What is building in Chicago is something special. Methodists from around the country are making their way to that city, where holy conferencing in its truest sense will commence on Friday. The gathering will include speakers from a wide swath of Methodism — American and African, male and female, active and retired clergy. Lay persons have been active in the organization of this meeting. Bishop Mike Lowry will bring a meditation and then he and Bishop Bob Hayes will lead the closing worship service.
Among the work of the day, the following statement will be presented for approval by those in attendance before it is presented to the Council of Bishops.
Chicago Statement to the Bishops’ Commission on A Way Forward
Meeting in Chicago, Illinois, on Friday, October 7, 2016, over 1,700 people affirmed and approved the creation of the Wesleyan Covenant Association
The association is a coalition of congregations, clergy, and laity from across The United Methodist Church, committed to promoting ministry that combines a high view of Scripture, Wesleyan vitality, orthodox theology, and Holy Spirit empowerment. We have come together to support, network, and encourage one another as the uncertain future of The United Methodist Church comes into clearer focus.
We have heard from many concerned United Methodists who believe that the church’s current situation is untenable. Some of our members are leaving their local churches or suspending their giving. Some local churches are suspending or redirecting the payment of apportionments, while other congregations are preparing to leave the denomination. Therefore, we call upon the Council of Bishops to:
- Swiftly name the members of the commission and expedite their gathering to begin working together, and
- Approve the call for a special General Conference in early 2018 to enable resolution of the conflict that divides us before further harm is done to United Methodist members, congregations, conferences, and ministries.
As faithful United Methodists, we will fervently pray for the bishops’ Commission on A Way Forward. And while we patiently wait for it to complete its work, we call upon its members to:
- Work deliberately and expeditiously as it prepares a recommendation for a called General Conference scheduled for early 2018;
- Regularly update the people of the church regarding its progress, or lack thereof, and,
- Bring forth a recommendation that would definitively resolve our debate over The United Methodist Church’s sexual ethics and its understanding of marriage.
We deeply regret the acts of covenant breaking that have accelerated in frequency and in seriousness since the 2016 General Conference. Therefore, we join with the Southeastern College of Bishops in viewing such actions as “divisive and disruptive.”
- The proposed “pause for prayer and discernment” from the Council of Bishops that was adopted by the General Conference has been ignored by many progressives, leaving us to wonder if we have good faith partners who are willing to work toward a common future for The United Methodist Church.
- Despite the pledge of the Council of Bishops to uphold and enforce the Book of Discipline, some bishops are now routinely settling complaints against clergy who violate the Discipline with no consequences. This gives us reason to believe they will continue to break faith with the general church, despite what the special commission proposes.
- At least nine boards of ordained ministry or annual conferences and two jurisdictional conferences have pledged not to conform or comply with the requirements of the Discipline. Despite some rulings nullifying those actions, we have no confidence that a covenant that depends upon voluntary compliance can hold in the face of such defiance.
- The election of a person in a same-sex marriage to the office of bishop, in blatant contradiction to the requirements of the Discipline, has undermined the very structure of our global church to the point that its future survival is in question.
We believe it is imperative for the commission to propose a plan that calls for accountability and integrity to our covenant, and restores the good order of our church’s polity. If the commission determines no such a plan is possible, then we believe it should prepare a plan of separation that honors the consciences of all the people of the church and allows them to go forward in peace and good will. A plan that requires traditionalists to compromise their principles and understanding of Scripture, including any form of the “local option” around ordination and marriage, will not be acceptable to the members of the Wesleyan Covenant Association, stands little chance of passing General Conference, would not definitively resolve our conflict, and would, in fact, lead to the fracturing of the church.
The Wesleyan Covenant Association wants what is best for United Methodist laity and clergy, and we are convinced a speedy resolution of our present crisis is now essential and imperative for the church’s future viability.
May God bless our bishops as they select the members of the commission, and may He lead and guide those who are chosen for this important task.