By Bishop Tracy S. Malone
May 7, 2018
Grace and peace to you from God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who is the head of the Church, the creator and preserver of all life, and the gift of salvation for the world.
As I reflect on the Council of Bishop’s meeting, I am thankful for not only the outcome of our decision to recommend the One Church Plan as a Way Forward for The United Methodist Church but also for the prayerful and deliberate process that guided our time, conversations, learning and decisions throughout the week. The mission, vision and scope document that guided the work of the Commission also guided the work of the Council.
I want you to know that I am keenly aware that there is a wide range of emotions and reactions to the Council’s decision. Some are pleased and others disappointed. There are those who may find themselves outside of one or all of these plans. I recognize that many persons are eagerly and anxiously waiting to receive the full detailed report and the supportive legislation that will be considered at the called Special Session of the General Conference, February 23-26, 2019.
Friends, I ask you to pause and take a deep breath. God’s got this! This is God’s Church and we are merely stewards of it! I invite you into a season of prayer as you receive the recommendation of the Council and as you prepare to receive the full detailed report and discernment process that resulted in our decision. May God’s peace and wisdom abide with you and may your hearts and minds be open to God’s new possibilities!
I personally witnessed how the transforming power of the Holy Spirit undergirded our interactive work and provided us with wisdom on how to fully-embrace our identity as a World-Wide Church and how to maximize our mission, presence and witness throughout the world with as many people as possible and in as many places as possible. The majority of the Council of Bishops recommends the One Church Plan and believes it best fulfills the vision of a global and multi-cultural church, allows for contextual differentiation, and creates and strengthens as much unity as possible.
As noted in the Council of Bishops press release on May 4, 2018, “This plan provides conferences, churches, and pastors the flexibility to uniquely reach their missional context while retaining the connectional nature of The United Methodist Church. The One Church Plan allows for contextualization of language about human sexuality in support of the mission; and allows for central conferences, especially those in Africa, to retain their disciplinary authority to adapt The Book of Discipline and continue to include traditional language and values while fulfilling the vision of a global and multicultural church.
“This plan also encourages a generous unity by giving United Methodists the ability to address different missional contexts in ways that reflect their theological convictions. The One Church Plan removes the restrictive language of The Book of Discipline and adds assurances to pastors and Conferences who due to their theological convictions cannot perform same-sex weddings or ordain self-avowed practicing homosexuals.”
The Council of Bishops will submit a report to the Special Session of the General Conference in February of 2019 that will include the following:
The rationale for the Council making the decision to share all the information that was considered both by the Council and the Commission is so that delegates can engage in meaningful, informed conversations, and to acknowledge that there is some support for all three plans within the Council and across our Church.
The full details of the plans and the legislative proposals will be released after the final editing of the entire report and after they have been translated into the official languages of the General Conference. It is estimated this will be no later than July 8.
I will be working closely with the East Ohio Delegation as its members prepare for the Special Called Session. The Delegation has scheduled several listening sessions in the fall for members of the Conference who wish to engage the Council’s recommendation and the final report.
Beloved, we live in a hurting and broken world that is hungry for and is in need of the love of Christ and the witness of the Church. God is still calling us to proclaim the Gospel of Good News, to bind up the broken hearted and to help set at liberty those who are oppressed. While we are seeking to find a way forward that will maintain the unity of the Church and multiply our witness in the world, let us keep our eye on the public mission of the church … “To Make Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World.”
Let us remain steadfast and remember that across the years Methodism has been confronted with many challenges but, by the grace of God, has forged ahead and not lost sight of her mission. And our mission is yet alive!
Yours in Christ,
Bishop Tracy S. Malone
Executive Secretary to the Bishop’s Office
Board of Ministry
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