Bishops to decide ‘Way Forward’ proposal, change leaders

In its historic spring meeting, April 29 to May 4, in Chicago, the UMC’s Council of Bishops  is expected to certify five constitutional amendments ratified by annual conferences, elect new council leaders and finalize its recommendations on “A Way Forward” for the denomination to the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference.

Bishop Bruce Ough, outgoing president addresses the Council of Bishops at its meeting in Chicago.

Bishop Bruce Ough, outgoing council president from the Dakotas-Minnesota Area, reminded his colleagues in his opening sermon that that the church is watching, waiting and wondering if and how they will lead the denomination into the future. He will pass the president’s gavel to president-elect Bishop Kenneth Carter of the Florida Area.

Ough said he believes that the church, for the most part, will follow the bishops. “They will take their cues from this Council… If we fight and retreat to our various corners and turfs, the church will follow our example and fight. The council received on Monday, and is prayerfully considering, the Special Commission on a Way Forward’s final recommendations on what if any changes to propose in church laws and structure related to sanctioning homosexuality in marriage and ministry in UM churches.

“If we flee and pretend we are not in a truly different place as a global church, the church will follow our example and flee. If we freeze and say it is not our responsibility to guide our people into unchartered territory, the church will follow suit, freeze and miss this transformative moment,” he said. Read the full text of Bishop’s Ough message here.

Bishop Peggy Johnson (left) joins other bishops serving Holy Communion.

The council is also hearing this week leadership reports on immigration, ecumenical relations, racism, disaster relief, and other mission and ministry work around the global denomination.

Bishop Carter, who has served as one of the moderators of the Commission on a Way Forward, was elected president at the bishops’ November meeting. Bishop Cynthia Harvey of Louisiana will become the president-designate, and Bishop Mande Muyombo of North Katanga will be the secretary.

On the third day, the bishops’ meeting was bathed in much prayer . Bishop Sharma Lewis, of the Virginia Area, closed the afternoon in prayer, after Bishop Minerva Carcaño led morning devotions.

Note: Eastern PA Conference Communications will report the outcome of the bishops’ decisions this weekend and try to report reactions from Bishop Peggy Johnson several of our delegates to the 2019 Special General Conference.

Photos by Anne Marie Gerhardt, Todd Rossnagel, and Maidstone Mulenga.