Greetings in the Name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
By now most have heard that at our last Council of Bishops meeting in Chicago we received the final report from the Commission on the Way Forward. I want to express my appreciation and thanks for all of you who prayed not only for the Council, but also for the work of the Commission – “Praying Our Way Forward.” I can truly say we would not have been able to complete our work without the prayers of individuals and the churches. It is important to also realize that the work of the Council was guided by a mission, vision and scope that included the following: To design a way for being the church that maximizes the presence of the United Methodist witness in as many different places as possible; allows for contextual differentiation and creates as much unity as possible.
After receiving the report of the Commission, we as the Council of Bishops agreed to submit all three plans [Traditional, One Church and Connectional Conference] to the delegates of the special called session of the General Conference to be held in February 2019. There was strong support in the Council for the One Church plan and this plan will carry the recommendation of the Council of Bishops. I know there will be
many questions surrounding this action. Why forward all three plans if the Council is recommending one? To maintain transparency, we wanted to honor the values contained in all three models and to acknowledge that within the Council of Bishops, there is support for each of the three plans. The Council of bishops believes the One Church plan is the best way forward for the United Methodist Church. We believe this plan allows for contextualization of language about human sexuality in support of our mission.
I will be meeting with the conference delegates to the special called session of the General Conference to talk about next steps and providing information for The Annual Conference. I will also be working with each District Superintendent to plan additional listening conferences and opportunities for me to visit each of the districts to hear your concerns and hopes regarding this recommendation prior to the Special Called Session. My prayer is that we remain focused on our mission while continuing to pray for the leadership of the church as we continue to discern God’s will and plan for the church. I look forward to seeing you at Annual Conference.
Bishop W. Earl Bledsoe