Resources on UMC Way Forward

Council of Bishops Proposal to 2019 Special Called General Conference

2019 Special Session of the General Conference 

The Council of Bishops has called a Special Session of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church to be held February 23-26, 2019 in St. Louis, Missouri. The purpose will be to receive and act on a report from the Commission on a Way Forward based on the recommendations of the Council of Bishops. The 32-member Commission was authorized by General Conference 2016 and appointed by the Council of Bishops to examine paragraphs in The Book of Discipline concerning human sexuality and exploring options to strengthen the unity of the church.

Final Report from the Commission on a Way Forward

General Conference is the top policy-making body of The United Methodist Church. The General Conference 2020 will take place May 5-15, 2020, at the Minneapolis Convention Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Learn more about our Wesleyan heritage and how the movement continues.

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 Bishops agree to covenant for GC2019

United Methodist bishops are preparing to preside over the special General Conference set for Feb. 23-26 in St. Louis, Mo. In a letter released Feb. 12, Council of Bishops President Bishop Kenneth H. Carter Jr. noted that the bishops will be bound by a covenant of presiding. The letter was written in collaboration with the Commission on the General Conference. Read press release. Read letter.  Read covenant.

Bishops, churches “Praying our Way Forward”
With the United Methodist Church’s Special Session of General Conference, Feb. 23-26, just about a week away, its leaders and many members are calling for intensive prayer. At least one Eastern PA Conference church—and perhaps others as well—is inviting whosoever will to come join them as they livestream the first day’s session, which will be devoted totally to prayer.
The Northeastern Jurisdiction College of Bishops invites “each congregation and every member to join us in even deeper and more fervent prayer. … We seek your prayers as the delegates receive and act upon the report from The Commission on a Way Forward and corresponding petitions,” the bishops, including Philadelphia Area Bishop Peggy Johnson. “Please lift this session of holy conferencing in prayer in each of your churches … throughout the week.” Learn more…

Eastern PA Conference’s GC 2019 Delegates:

Rev. Dawn Taylor Storm
Rev. Dr. Jeff Raffauf
Rev. Lydia Munoz
Rev. Joe DiPaolo
Alternate: Rev. Bob Wilt

Judy Ehninger
Clarita Krall
Krystl Johnson
Jane Bonner
Alternate:  Lenora Thompson

Essays from our Delegates:

The One Church Plan as the ‘Way Forward’

By Clarita Anderman Krall*

In February 2019 the General Conference (GC) of The United Methodist Church (UMC) will gather to conclude unfinished business of the 2016 GC. For over 45 years, since language about the practice of homosexuality was first adopted into The Book of Discipline (BOD), the denomination has, every four years, been repeatedly revisiting and rehashing the BOD’s paragraphs on this topic.

Through all these years, it has been obvious that the denomination has been at odds with itself. In 2016, GC delegates asked the Council of Bishops (COB) to lead the denomination on a “way forward” so that the denomination can continue its unified witness to the love of our Creator for all creation, to the redemption of our shortcomings in the name of our Savior and brother Jesus, and to the continuing revelations promised to us through the Holy Spirit. Read more

Why the One Church Plan is a bad idea

By the Rev. Joseph F. DiPaolo*

With the 2019 session of General Conference just months away, many United Methodists are seeking information on the various plans and petitions to be considered in St. Louis.

Our bishops and other leaders have expressed support for the so-called “One Church Plan,” which would remove existing language in the Book of Discipline on sexuality and marriage. It would let every annual conference and local church choose their own paths. Supporters say that this is the best way to move us forward in ministry together, and treat fairly all parties and perspectives.

I disagree. Here is why the One Church Plan is a bad idea… Read more

Books Related to the UMC Way Forward:

Newly added resource!
Entangled: A History of American Methodism, Politics, and Sexuality by Ashley Boggan Dreff

Disagreements in The United Methodist Church about human sexuality extend as far back as the birth-control movement of the 1920s, writes Ashley Boggan Dreff in “Entangled: A History of American Methodism, Politics, and Sexuality.” The book, published by the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry, covers the attitudes of U.S. Methodists about sexuality since World War II. Read press release

“Entangled: A History of American Methodism, Politics, and Sexuality” is available at and For more information about GBHEM’s Publishing Office, visit or follow @GBHEMPublishing on Facebook.

“Are We Really Better Together?” by Rob Renfroe and Walter Fenton

Are we better together? Are we really together?

Rob Renfroe is Pastor of Discipleship at The Woodlands UMC in Houston, Texas, leader of the popular Men’s Bible study Quest, attended by over 500 men, and author of The Trouble with the Truth, A Way Through the Wilderness, and The Joy Stealers. He also is president of Good News–a national organization committed to the doctrinal integrity and spiritual renewal of The United Methodist Church.

Walter Fenton is an ordained elder in The United Methodist Church out of the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference. He serves an extension appointment as the vie-president for strategic engagement for the Wesleyan Covenant Association.

“Our Strangely Warmed Hearts” by Karen P. Oliveto

Because God is love, all are welcome no matter whom you love.

As John Wesley discovered his true spiritual identity, he experience a strangely warmed heart. Through poignant stories and well-reasoned principles, Karen Oliveto discloses how spiritual renewal and a personal call to ministry now emerge in the strangely warmed hearts of lesbian and gay Christians.

In The United Methodist Church and other Christian denominations, it is difficult or impossible for lesbian, gay, transgender, and bisexual clergy or laity to become visible, outward channels for God’s saving grace. Karen Oliveto traces the church’s history with this struggle with homosexuality. The controversy is deeply rooted in how God’s people are searching the scriptures, which are interpreted as a means of grace for some and as a rulebook for others.

This book includes first-person narratives from LGBTQ persons faithfully spring in a denomination that denies their calls and–in some cases–their presence. These stories show how the coming-out process is deeply spiritual as they speak calmly from the heart, through pain, and sometimes with a disquieting understanding of our shared Christian faith together.

Karen P. Oliveto is bishop of the Mountain Sky Episcopal Area (Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Utah, and a small portion of Idaho) for the United Methodist Church. Previously, for eight years, she served as a senior pastor of twelve-thousand-member Glide Memorial United Church in San Francisco. Karen is the first woman to serve as senior pastor at Glide, the fifth-largest United Methodist congregation in the US; she is the first woman to serve as senior pastor in one of the denomination’s one hundred largest US congregations; and she is the first openly lesbian bishop in The United Methodist Church. Her wife, Robin, a nurse anesthetist, is a deacon in The United Methodist Church.

“Holy Contradictions” edited by Brian K. Mulford

Holy Contradictions

How might United Methodists bear witness to graceful and mutually respectful ways of living in the Wesleyan tradition amid enduring disagreements about same-gender relationships and related church practices? The seventeen essays in this book describe different views on this question at a particular moment in the life of The United Methodist Church. We encounter advocates with a passion for evangelism and for justice; examples of a shared appreciated for biblical authority that lead to quite different conclusions about biblical interpretation; an emphasis on unconditional grace as well as on the process of sanctification; attention to personal holiness and to social action; and respect for the existing contents of The Book of Discipline, in addition to cries for necessary and overdue changes.

The writers–M. Garlinda Burton, Bryon D. Collier, Jim and Jennifer Cowart, Magrey deVega, David N. Field, Rob Fuquay Diane Kenaston, Eduard Khegay, Scott T. Kisker, Thomas A. Lambrecht, Tracy S. Malone, Donna Pritchard, Kimberly D. Reisman, Laceye Warner, Audrey Warren, Jay Williams, J. Philip Wogaman–help us envision ways in which United Methodists might provide a powerful example and healing witness to a divided world.

“Bid Our Jarring Conflicts Cease” by David N. Field

A Wesleyan Theology and Praxis of Church Unity

David N. Field examines and interprets three of John Wesley’s key sermons and Wesley’s interpretation of holiness in terms of Methodist identity and diversity especially as it relates to human sexuality. Field’s main point is that schism and heresy are not doctrinal divisions but failures to love.
Theological discussions about diversity in Methodist Churches usually reference a few standard quotes from John Wesley, particularly his sermon “Catholic Spirit.” Field suggests that these references are only a part of the greater whole of Wesley’s theology and his understanding of the mission of the Methodist movement.
Field is a research associate at the Research Institute for Theology and Religion at the University of South Africa, and academic coordinator for the Methodist e-Academy. The e-Academy is a theological education project for Methodist Churches in Europe, providing online supplementary education in Methodist Studies for ordination candidates and continuing education for pastors and lay leaders.  Learn more…
The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict, Arbinger Institute
What if conflicts at home, conflicts at work, and conflicts in the world stem from the same root cause?  What if we systematically misunderstand that cause?  And what if, as a result, we systematically perpetuate the very problems we think we are trying to solve?
From the authors of Leadership and Self-Deception comes a popular book that instills hope and inspires reconciliation. Through a moving story of parents who are struggling with their own children and with problems that have come to consume their lives, we learn from once-bitter enemies the way to transform personal, professional, and global conflicts, even when war is upon us.
The Unity of the Church and Human Sexuality: Toward a Faithful United Methodist Witness, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry
Suitable for a 4-week study, this resource addresses how the church be a witness and provide for a diversified human community.
Based on a paper by Dr. Charles M. Wood, the resource presents United Methodists an opportunity to think about what has become a cultural and ecclesial flashpoint—human sexuality—and comes out of the conviction that the church is thirsty for theological conversation.
Embracing the Wideness: the shared convictions of the UMC, by Bishop Kenneth H. Carter

Embracing the Wideness contrasts a generous orthodoxy with the culture wars that seek to drive a wedge between Christians with deep faith convictions.  A generous orthodoxy is possible for The United Methodist Church because scripture supports both a confessing movement and a reconciling movement.

In addition to our divergent understandings of holiness in The United Methodist Church, we apparently have two distinct conceptions of church. These two conceptions of church present in American Methodism grew from seeds planted in the earliest practice of British Methodism:

1. A separatist church, which views holiness as a calling that separates us from the world—“come out from among them and be separated” (2 Corinthians 6:17). Here holiness is a quality that distinguishes Christians from the world.

2. An activist church, which understands holiness as a movement for change in an unjust world. The boundaries between church and society are blurred, with the “wheat and tares” growing together (Matthew 13) until God’s final judgment.

Commission on a Way Forward releases final videos for 2019 General Conference

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Commission on a Way Forward has released the final two videos of a series that the Commission hopes will inform The United Methodist Church on its processes and work done during the 18-month period of its meetings and deliberations. The Commission has released a total of ten videos in this series in the last three weeks. The videos can be viewed on Facebook or YouTube and can be downloaded for viewing offline.

Patricia Miller, Executive Director of the Confessing Movement, and Matt Berryman, former Executive Director of Reconciling Ministries Network, talk about their friendship and their experiences serving together on the Commission. (Length 7:55) • Download: • YouTube: • Facebook:

Commission members Mazvita Machinga (laity, Zimbabwe East Conference), David Field (laity, Swiss Conference), and Myungrae Kim Lee (laity, New York Conference), share their thoughts about the work of the Commission. (Length 10:56) • Download: • YouTube: • Facebook:

Gil Rendle: A Parable for Today is a video featuring Commission consultant, Gil Rendle. Gil shares a story that illustrates the difference between positions and interests. When we are able to move from holding onto our positions to seeking to understand each other’s underlying interests, we are better able to move forward together. (Length 5:14). • Download: • YouTube: • Facebook:

Gil Rendle gives an overview of the Purpose, Principles and Importance of the work of the Commission. This video was recorded during the final Commission meeting in May 2018. The video gives an in-depth theological and technical overview of the work done by the Commission that helps to frame the task given to the delegates to the February 2019 General Conference. (Length 54:18). • Download: • YouTube: • Facebook:

Bishop Grant Hagiya, a member of the Commission, shares reflections on the book Anatomy of Peace. Bishop Hagiya explains why the principles of this book can help us make a fundamental shift to allowing spaces where people can have open and honest dialogue with one another. (Length 5:44) • Download: • YouTube: • Facebook:

Commission members Donna Pritchard (clergy, Oregon-Idaho Conference), Tom Salsgiver (clergy, Susquehanna Conference) and Leah Taylor (laity, Texas Conference) share reflections on their work, the value of connection, and the relationships they formed during their time together as members on the Commission. (Length 7:02) • Download: • YouTube: • Facebook:

Bishops Sandra Steiner Ball, David Yemba and Ken Carter share an overview of their role as moderators for the Commission and how service was one of their primary focuses. (Length 5:35). • Download: • YouTube • Facebook:

Jasmine Smothers, Julie Hager Love and Tom Berlin are Commission members who are also clergy serving in the Southeastern Jurisdiction (SEJ). In this interview, they reflect on their experience and their hopes for the future of the United Methodist Church. (Length 5:46). • Download: • YouTube: • Facebook:

Dave Nuckols (laity, Minnesota Conference) and Helen Cunanan (clergy, Pampango Philippines Conference) have a conversation about the Commission, sharing their experiences from different places in the world. (Length 7:50). • Download: • YouTube: • Facebook:

Bishops Gregory Palmer and Robert Schnase, who are members of the Commission, talk about how the work of the Commission points to the larger mission of The United Methodist Church. (Length 5:35). • Download: • YouTube: • Facebook:

About the Commission: The 32-member Commission on a Way Forward was appointed by the Council of Bishops to assist the bishops in their charge from the 2016 General Conference to lead the church forward amid the present impasse related to LGBTQ inclusion and resulting questions about the unity of the church.

MEDIA CONTACT: Rev. Dr. Maidstone Mulenga Director of Communications – Council of Bishops 202-748-5172

Also, watch the discussion on the UMC Way Forward held at the 2018 Eastern PA Annual Conference:

“Commission on A Way Forward” News: