Over the last couple of months, a group of 80 United Methodist pastors have been meeting by conference call to discuss their response to clergy in the UMC who have officiated at gay weddings, and bishops who they believe are not appropriately enforcing the Book of Discipline, which forbids United Methodist clergy from participating in such weddings. On May 22nd leaders of the group issued a press release suggesting that the way forward for United Methodism is an “amicable separation” of the denomination between a conservative Methodist denomination and everyone else.
Many of us don’t believe it is God’s will that we divide as a denomination. Yesterday United Methodist Communications released the results of a study conducted by Corporate Research of Greensboro, NC, and Research Now of Dallas. “More than 90% of respondents said The United Methodist Church should not split over issues related to human sexuality.”
In response to the conversations that led to a call for dividing the UMC, multiple conversations were held over the last six weeks with leading United Methodist pastors hoping to avoid schism. Their aim was to offer another way forward. The result of those conversations is a document entitled, “A Way Forward for a United Methodist Church.” This document has just been made public today. It is published with the names of more than 250 initial signatories representing many of the pastors of our denomination’s largest churches, but also over 50 young clergy as well as many pastors of all ages from smaller and mid-sized churches. You can read the document at awayforward.net and even become a signatory it you wish to support the ideas found in it.
The document is only a starting point for the conversation concerning a way forward that does not involve splitting the church. We recognize that there are many questions and specific issues that would need to be answered or resolved if this were to move forward. For instance, some claim this way forward is too congregational. Others contend it will make it difficult for bishops to make appointments. Some worry that this will simply move the conflict to the local church level. These are all good questions and critiques. Tomorrow I’ll publish here responses to these critiques or questions.
For now, I’d like to encourage you to read the document and, if you feel you could support the proposal as a way forward, please sign up. Clergy and laity are welcome to sign on.
Check back tomorrow for responses to some of the questions and critiques you may will likely read to this proposal. I believe there are good answers to these questions. I’ve turned off comments for today. Please hold your comments until you see the responses to questions and critiques tomorrow.