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Bishop's Column: Looking ahead to GC19

Posted: January 27 2019 at 12:00 AM
Author: Bishop Sally Dyck


In a few weeks—February 23-26, 2019—the delegates to the General Conference of The United Methodist Church will meet in St. Louis, Missouri for a Special Session in order to discern a way forward in regards to the impasse and conflict within the church related to human sexuality. Many of you have stayed abreast of what’s transpired since General Conference 2016 but I’m going to give a very brief overview and provide a few links to resources and access to the proceedings for more detail.  

In May 2016 the delegates to General Conference approved a request that the Council of Bishops delay a debate on homosexuality and provide “a way forward” for the denomination in our disagreement on human sexuality. Controversial statements at General Conference began in 1972 and since then the conflict has intensified until, by 2016, it was difficult to focus on anything else—most of all, the mission of The United Methodist Church. Our witness and influence as a church was (and continues to be) hindered by this conflict.

Commission on a Way Forward

By late summer 2016, the Council of Bishops established a Commission on a Way Forward, bringing together a very diverse group of United Methodists from around the world over the course of 18 months to design proposals that would be presented to a Special Session of the General Conference February 23-26, 2019. 

Meeting several times with the Council of Bishops, the Commission worked primarily on two designs: One Church Plan and Connectional Conference Plan. They abandoned work on the Traditionalist Plan after little work on it at the request of the Council of Bishops. In May 2018 the Commission brought their plans to the Council of Bishops and the Council of Bishops recommended the One Church Plan to the Special Session of the General Conference 2019. 

The Council of Bishops, however, sent all three plans, including the Traditionalist Plan (which wasn’t written by the Commission but was later written by a handful of people, including a few bishops) to the Judicial Council to determine ahead of time whether the plans were in keeping with the Constitution of The United Methodist Church. These plans have been described over the last 8 months and they all were scrutinized by the Judicial Council. You can find the Judicial Council decisions by visiting www.umc.org/judicialcouncil and search Decision NO. 1366.

One Church Plan

I am in favor of the One Church Plan because it allows space for all God’s people; those who think like me and others! I personally regret that the One Church Plan doesn’t guarantee full inclusivity but it allows room for the Spirit to move in the future, not locking the church—the annual conferences, local churches or clergy—into binding commitments related to human sexuality or forcing anyone to do anything against their conscience. As I have said all along in Northern Illinois, if you’re conservative or a conservative church, then make disciples and show fruit. If you’re progressive or a progressive church, demonstrate the same. The mission field is vast and needs all of us to share the gospel and God’s love. 

As we continue to prepare for the Special Session, I encourage you to inform yourselves and your church by utilizing the resources that have been made available to all of us at online (see below for links).

Most of all, I encourage you to pray for our six delegates from the Northern Illinois Annual Conference along with all the others from around the world. May all hearts and minds be open to God’s Holy Spirit in this time of discernment.

Debriefings in March

After the Special Session, I invite you to join me, the cabinet and others in discerning just what happened at GC19 and its impact on the general church, our annual conference, your local church, and you as clergy at one of three debriefing sessions on March 30 and March 31.

We don’t know what will happen at the Special Session. We may change the structure of the United Methodist Church or totally come apart. We may adopt one of the plans (or a variation of it) or do nothing. What we know is that on February 27, 2019, God still expects, calls and sends us out to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world! 

May it be so!

~Bishop Sally Dyck

*The North Central Jurisdiction College of Bishops met January 22-24, 2019 and have issued a joint statement as we approach the Special General Conference 2019. Please read here.

GC19 Links

For resources visit: www.umcnic.org/wayforward

Livestream of the Special Session: www.umc.org/live

For updates and news from St. Louis visit: www.umcnic.org/GC19

United Methodist News Service follow www.umnews.org.

NIC Delegation visit www.umcnic.org/NICdelegation and follow them on Facebook at
www.facebook.com/NICDelegation.

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