The Council of Bishops has amended its call for the 2019 special General Conference.
Under the new call, delegates to the denomination's top lawmaking body will receive petitions from the 32-member Commission on a Way Forward — not the bishops themselves. The bishops appointed the commission to help the denomination find a way through its division.
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"The purpose of this Special Session of the General Conference shall be limited to receiving and acting upon a report from the Commission on a Way Forward based upon the recommendations of the Council of the Bishops," said the amended call by Bishop Kenneth H. Carter Jr., Council of Bishops president. The special General Conference, the denomination's top legislative assembly, will be Feb. 23-26 next year in St. Louis.
The amended call means that delegates will receive legislation for not only the bishops' recommended One Church Plan but also the Traditional and Connectional Conference plans the commission brought to the bishops.
The Council of Bishops initially said the purpose of the special General Conference would be "limited to receiving and acting on a report from the Council of Bishops based on the recommendations of the Commission on a Way Forward."
Carter, in a statement, said the bishops decided to amend the call in response to a May 25 ruling by the Judicial Council, the denomination's top court.
In a footnote in Decision 1360, the court said it expected legislation from the Commission on a Way Forward — not the Council of Bishops.
"There is nothing in the proceedings of the 2016 General Conference suggesting that the Commission on a Way Forward was supposed to submit its recommendations to the Council of Bishops," the court said.
The Judicial Council ruled that other United Methodist groups or individuals could submit legislation to the special General Conference "as long as the business proposed to be transacted in such petition is in harmony with the purpose stated in the call."
The court left the question of what is in harmony to General Conference itself.
"The Council of Bishops encourages the entire church in this season to hear the words of the apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:3, that we 'make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,'" Carter said in announcing the amended call.
Heather Hahn, multimedia news reporter for UMNS
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