Commission on a Way Forward: About Us
The Commission will bring together persons deeply committed to the future(s) of The United Methodist Church, with an openness to developing new relationships with each other and exploring the potential future(s) of our denomination in light of General Conference and subsequent annual, jurisdictional and central conference actions. We have a profound hope and confidence in the Triune God, and yet we acknowledge that we do this work in a climate of skepticism and distrust, from a human point of view. We are a connection, and we admit that our communion is strained; yet much transformative mission across our world is the fruit of our collaboration. The matters of human sexuality and unity are the presenting issues for a deeper conversation that surfaces different ways of interpreting Scripture and theological tradition. The work is meant to inform deliberation across the whole church and to help the Council of Bishops in their service to the next General Conference in finding a way forward.
The Commission will design a way for being church that maximizes the presence of a United Methodist witness in as many places in the world as possible, that allows for as much contextual differentiation as possible, and that balances an approach to different theological understandings of human sexuality with a desire for as much unity as possible. This unity will not be grounded in our conceptions of human sexuality, but in our affirmation of the Triune God who calls us to be a grace-filled and holy people in the Wesleyan tradition.
We should be open to new ways of embodying unity that move us beyond where we are in the present impasse and cycle of action and reaction around ministry and human sexuality. Therefore, we should consider new ways of being in relationship across cultures and jurisdictions, in understandings of episcopacy, in contextual definitions of autonomy for annual conferences, and in the design and purpose of the apportionment. In reflection on the two matters of unity and human sexuality, we will fulfill our directive by considering “new forms and structures” of relationship and through the “complete examination and possible revision” of relevant paragraphs in the Book of Discipline. We will give consideration to greater freedom and flexibility to a future United Methodist Church that will redefine our present connectionality, which is showing signs of brokenness. If we ignore this work, fracturing will occur in more haphazard and even self-interested ways across the church. If we do this work only to address our preferences and self-interest, we will fail to place our complete trust in God’s steadfast love and faithfulness. If we do this work with complete surrender to God’s unlimited imagination and kingdom purposes, we will be blessed beyond our limited human imagination. God remains God; God is with us; God will never let us go. To God be the glory!
What are the covenantal practices that are so essential to our work together that we must perform them with excellence in order to fulfill our mission?
We covenant to pray for one another, for the Commission, for the United Methodist Church, for the mission of Christ, and for a way forward together.
We covenant to attend all meetings unless unexpected urgencies prevent us, to prepare adequately for meetings by reading assigned books or papers, to stay engaged and focused, to participate actively in learning experiences and conversations, and to follow through with any assignments or projects that we agree to accept. We will offer our best and highest to the work of the Commission as servants of Christ and leaders of the church.
We covenant to treat one another with respect, to assume the best in others, to represent one another in the best possible light, to speak the truth with love, and to practice and expect trustworthiness. We will each do our part to offer grace, to create an atmosphere of hospitality, and to moderate our anxiety through mutual encouragement, good humor, and with genuine love for one another.
We covenant to listen actively to others, to seek first to understand rather than to be understood, to ask for clarity or help from others, to remain attentive to cultural, language, and contextual diversity, to be patient with one another, and to foster hopefulness and mutual encouragement.
We covenant to maintain strict confidentiality, and so we will avoid inappropriate sharing of personal information, stories, or perspectives of other members without their consent. We will not share information about the work of the Commission that the Commission or its moderators have not granted permission for release.
What behaviors are so harmful that they put the success of our mission at risk?
We covenant to avoid harmful speech toward or about others on the Commission, during our meetings and outside our meetings. We will refrain from blaming others, misrepresenting others, making judgments about others, or using derogatory speech about others or the Commission.
We covenant to avoid the practices of interrupting others, ignoring others, discounting others, speaking for others, or exhibiting dominating or domineering behavior. We shall practice self-monitoring, gently holding one another accountable for divisive or hurtful behaviors.
We covenant to avoid dividing into factions, politicizing our processes, and retreating into camps and silos based on ideology or regional affinities. We will intentionally seek to cultivate deeper relationships with those we do not know rather than merely spend time with those we already know.
We covenant to restrain ourselves from distracting behaviors during our meeting sessions so that we may remain attentive to one another and to our work. We will refrain from checking emails, reading online news, and otherwise letting ourselves become distracted for outside obligations.
We covenant to abide by the agreed-upon protocols for sharing news, information, or photos on social media.
We will use Matthew 18 as a model for how to work with each other.
Members who determine that they cannot continue to serve on the Commission will inform the Moderators of their decision, and the Moderates will communicate this to the other members of the Commission. Members who leave the Commission are asked to maintain the Accountability Covenant. The Commission would like to honor the service and contribution of those who decide to leave by surrounding them and sustaining them with prayer at their final meeting with the Commission.