The Council of Bishops has cast a vision for a future United Methodist Church that transcends the labels many church members use to describe themselves.
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“We cannot be a traditional church or a progressive church or a centrist church. We cannot be a gay or straight church,” asserts what the bishops have titled “A Narrative for the Continuing United Methodist Church.”
The bishops’ narrative, instead, envisions a denomination rooted in Scripture, centered in Christ and welcoming to all churchgoers — however they identify.
“Our best witness is to love each other as Christ loves us, to show the world the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit to bind us together despite our differences,” the narrative proclaims. “This is living out the gospel.”
The bishops affirmed the two-page narrative while in closed session during their online meeting in November.
While the bishops do not publicize tallies for votes taken in closed session, Council of Bishops President Cynthia Fierro Harvey said the document received overwhelming approval.
“I pray that this narrative begins to paint a picture and sets a vision for the continuing UMC,” Harvey, who also leads the Louisiana Conference, told United Methodist News.
New York Conference Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton, who is the incoming Council of Bishops president, said he hopes the document “can be used to assist anyone anywhere who is working toward a more just, inclusive and welcoming church.”
The bishops’ narrative arrives at a time when the denomination’s story seems about to take a turn.
The COVID-19 pandemic has twice delayed General Conference, the denomination’s top legislative body that would make any final decisions on a separation plan. The international assembly is now scheduled for Aug. 29-Sept. 6, 2022, in Minneapolis.
In the meantime, the Wesleyan Covenant Association — a traditionalist advocacy organization — is working toward the formation of a new denomination, the Global Methodist Church. Another group is developing a new denomination informed by liberation theology, the Liberation Methodist Connexion.
However, a broad swath of churchgoers plan to remain United Methodist, and many already have started preparations for how they envision the future church will minister.
The bishops’ narrative describes the continuing United Methodist Church as:
- Confident in what God has done in Christ Jesus for all humankind.
- Committed to personal and social salvation/transformation.
- Courageous in dismantling the powers of racism, tribalism and colonialism.
“There is a need for The United Methodist Church, and a critical voice here is the voice of the bishops, to claim the gifts of our convictions grounded in Scripture, tradition, reason and experience,” said Bishop Kenneth H.Carter.
Ultimately, the bishops expect the narrative to provide a starting point for discussions in their areas about the church’s future.
excerpt from a story by Heather Hahn, assistant news editor, UMNS
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