Thoughts on the Council of Bishops’ Work on the Way Forward


May 07, 2018

Greetings in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ,
 
I have been in deep and prayerful reflection for the past several days since the Council of Bishops concluded our spring meeting. I want to thank you for your prayers throughout our time together. Believe me, we felt them and your support. The following is what we overwhelmingly adopted:
 
Motion
Having received and considered the extensive work of the Commission on a Way Forward, the Council of Bishops will submit a report to the Special Session of the General Conference in 2019 that includes:
 

  • All three plans (The Traditionalist Plan, The One Church Plan and The Connectional Conference Plan) for a way forward considered by the commission and the council.
  • The council’s recommendation of The One Church Plan.
  • A historical narrative of the council’s discernment process regarding all three plans.
 
Rationale:  In order to invite the church to go deeper into the journey the Council and Commission has been on, the Council will make all the information considered by the Commission and the Council of Bishops available to the delegates of the General Conference and acknowledges there is support for each of the three plans within the Council.  The values of our global church are reflected in all three plans.  The majority of the Council recommends the One Church Plan as the best way forward for The United Methodist Church.
 
A majority of the council expressed a preference for the One Church Plan as the best way forward for the United Methodist Church. Not surprisingly, there was significant support for the other two plans as well. We believe that communicating a preference demonstrates leadership on this challenging issue for the Church. That said, we also realize that the Council of Bishops leads but does not legislate. That will be up to the delegates of the Special Called Session of General Conference.
 
We agreed to release our full report no later than July 8, 2018. We chose this date so that the report could be edited and translated into the official languages used by the delegates during General Conference. It has been a source of disappointment and confusion to me to see so much online speculation and even erroneous reporting on what took place in Chicago. People really should wait and read the full report before jumping to conclusions and criticisms.
 
We had painfully honest discussions throughout our time together as one would expect of leaders. I sat next to Bishop Joaquina Nhanala of our sister conferences in Mozambique for much of our gathering. To say that this is a complicated issue for our global denomination is an understatement. There are concerns and issues facing the central conferences (those conferences outside the United States) that are not shared by U.S. conferences which further complicates decisions on a Way Forward.
 
Like the rest of the church, we do not all agree on everything – except our love for Christ, the mission of the UMC, and our hope for maintaining the unity of the church in the midst of a variety of cultural contexts. As I have previously stated, I am committed to leading the Missouri Conference through this season of complexity with my eye fixed on the mission of Jesus Christ and the vision of the Missouri Annual Conference where we will relentlessly lead our churches to be outwardly focused and spiritually centered Christ followers. Through this focus and commitment to our five expectations of each other (Christ-centered, fruitfulness, excellence, accountability and collaboration), I believe we can prayerfully discern a way to remain in spiritual community despite our theological differences.
 
It is now up to the General Conference to consider, pray, and vote. They are the legislative branch of our UMC, and we believe our efforts are to help them do their work. I will be working closely with our delegation as they discern where they believe the Holy Spirit is leading the church. I urge you to pray daily for all the delegates of this Special Called Session of General Conference. This fall, we are scheduling a series of regional conversations across our annual conference to provide you with opportunities to increase your understanding around United Methodist organization and structure related to this issue and to ask questions.  
 
Please remember, friends, this is but one step in a very lengthy process. The Council’s motion is not the final draft of legislation nor is it the final story on the Church’s struggles on this issue. I ask that our churches and her leaders be patient and prayerful as we continue to talk about how to remain in spiritual community despite our theological differences.
 
Thank you for the encouragement you have given me and the prayers you offer up on behalf of myself and the Church.
 
Click here to read the recommendation from the Council of Bishops in its entirety.
 
In Christ,

Bishop Robert Farr
Resident Bishop
The Missouri Area of the United Methodist Church