As we went to bed last night Twitter was a buzz about a surprise meeting of the Council of Bishops. Unconfirmed reports were suggesting that the Council of Bishops was going to put forth a plan of separation for the United Methodist Church and possibly have a called General Conference in 2018 to handle this plan. This morning Bishop Ough of the Dakotas Conference spoke on behalf of the church. He talked of the gravity of our differences and the need to be creative in our ways of moving forward, however, the Council of Bishops did not put forward any specific or conceptual plans of moving forward. He stated that the Bishops plan to preside and allow the delegates perform their legislative function.
In many ways there is a beautiful spirit here at General Conference. The worship services have been uplifting, and the diversity of the UMC is on full display. The people here love the church and want what they believe is best for her. There is, however, a clear and visible divide over issues of human sexuality. There have been many calls for “compromise” and “meeting in the middle,” however, the non-negotiables of either side make any real compromise seem implausible. It is likely that the church’s official stance on issues surrounding homosexuality will remain unchanged or be made even more stringently against it. Many pastors, some Bishops, and some Boards of Ministry do not agree with the Book of Discipline and have stated and demonstrated they will not abide by these parts of the Discipline. Many in the church are frustrated that parts of the Discipline are deliberately not being followed by church leaders.
The church leadership seems to be at an impasse. There are proposals before the General Conference that might allow churches to more easily splinter from the connection and proposals which could facilitate a splitting of the denomination. I have held for a long time that the United Methodist Church is better together, however, it is getting harder to imagine how we can move forward together. Toward the end of the day influential delegates stood to request that the Council of Bishops bring forth some plan to move forward. Some delegates are looking for our Bishops to provide leadership. At the end of the day, however, it will be the delegates who must decide which course we will take.