By Bishop Tracy S. Malone
September 19, 2018
“Therefore, as a prisoner for the Lord, I encourage you to live as people worthy of the call you received from God. Conduct yourselves with all humility, gentleness, and patience. Accept each other with love, and make an effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties you together. You are one body and one spirit, just as God also called you in one hope. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all, who is over all, through all, and in all.” - Ephesians 4:1-6. (CEB)
I believe, and am convinced, that we can find a Way Forward that will keep the unity of The United Methodist Church if we fully embrace this call to conduct ourselves with all humility, gentleness, and patience; accepting each other with love; and making an effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties us together. I continue to proclaim what I have said before: finding a Way Forward is all of our work to do and all of our commitments to make.
As a witness to our love for and commitment to Jesus Christ, and the proclamation of the Gospel and our love for our beloved United Methodist Church, we are called to be steadfast in faith and figure out how to stay together in a way that allows for and embraces our convictions and differences. By God’s grace, and with humility, we can do this! Not for our personal sake but for the sake of the Kingdom of God and our United Methodist mission and witness. This is a holy and sacred work. It’s all of our work to do ... all of our commitments to make.
“You are one body and one spirit, just as God also called you in one hope. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all, who is over all, through all, and in all.”
Our intentional work together seeking a Way Forward began in the Spring of 2017 when I formed an a Way Forward task force. The group of laity and clergy designed a conference-wide plan that created a safe and non-threatening environment where participants gathered together for worship, shared-learning, and facilitated small group conversation. Hundreds of laity and clergy attended the sessions held across the East Ohio Conference between September 2017 and March 2018. Attendees at each session discussed the following questions:
Our work together continued as all laity and clergy were invited to join in ongoing prayer for the work of the Commission on a Way Forward and the conversations that are taking place across the world-wide United Methodist Church.
Our faithful work still continues as all laity and clergy make the commitment to:
The Council of Bishops recommends The One Church Plan because this plan best maximizes the presence of the United Methodist witness and encourages a generous unity by giving United Methodists the ability to address different missional contexts in ways that reflect their theological convictions while retaining the connectional nature of The United Methodist Church and fulfilling the vision of a global and multicultural church. The One Church Plan removes the restrictive language from 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.
As we engage in these necessary conversations to find a Way Forward that will maintain the unity of the Church and multiply our witness in the world, let us remember to keep our eye on the public mission of the church … to go into all the world “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world”… by sharing the love of Christ, proclaiming the Gospel of Good News, binding up the broken hearted, feeding the poor, and liberating the oppressed.
May God’s peace and wisdom abide with you and may your hearts and minds be open to God’s new possibilities!
“I ask that he will strengthen you in your inner selves from the riches of his glory through the Spirit. I ask that Christ will live in your hearts through faith. As a result of having strong roots in love, I ask that you’ll have the power to grasp love’s width and length, height and depth, together with all believers. I ask that you’ll know the love of Christ that is beyond knowledge so that you will be filled entirely with the fullness of God. Glory to God, who is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by his power at work within us; glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus for all generations, forever and always. Amen.” - Ephesians 3:16-21 (CEB)
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