UMCSC lifts up denomination to Lord as UMC seeks ‘way forward’
By Jessica Brodie
Together and individually, United Methodists across South Carolina are joining in a week of intentional prayer Dec. 24-30 for God’s will and wisdom to prevail as the denomination struggles with theological differences over sexuality.
South Carolina Resident Bishop Jonathan Holston is calling on all people in the conference—laity and clergy—to make time each day to pray for The United Methodist Church and specifically for the members of the Commission on a Way Forward, who are working to discern a way to maintain the unity of the church in the midst of these divisions.
“As we celebrate this season of hope, I ask all South Carolina United Methodists to continue making time each day this week to intentionally pray for our church,” Holston told the Advocate. “Prayer prepares our hearts, minds and spirits for the work that God is doing and will do in our midst.”
In a special Christmas message released on behalf of himself, his wife, Felecia, and the Cabinet, Holston urged all to pray that the commission and UMC Council of Bishops earnestly seek God’s will for the denomination; that all hear God’s wisdom and direction; that we remember the mission of the UMC is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world; and that we address our differences with authenticity and respectful conversations that enrich our understanding of God and of one another.
“While we recognize that The United Methodist Church is diverse in its theological understanding of Scripture and Christ’s call in our lives, this is an ideal time to remember Paul’s counsel to the Colossians: To clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; to bear with each other and forgive any grievances; to forgive as the Lord forgave us; and to put on love, which binds us all together in perfect unity,” Holston said in his call to prayer.
The Commission on a Way Forward was proposed by the UMC Council of Bishops and approved by the 2016 General Conference to do a complete examination and possible revision of every paragraph of the Book of Discipline concerning sexuality. The 32-member commission has crafted an interim report with three models for a way forward, which they presented to the COB in November.
Currently, the Discipline notes that all people are of “sacred worth,” though the practice of homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching.” Self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers or appointed to serve in the UMC, and ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by UMC ministers and shall not be conducted in United Methodist churches.
One way forward model affirms the current Discipline language and places a high value on accountability. Another model removes restrictive language but specifically protects the rights of those whose conscience will not allow them to perform same gender weddings or ordain lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning/queer individuals. A third model is grounded in a unified core that includes shared doctrine and services and one COB, while also creating different branches.
The commission will craft a final report with input from the COB in readiness for the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference. That special session will ask clergy and lay delegates from across the globe to vote on the matter.
“Friends, as you gather with loved ones to celebrate this season of joy, let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts and be thankful,” Holston urged the church. “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
For more on the commission: www.umc.org/who-we-are/commission-on-a-way-forward.