One Church?

The Council of Bishops of United Methodist Church have met this week to decide on a way through the difficult waters of human sexuality and relationships. The Commission on a Way Forward has made its recommendations and the Bishops, who have decided to offer all three options to the General Conference next year, whilst recommending one - the One Church Plan.

The One Church Plan allows for contextualization of language about human sexuality in support of the mission; and allows for central conferences, especially those in Africa, to retain their disciplinary authority to adapt the Book of Discipline and continue to include traditional language and values while fulfilling the vision of a global and multicultural church.

This plan also encourages a generous unity by giving United Methodists the ability to address different missional contexts in ways that reflect their theological convictions. The One Church Plan removes the restrictive language of the Book of Discipline and adds assurances to pastors and Conferences who due to their theological convictions cannot perform same-sex weddings or ordain self-avowed practicing homosexuals.

The alternatives are a reiteration of the current position but with much harsher sanctions on those who oppose it, or a system of different groupings akin to the Church of England's double integrities and one last used in the American Methodist Church to deal with differing attitudes to race.

All three options carry their own integrity and seek to clarify the position of the Church, as well as offer proper protections to all in the Church. Each seek to address the crucial cultural, missional, pastoral, theological and justice issues raised. Of course, should the option of reiterating the current position by endorsed - the so-called Traditionalist Plan - there is every likelihood of a schism whereby progressive United Methodists leave, or are forced out, of the fold.