General Conference Updates


Update: May 18

Today was an emotional day.  

The bishops presented their way forward as the UMC wrestles with the current position in the Book of Discipline regarding human sexuality. An alternative proposal was brought to the floor by Adam Hamilton that people referred to as the Hamilton plan. The Hamilton plan was defeated. The bishops’ plan was back on the table for discussion and was approved with 428 in favor and 405 against.

What’s interesting is that both plans basically say the same thing.

Here are the implications of the bishops’ proposal:

  1. For the remainder of General Conference there will be no debate regarding human sexuality.
  2. A special commission named by the bishops will be appointed, including people from all regions of the UMC and those holding various opinions. The bishops will be in ongoing dialogue with this group and seek to provide clear objectives and outcomes.
  3. A special general conference may be held in 2018 or 2019, lasting two or three days, with the current delegates serving.

What does this mean?

The bishops would like the UMC to have more conversation before the church decides how to move forward. They desperately want to keep the church together, and everyone knew that the vote regarding the current language in the Discipline would be upheld (meaning remained as written) causing the denomination to split because progressives cannot live under the current Book of Discipline.

A significant concern in the bishops’ proposal states, “We recommend that the General Conference defer all votes on human sexuality and refer this entire subject to a special commission, named by the Council of Bishops, to develop a complete examination and possible revision of every paragraph in our Book of Discipline regarding human sexuality.”

Later they do say, “while we uphold the Discipline” as the UMC waits on this commission’s proposal. We are not sure how upholding the Discipline will be possible but will remain prayerful that the bishops and UMC will remain faithful to our official position as we wait on the commission to do their work.

This is a complex and unique moment for the UMC, but rest assured that Christ United Methodist Church will remain faithful to the orthodox and historical position reflected in our Book of Discipline.

May 18 wrap-up: Sexuality dominates debate in unexpected ways
General Conference adopts bishops’ proposal after contentious debate

Update: May 17

There was word last night that the bishops were discussing a solution to the clear divide over the current position of the church regarding human sexuality. This morning they came out and said there would be no proposal on their part regarding separation. They even shared that they are not of one mind on the issue.

There is a group of moderates who continue to lobby for a plan called Love Alike. It’s complicated, but it essentially creates two communities within the UMC. One would uphold the Book of Discipline while the other would consciously object and not be subjected to the rules regarding human sexuality. Essentially, the Discipline remains. No church discipline could be enacted for those who have broken the Discipline already, and those who object to the Discipline can become part of a community within the United Methodist Church who can marry and ordain regardless of sexual orientation and practice.

This has been rejected by conservative groups.

Today, there was a proposal on the floor asking the bishops to bring a solution to the General Conference. It did pass, and tonight they are in session. We ask that you pray for the Holy Spirit to lead and guide their conversation and decisions.

A group, made up mostly of retired bishops in the Northwest and Northeast along with two current bishops, signed a letter supporting a change to the Discipline. 

As you can see, there is division not only among delegates but also the North American Bishops themselves. The African Bishops are united and clear in their stance for the current position of the United Methodist Church.

Bishop's response to rumor of separation plan
Bishop press conference video
Bishops requested to bring solution
Letter signed by several bishops supporting clergy who have indicated they do not abide by the Discipline

Update: May 16

After a day of rest on Sunday, General Conference resumed, and issues were brought to the floor. As you can read from the summary of legislative decisions in committees, the United Methodist Church continues to stand firm when it comes to the position the church has held on issues related to human sexuality.

There were a couple of notable decisions in committees. These are committee decisions, not the overall decision. Issues voted down typically do not move forward or indicate the view of the larger assembly.

  • A “just resolution” must include a commitment not to repeat the offense (In a number of cases where ministers have been charged for being in violation of the Discipline for conducting same-sex marriages, an agreement or “just resolution” has been declared thereby closing the case without a church trial; but the ministers did not refrain from continuing to conduct same-sex marriages) – passed 20-3
  • Proposal to allow congregations who are in conscientious disagreement with our church’s position on homosexuality to withdraw from the denomination with their property and assets – passed 19-16 (very controversial–there will be much more debate on this petition)
  • Requirement for the charge conference to promote the doctrinal standards – passed 23-0

Today there was a significant vote affirming an additional five bishops for the growing church in Africa in 2020. A vote for judicial members was taken today as well.

More bishops for Africa, but not until 2020
GC2016 plenary pauses for Black Lives Matter demonstration
Protest interrupts afternoon plenary
Great summary of legislative decisions in committees
Legislation Report: Monday, May 16

Update: May 14

Committee work came to a close. Pray for Maxie and all delegates to have strength and wisdom.

May 14 wrap-up: Young ambassadors share hope, committee work finishes
They did what? GC2016 business for May 14, 2016

Update: May 12

Thursday was a relatively routine day at General Conference with much attention paid to committee work. The major event was a final vote on how issues would be discussed on the floor. Rule 44 was not accepted, so discussion will take place on the floor of the conference using the traditional format of Robert’s Rules of Order.

May 12 wrap-up: Rule 44 voted down 
Commentary: And are we yet alive?

Update: May 11

The day began with a worship gathering and message by Bishop Palmer who oversees the UMC in West Ohio. It was a passionate message about unity, challenging both Orthodox and Progressives. Most of the day was spent in legislative committees.

At the large group General Conference session, there has been ongoing debate regarding how delegates will debate. There is a proposal called Rule 44 that changes the way General Conference debates legislation once it’s brought to the floor. Finally, protests continued by the Progressives.  

There was an unofficial ordination performed for an openly gay woman who has served the UMC as a layperson for 22 years. This was not sanctioned or recognized by the UMC. Also, during communion, a Progressive group set up their own LGBT friendly communion station.

Here are links highlighting some updates:
Bishop Palmer pulls no punches in the Episcopal address
Rule 44, band-aids and heart transplants
May 11 wrap-up: Episcopal address, more Rule 44 debate
Summary of unofficial ordination service


Tuesday marked the official opening of General Conference. Much of the work this week will take place in committee meetings where these groups will decide which proposed legislation is brought before the delegates for debate next week. A focus of discussion for the evening centered around how emotionally charged issues will be debated.

Here are links highlighting some updates:
General Conference 2016 officially begins
May 10 wrap-up: Opening worship, rules debate
Audio summary