The first public details of proposed legislation setting out three proposals for resolving the denomination's division are included in the United Methodist Judicial Council's October docket.
The special 2019 General Conference — set for Feb. 23-26 in St. Louis — will attempt to find a way forward for The United Methodist Church by considering the three different plans included in the report developed by the Commission on a Way Forward.
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The Council of Bishops has asked the Judicial Council, the denomination's top court, to rule on whether the proposed legislation for the One Church, Connectional Conference and Traditional plans passes the constitutional test. The Judicial Council meets Oct. 23-26 in Zurich.
Included in the 231-page request from the bishops is the full Way Forward Commission report, 17 petitions related to implementation of the One Church Plan, 14 petitions for implementation of the Connectional Conference Plan and 17 petitions for implementation of the Traditional Plan.
The bishops have requested an oral hearing on the plans during the meeting in Zurich.
The Rev. Thomas M. Berlin, Patricia Miller and the Rev. Thomas Lambrecht were named as the respondents to the petition because they were asked by the council to submit the proposed legislation on behalf of the commission. Berlin submitted for the One Church Plan, Miller for the Connectional Conferences Plan and Lambrecht for the Traditional Plan.
"The One Church Plan gives churches the room they need to maximize the presence of a United Methodist witness in as many places in the world as possible," says the opening statement on a report on the work of the Commission on a Way Forward.
The report said the plan honors the connectional nature of The United Methodist Church and that no annual conferences, bishops, congregations or pastors are "compelled to act contrary to their convictions."
The Traditional Plan would affirm current language in the Book of Discipline. It would also enforce those bans swiftly and strictly.
The Connectional Conference plan would simplify the general church structure and provide "both space and connection between those parts of the church currently in deep conflict," the Way Forward Commission report says.
All three plans contain provisions for handling pension funds, but the One Church and Connectional plans contain no provisions for churches that want to change their relationship with The United Methodist Church. According to the Way Forward report, the Council of Bishops indicated that there were already provisions in place for a church that might want to leave.
Linda Bloom, assistant news editor for UMNS, New York, Kathy Gilbert, multimedia reporter, Nashville, TN. and Vicki Brown, UMNS news editor, Nashville, TN.
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