The July 8 deadline for the filing of petitions to be considered at the 2019 special session of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church has now passed. The petition deadline passed without the release of the anticipated report of the Commission on a Way Forward (COWF) or any update from the Council of Bishops (COB).
The COB had announced, “Full details of the plans and accompanying legislative proposals will be released as soon as final editing of the entire report is completed and translated into the official languages of the General Conference. It is estimated this will be no later than July 8.”
Bishop Kenneth Carter, President of the Council of Bishops, in a letter to all of the bishops on Friday, July 6, states that “the translation process of the Final Report to the Special Session into the four official languages of the church has not yet begun.”
Despite full details not being made available, the COB has released a video touting the merits of the One Church Plan some bishops have endorsed, and some bishops are actively promoting the adoption of such a plan as a way forward. One wonders how these bishops can fulfill their role of impartially presiding over the special session of the General Conference. Meanwhile, the COB has urged rank-and-file members of the UM Church to be patient and to not be critical of plans before they are released.
Unfortunately, Bishop Carter’s announcement continues a disturbing pattern the COB’s leadership established from the outset of this process. Despite a major crisis acknowledged by all at the 2016 General Conference, and fueled further by the election and consecration of an openly lesbian and married bishop, the COB’s leadership has moved slowly and responded awkwardly to the crisis. This has only allowed the debate to fester, uncertainty to grow, and morale in our ranks to plummet. How can we have confidence in a leadership that cannot, in a timely manner, manage the administrative responsibility of keeping the membership of The UM Church accurately informed of what is occurring?
This much is clear:
- The deadline for the filing of petitions which will be considered by the 2019 special session of the General Conference was July 8, as prescribed by our Book of Discipline.
- Petitions to implement each of the three plans in the COWF report were filed with the Petition Secretary of General Conference by July 8.
- Petitions to modify those three plans or to propose other ways of responding to the COWF report have also been filed.
- At some point in the future, presumably not later than the release of the Advance Daily Christian Advocate to the delegates to the special General Conference, the specifics of all petitions and the final report of the COWF will be made publicly available translated into the official languages of the General Conference.
The Wesleyan Covenant Association supports the translation of materials into the official languages of the General Conference and the simultaneous release of reports and petitions to be considered at the special General Conference. However, in the present environment where some bishops are openly advocating for one of three legislative proposals outlined in the COWF report, full details of all legislative proposals need to be released immediately and the robust debate on the future of The UM Church needs to commence around the petitions that will be considered by the special General Conference.