A Call to Deeper Conversations Regarding New Expressions of Methodist Witness. 11.11.19
Jesus came near and spoke to them, “I’ve received all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
As bishops of The United Methodist Church, we are called to seek the unity of the church, love the entirety of the church, and lead all churches within our connection to thrive in their mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, while upholding the order and discipline of the Church.
Our hearts are breaking for our beloved United Methodist Church. Differences over human sexuality have devolved into demonization and polarization. An emphasis on ‘winners and losers’ actually ensures no one wins and everyone loses. A church filled with faithful and diverse disciples making a powerful difference for Christ in the lives of individuals and the world seems ever closer to fracturing.
It is time to be honest about our current reality. The events transpiring since the adjournment of the Special Session of General Conference illustrate how deep our division is. Sadly, even greater discord, chaos and fighting loom on the horizon at the 2020 General Conference in Minneapolis. The recent call and commitment by some for a moratorium of all complaints related to LGBTQ+ clergy and clergy performing same-gender weddings without a call for a moratorium on actions that violate our current Book of Discipline is yet another example of our brokenness. Even with good intentions, actions like these continue to divide.
This is why we recognize our beloved United Methodist Church no longer can continue in our current form of unity. It is time to quit undermining our mission. It is time for the entire church to come together to figure out how to be the people called Methodists in a new way – to seek a new form of unity.
Is God offering a hope-filled future in which there will be multiple expressions of the Methodist witness? We United Methodists yearn for a church focused on mission and ministry in the 21st Century. We live out of the Wesleyan conviction that the “world is our parish” and a deep belief that the hope of Christ is the only hope for our world today. The people called Methodists are longing for a church in which the Holy Spirit is more clearly experienced as bringing good news, hope, and joy. We seek to be a church that builds up instead of tears down. We envision a more vibrant and missionally effective Wesleyan movement.
We believe God can use our current brokenness as a springboard to multiply our Wesleyan DNA through different expressions of Methodism that will allow our diversity of theological thought and contextual practice to flourish untethered from conflict. Indeed, God can bless multiple expressions of Methodism in ways that can have a cumulative impact far greater than we can ever have today in our fractured state.
We applaud the groups engaging in prayerful conversations resulting in Spirit-led ideas. The work of UMCNext, the WCA, UMCForward, The Indianapolis Plan, the Bard-Jones Plan and others offer some emerging consensus that can be built upon. We believe these conversations need to continue to move forward, specifically focusing on a new form of unity that seeks future missional connection with the following objectives:
- A dependence upon the Holy Spirit and deep commitment to prayer and discernment seeking God’s direction for the future of Methodism.
- A renewed focus on making new disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
- Providing instruments and principles that offer as much missional unity as possible.
- Maintain commitment to a global expression with input from all regions and ethnic groups in seeking a new form of unity.
It is time to end our conflict that undermines all our efforts to proclaim the Gospel. It is time to lead with compassion, name our reality, and show a path forward to create new expressions of Methodism that can thrive and flourish. It is time to bless, support and free one another to be the church we feel God calls us to be.
Therefore, we invite all laity, clergy and bishops – regardless of their perspective on matters of human sexuality – to join us in this conversation for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the sake of the world and the sake of our souls.
Signed by the following bishops of The United Methodist Church:
Lindsey Davis, Alfred W. Gwinn, Jr., Robert E. Hayes Jr., Scott J. Jones, Eduard Khegay, Michael Lowry, Mark J. Webb, Young Jin Cho