Commission on a Way Forward meets in Chicago
Chicago, Ill.: The Commission on a Way Forward held its fourth meeting on July 19-21 at the Wespath building in Chicago, Illinois. The Commission has been assigned by the Council of Bishops, in response to the action of the 2016 General Conference, to help the denomination to explore new ways of embodying unity that will move the church beyond its impasse around ministry and human sexuality. Moderators Bishop David Yemba, Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball and Bishop Ken Carter led the 32-person global commission in its work.
This was a hopeful and productive meeting. The Commission is at the stage of sketching plans rather than painting a complete picture and is still not yet at the midpoint of our meeting schedule. The Commission continues to build trust among commission members. The Commission spent a great deal of time working on a common core of practices related to being followers of Jesus in The United Methodist Church. A prominent image of this is Jesus as the vine in John 15, and his disciples as the branches. From this core, the Commission is moving more deeply into the areas of conceptual models and implications for polity. In the coming days, the Commission will release a significant Status Report. The Commission is grateful for the prayers of many across the world.
The meeting began with a time of centering and devotion based on the biblical image of the vine and branches led by Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett. Following the devotional time, Bishop Bruce Ough, president of the Council of Bishops, met with the Commission. Bishop Ough, based on Tod Bolsinger’s book Canoeing the Mountains
, reflected on the journey of Lewis and Clark in finding a passageway through the North American west to the Pacific Ocean as a metaphor for the challenges of The United Methodist Church in the uncharted territory of the present. He described a core mission, a core proclamation of the gospel (“Jesus is Lord”) that allows for different missional expressions. In addition, he noted other bodies within the denomination that are working concurrently on related matters: the Standing Committee on Central Conferences, the Connectional Table, the Committee on Faith and Order and the General Board of Church and Society.
Progress reports were shared from the Listening Team, the Central Conference Team, and the Polity and Strategy Team. The information shared through these reports represented outreach to and feedback from a number of constituent bodies in the denomination, including youth, young adults, seminarians, advocacy and renewal groups, districts and annual conferences, general secretaries of boards and agencies, the Council of Bishops, and pastors of larger congregations.
A team working on draft models related to “new ways of embodying unity” (Mission, Vision and Scope document
) gave its report. This report included and was grounded in John 15, recognizing Jesus as the common vine and differing expressions of United Methodism as potential branches. The work at this stage is tentative and exploratory.
Bishop Christian Alsted and Dr. Amy Valdez Barker brought greetings on behalf of the Connectional Table, and General Secretary Barbara Boigegrain led a conversation on the implications of structural changes related to a way forward for the work of Wespath and the pension plans of the church. In addition, Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett, Alfiado Zunguza and Matt Berryman led devotions each day based on John 15. David Field of Switzerland gave a summary of the theological learnings on unity from the Colloquy on Unity and Human Sexuality, and Dave Nuckols of the Minnesota Conference interpreted the data on LGBTQ identity and understandings.
For more information on the Commission on a Way Forward, visit umc.org/wayforward
About the Commission on a Way Forward
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 human sexuality and resulting questions about the unity of the church.
Resources for Vital Congregations
Lewis Center for Church Leadership
Lewis Center for Church Leadership: Books
Lewis Center for Church Leadership: Serve Your Neighbor
GBHEM Leadership Resources
Living Faithfully: Human Sexuality and the United Methodist Church
Englewood Book Review
Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations
Ted Talks: The Golden Circle
Ted Talks: The Power of Vulnerability
Ted Talks: The Price of Invulnerability
Meditations on the Ministry of All Christians
Be A Disciple
A Disciple’s Path; A Guide for United Methodist
Lewis Center for Church Leadership: Adult Christian Studies from the Wesley Ministry Network
Traveling Together: A Guide for Disciple Forming Congregations
Living As United Methodist Christians
Methodist Doctrine: The Essentials
Reclaiming our Wesleyan Tradition: John Wesley’s Sermons for Today
John Wesley Sermons: Anthology
Get Their Name
Evangelism & Theology in the Wesleyan Spirit
Canoeing the Mountains
Fresh Expressions: Dinner Church
Lewis Center for Church Leadership: Reach New Disciples
Lewis Center for Church Leadership: 50 Ways to Reach People
Community: The Structure of Belonging
RESOURCES TO CONNECT WITH THE COMMUNITY:
Institute for Emerging Issues
Congregations 4 Children
The Royce and Jane Reynolds Ministry Fund Grants
The Duke Endowment
The Appalachian District Church Vitality Team has been prayerfully seeking ways to help support you and the ministries of your local congregation during this COVID-19 pandemic. Together they have diligently researched and connected with others throughout the conference and our denomination to identify resources and offer them to you. We hope they will be helpful to you and bless you greatly in leading your churches and communities through this unprecedented time. We are very grateful to the District Vitality Team and other contributors for their great work on this resource.
This faithful team has created three documents, two of which you are receiving today. They include:
- Family Home Worship – designed to help families establish a regular worship space within their homes as well as a time where they can worship together.
- Tech Strategies – to help guide you in selecting effective tools and resources within your budget to best communicate in the digital world.
We believe these resources will be of great benefit to you. Also know that the District Vitality Team is available to answer any questions you might have in regards to the documents attached. If you have questions, you may email Rev. Howard Fleming at email@example.com.