Last October, I presented an overview of the Connectional Conference Plan at a gathering of all South Central Jurisdiction delegates who were meeting to prepare for the 2019 Special Session of General Conference. Although many in attendance assumed the Connectional Conference Plan would not get any traction at General Conference, I was surprised and intrigued by how many were more open to the plan's potential once they began to better understand it.
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That experience has stayed with me, as have the numerous conversations with delegates, laity, clergy and even bishops that make it clear many people are still looking for another way forward because they are increasingly uncomfortable with having to choose between the One Church and Traditional plans.
I am convinced the Holy Spirit still is at work. A decision has not yet been made and delegates are ready to take a fresh look at the Connectional Conference Plan as part of their continuing discernment about God's Way Forward for the entire United Methodist Church.
I believe the Connectional Conference Plan contains a number of rich, robust and challenging ideas that are worthy of consideration:
1. It frees the church from the trap of dividing into winners and losers by offering a new way forward for the entire United Methodist Church.
2. It recognizes the depth of the theological division that exists within our church.
3. It understands that unity is best expressed by the vine and branch imagery of John 15.
4. It utilizes a long-needed adaptive approach that will have a positive impact for decades to come.
5. It most fully embodies the "Mission, Vision and Scope" document developed by the Council of Bishops to guide the Commission on a Way Forward.
6. It offers The United Methodist Church the holy opportunity to demonstrate how a relationship to each other through Christ can enable the church to transcend polarizing differences instead of being fractured by them.
Finally, I know The United Methodist Church will be very different when General Conference adjourns on Feb. 26, 2019. This is true regardless of which plan is selected. Indeed, it is also true if nothing happens. The Connectional Conference Plan understands that any way forward will take a great deal of intentional effort and involvement by as many people as possible. This is not a weakness. It is exactly what is needed for the entire United Methodist Church to claim our way forward in the short-term so we can bear fruit for the long-term.
Bishop Gary E. Mueller, leads the Arkansas Episcopal Area of The United Methodist Church.
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