, and offers a process to create self-determination in governance of ministry by each region. Importantly, it maintains and makes room for expansion of many existing mission partnerships among the various regions of our global connection. 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 Next Generation UMC Proposal 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.