Council of Bishops statement to the 2016 General Conference

presented by Bishop Bruce Ough, president of the Council of Bishops

Galatians 3:25-29 (NRSV)

25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27 As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring,[a] heirs according to the promise.

Your bishops were honored to receive the request of General Conference to help lead our United Methodist Church forward during this time of both great crisis and great opportunity.  As far as we can discover, this is the first time that a General Conference has ever made such a request of the Council of Bishops, and we accept this request with humility.

We share with you a deep commitment to the unity of the church in Christ our Lord.  Yesterday, our president shared the deep pain we feel.  We have all prayed for months and continue to do so.  We seek, in this kairos moment, a way forward for profound unity on human sexuality and other matters.  This deep unity allows for a variety of expressions to co-exist in one church.  Within the Church, we are called to work and pray for more Christ-like unity with each other rather than separation from one another.  This is the prayer of Jesus in John 17:21-23.

UNITY   We believe that our unity is found in Jesus Christ; it is not something we achieve but something we receive as a gift from God.  We understand that part of our role as bishops is to lead the church toward new behaviors, a new way of being and new forms and structures which allow a unity of our mission of “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world” while allowing for differing expressions as a global church.  Developing such new forms will require a concerted effort by all of us, and we your bishops commit ourselves to lead this effort.  We ask you, as a General Conference, to affirm your own commitment to maintaining and strengthening the unity of the church.  We will coordinate this work with the various efforts already underway to develop global structures and a new General Book of Discipline for our church.  Strengthening the unity of the church is a responsibility for all of us.

PRAYER  We accept our role as spiritual leaders to lead the UMC in a “pause for prayer” – to step back from attempts at legislative solutions and to intentionally seek God’s will for the future.   As a Council of Bishops, we will lead the church in every part of the world in times of worship, study, discernment, confession and prayer for God’s guidance.  We ask you, as a General Conference, to join us in this effort, beginning this week.  We were moved by the sight of delegates praying around the table, and we hope these efforts will continue.  As your bishops we are ready to join you and to lead you in these times of prayer.

PROCESSES   We have discussed in depth the processes which might help our church heal and move forward – up to and including the possibility of a called General Conference in 2018 or 2019.  We have not finalized our plans for such processes, but we will keep working on options we have heard from many of you, and we will keep reporting to this General Conference and to the whole church.

NEXT STEPS   We recommend that the General Conference defer all votes on human sexuality and refer this entire subject to a special Commission, named by the Council of Bishops, to develop a complete examination and possible revision of every paragraph in our Book of Discipline regarding human sexuality.  We continue to hear from many people on the debate over sexuality that our current Discipline contains language which is contradictory, unnecessarily hurtful, and inadequate for the variety of local, regional and global contexts.  We will name such a Commission to include persons from every region of our UMC, and will include representation from differing perspectives on the debate.   We commit to maintain an on-going dialogue with this Commission as they do their work, including clear objectives and outcomes. Should they complete their work in time for a called General Conference, then we will call a two- to three-day gathering before the 2020 General Conference.  (We will consult with GCFA regarding cost-effective ways to hold that gathering.)

CONTINUING DISCUSSIONS  We will continue to explore options to help the church live in grace with one another – including ways to avoid further complaints, trials and harm while we uphold theDiscipline.  We will continue our conversation on this matter and report our progress to you and to the whole church.

Today, as a way of beginning to find our way forward, we suggest that in place of the allotted legislative time we spend 1-2 hours of plenary time in prayer, confession and exploration of a creative way forward.  The bishops are prepared to provide questions to guide your conversations.  Your conversations will be the first step to a way forward.

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6 Comments on "Council of Bishops statement to the 2016 General Conference"

The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
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eric pone

Nice punt to the committe tactic. Plus on top of that they are giving a full 4 year timeframe to ensure that the failure will be complete. What exactly do Bishops do? Why do we have this many? This basically grants that our disintigration will be chaotic and very hurtful. I don’t recall Jesus ever punting something down the path to avoid conflict. Finding wholeness is in the conflict. We are allowing two small minority groups to dictate the lives of everyone else and they seem to be ok with that.


Sadly, I have to agree re: the tactic outlined. I hope I’m wrong and said committee bears fruit, but my immediate impression is that this simply serves to relieve some pressure off the bishops and shush the current debate while they’re in the hot seat. What will change if the bishops remain entrenched as they are? When one is convicted so deeply, they don’t tend to be swayed by further layers of red tape.

Molly Tampke

I worry, too, that more delay results in more members leaving the UMC because of impatience with the process (if you can call it that) and of course because of our stance. I am so ready for some sort of action–preferably a progressive one–so that we can take any next steps we need. The Church does not benefit from endless procrastination.


Yes. And what truly bothers me is the lack of moratorium on church trials and defrockings in the discernment period. Meaning, the 110 who came out at the opening of the conference will be sacrificed, losing their positions, income, pensions, and harming themselves and their communities. Taking this road betrays them. I think if the progressives agreed to a moratorium as well in good faith in exchange for a moratorium on these church trials, then there might be a way forward. As it is, it calls to throw those brave people under the bus, and that’s unconscionable.

Marcella Rejoice Ruch

I will be praying for my wonderful world wide church to find the answers Jesus would find.

Carl Adkins

Revelation 3:15-16.. if you cant pollute then dillute…

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