"Every United Methodist now knows our denomination is heading for a separation," Sierra Leone Bishop John K. Yambasu said in an address to a diverse group of church leaders meeting in Chicago.
But the bishop also called on the group attending the meeting to find a new way forward through consensus.
Yambasu called the meeting on behalf of the central conferences — United Methodist regions in Africa, Europe, and the Philippines. Bishop Christian Alsted, Nordic and Baltic Episcopal Area, and Bishop Mande Muyombo, North Katanga Episcopal Area, attended the meeting. The meeting came at the conclusion of the executive committee of the Council of Bishops meeting.
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In his opening address, Yambasu said it was his "burning desire" to work with all sides of the debate to ensure there is no further damage to the whole church.
Bishop Kenneth H. Carter Jr., president of the Council of Bishops, said bishops are involved in many conversations across the church but "we want to be clear that the complexities of our polity do not authorize anyone to negotiate separation."
Alsted said from a European United Methodist perspective, a division would most likely have "devastating consequences."
Both Yambasu and Alsted said they were hopeful having all the different viewpoints represented and in the same room would lead to a consensus plan and avoid another battle on the floor of the 2020 General Conference.
"We had a frank conversation and good airing of several proposals for moving past what some members of the group identified as 'irreconcilable differences,'" said Randall Miller, a jurisdictional conference delegate from the California-Nevada Conference. "I will continue to work with this group in faith, but so far we seem very far away from reaching an agreement."
"Not surprisingly, the central conference bishops, conservatives, centrists and progressives present agree on most of the things that make us United Methodists. But we have a fundamental disagreement over how we read scripture regarding same-sex marriage," said Adam Hamilton, pastor of the Church of the Resurrection.
Keith Boyette, president of the Wesleyan Covenant Association, said he was grateful to have the opportunity to have frank conversations about the current context of The United Methodist Church.
Tom Berlin told United Methodist News, "I was pleased that the meeting was called by central conference bishops who understand that the impact of the 2019 General Conference, which passed the Traditional Plan, will impact the global UMC connection and is not only of deep interest to members of the UMC in the United States."
Mark Tooley said he has opposed division and for 30 years has worked for a "vision of denominational revival."
Mark Holland said he is committed to finding an amicable path forward for separation.
Yambasu, quoting Isaiah 1:18, said the conversation was not about who is right and who is wrong.
"This consultation is a call to action. It is an invitation for all sides of the debate to 'come and reason together.'"
excerpt from a story by Kathy Gilbert, news writer, UMNS
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