As promised last month, today we begin a series of posts intended to get us ready for General Conference 2019 (aka GC2019) which will take place at the end of February in St. Louis. In some ways, this Special Session of the General Conference is a new approach. In other ways, it is the latest iteration of a conversation (or, perhaps more accurately, argument) that has been going on in the United Methodist Church for over 40 years.
This whole undertaking is rather "inside baseball", so apologies in advance for multitudinous UMC geekery. (Ironic, coming from me.) Here's a very brief overview from an extremely high altitude.
I don't know all the ins and outs of UMC polity, so I certainly do't expect all of you to either. So let's define some terms.
General Conference is the top policy-making body of The United Methodist Church. It meets every four years.
Commission on a Way Forward was proposed by the Council of Bishops and approved by the 2016 General Conference to do a complete examination and possible revision of every paragraph of the Book of Discipline concerning human sexuality and explore options that help to maintain and strengthen the unity of the church.
But how did we get to the point where we (the UMC) needed to create the Commission on a Way Forward and a Special Session of General Conference to hear the Commission's report?
UMC pastor and frequent blogger, the Rev. Jeremy Smith, has a very well written post that answers that question -- and does so in just 1000 words! (Who knew pastors could achieve such brevity??) He wrote it back in July, so it's not 100% updated.
The most important update from Rev. Smith's post is that the Commission has completed its work, offering the One Church Plan as the Way Forward in unity. It gets really, really deep in the weeds, but you can read the entire report here.
Last note for this first Primer post on GC2019. Despite all the work of the Commission and their recommendation of the One Church Plan, a few other plans will also be considered. Here's an excellent comparison of the three main proposals: One Church Plan, Connectional Conference Plan, and "Traditionalist" Plan put side by side by side. (Note: the lines on that comparison matrix that are crossed out were ruled unconstitutional.)
That's a lot of homework, I know. But we only have six weeks until GC2019, meaning there's a lot to learn and consider before then. Especially if you, like me, haven't been aware of most of this until now.
What questions does all this raise for you? Leave your questions in the comments and I'll respond as best as I am able.
Look for Primer #2 next week!