Bishop Swanson Offers Clarity Following Council of Bishops Post-GC Meeting

5/25/2016


The United Methodist Council of Bishops met on May 21 following the close of General Conference for worship and prayer for the ongoing unity of The United Methodist Church.
The Saturday meeting was planned prior to presenting "An Offering for a Way Forward" to the 2016 General Conference, but recognizing the importance of moving forward with the proposal, the council utilized the opportunity to discuss the possible framework for forming a commission and identify some of the qualities and characteristics needed among its membership.
 
Meeting in executive session due to the sensitive nature of the discussion, the council processed the conversations over the previous ten days and identified next steps. The council charged the executive committee with designing the process for forming a commission and creating a timeline for the proposal, recognizing the need to take time to make conscientious decisions yet not delaying the process.
The executive committee agreed to have ongoing conversation and plans to schedule a meeting before the regularly scheduled meeting in July.
The bishops determined that the proposal required further clarity, purpose and vision and agreed to appoint a small group to provide the clarity needed. The council also agreed to form a communication team that will keep the church regularly informed at each step of the process.

Bishop James Swanson Sr. released a message to the Mississippi Conference on the subject.
  
Having returned from General Conference, there is a lot of speculation about the many conversations that took place pertaining to human sexuality. Due to the various viewpoints at General Conference on this subject matter, the Council of Bishops was asked to lead the church in this human sexuality discussion. In hopes of giving you some points of clarity, I would like to share some highlights from the Council of Bishops' proposal of "An Offering for a Way Forward. 

  • We acknowledge that deep divisions exist in the church about human sexuality, but we believe there are options other than restructuring. We do not desire to split the church, and we seek unity for the sake of our mission and witness.
     
  • For the first time, a General Conference appealed to the Council of Bishops to lead legislatively as well as spiritually, a responsibility that has been reserved for the body. We humbly accepted this challenge to find a way forward and we thank the body for affirming our proposal.
 
  • The Council will lead a process to help the church move forward. This process has not yet been fully developed, but the Council will report to the church as we continue our conversations. It is yet to be determined whether there will be a special session of the General Conference.
 
  • We postponed any changes in our positions on human sexuality, and the Council will create a Commission to examine and possibly revise sections of church law regarding human sexuality. The Commission will include representation from every region of the UMC and from different perspectives.
     
  • We will not be able to build trust unless these conversations are candid and do not carry incrimination. We are committed to a different kind of conversation that invites people to imagine where God wants the church to go.
     
  • No changes have been made to the Book of Discipline regarding our official positions on matters of human sexuality. The prohibitions outlined in church law still exist, but we have committed to explore options to help avoid further complaints, trials and harm while upholding the Discipline.

More updates and information about General Conference will be forthcoming.
 
Blessings,
Bishop James E. Swanson, Sr.