To find a way forward on the denomination’s homosexuality debate, bishops are recommending the church allow more freedom at the conference and local church levels.
Under what the Council of Bishops calls the One Church Plan, decisions about whether to ordain LGBTQ clergy or to officiate at same-gender unions would be made closer to the congregational level.
The plan would remove the restrictive language against the practice of homosexuality in the Book Discipline, the denomination’s policy book. The plan also adds assurances to pastors and conferences who in good conscience cannot perform same-sex weddings or ordain “self-avowed practicing” gay clergy that they don’t have to do so. Central conferences — church regions in Africa, Asia and Europe — could maintain current restrictions.
The plan “encourages a generous unity by giving United Methodists the ability to address different missional contexts in ways that reflect their theological convictions,” said the bishops’ press release.
While the majority of bishops recommend the One Church Plan, the bishops also will submit two additional plans to the special General Conference on Feb. 23-26, 2019, in St. Louis. All three possibilities had support among some of the bishops.
The other two plans on the table are:
- The Traditionalist Plan would affirm the current language in the denomination’s Book of Discipline, the denomination’s governing document, and seek to strengthen enforcement.
- The Connectional-Conference plan would allow conferences to choose among three connectional conferences for affiliation. The connectional conferences would align based on theology or perspective on LGBTQ ministry — be it traditionalist, progressive or allowing for a variety of approaches. This plan would require multiple amendments to the denomination’s constitution.