Bethlehem United Methodist Church
Thursday, April 26, 2018
Mission Statement: To give of ourselves so others may know Jesus Christ.



















Dear Friends in Christ,
    I believe these are important days for the United Methodist Church, and so, in an effort to keep you up to date on the deliberation of The Council of Bishops on the matter of the United Methodist struggle with issues regarding homosexuality, I offer these excerpts of a recent article presented after a four-day meeting of the Council of Bishops working on the preventing denominational schism. Council of Bishop President Bruce Ough states very clearly. “We’re dealing with a very difficult issue that’s clearly divisive, and yet there’s a real commitment to stay at the table. There really is a desire to find a way forward, and I think that was reflected in our work this time.”
      You will remember in my January article, I noted that three models or “sketches” were presented to the bishops last November. In their work, The Council of Bishops seemed to have eliminated the “Traditionalist Model,” which represents the current position of the church, which declares the practice of homosexuality incompatible with Christian teaching, prevents clergy from officiating at same-sex unions and prohibits the ordination of self-professed practicing homosexuals.
President elect, Bishop Ken Carter noted “The sketches of these two models they have been working on provides avenues for unity, contextualization and mission.”  
Here is a summary of the two models:
  • The one-church model would give conferences, churches and pastors the flexibility to “uniquely reach their missional context in relation to human sexuality without changing the connectional nature of The United Methodist Church.”
  • The multi-branch, one-church model would include shared doctrine and services and one Council of Bishops, while also creating different branches that have clearly defined values such as accountability, contextualization and justice. The five U.S. jurisdictions would be replaced by three connectional conferences, each covering the whole country, based on theology and perspective on LGBTQ ministry — progressive, contextual and traditional branches. Annual conferences would decide with which connectional conference to affiliate.
    According to the Bishops, the one-church model appears to align with a centrist model discussed earlier, which would see the removal of restrictive language from the Book of Discipline, letting conferences decide how inclusive to be, while protecting clergy who could not, as a matter of conscience, perform a same-sex union or support ordination of openly gay clergy.
    The Commission on the Way Forward are now asked to refine the models. The Bishops are trying to discern how the different sketches would affect the local church, annual conferences and other parts of the denomination.
    The United Methodist Church’s conflict over how accepting to be of homosexuality has gone on for more than four decades, and the threat of schism was clear at General Conference 2016, in Portland, Oregon.  A special General Conference is set for Feb. 23-26, 2019, in St. Louis. The work continues.
    KEEP PRAYING for God’s Way… and not our own.  
                                             Better Disciples, More Disciples,
                                             Yours in Christ’s love,