Members of the Commission on a Way Forward participate in a letting-go prayer at the end of their four-day meeting at El Segundo United Methodist Church in Los Angeles in March.
“With the Holy Spirit’s leading, I believe we can embrace together a way forward,” said Rev. Helen Cunanan.
Members of the Commission on a Way Forward expressed gratitude at the opportunity to be part of the Commission and they signaled hope for The United Methodist Church as they completed their meeting in March.
The 32-member Commission has been meeting since January 2017 in various places throughout the global denomination to assist the bishops in their charge from the 2016 General Conference to lead the church forward amid the present impasse related the unity of the church.
“Sitting at the table with Commission members, I see persons honest enough and humble enough to see the great challenge or impasse that is before us,” noted Rev. Helen Cunanan, from the Philippines. “At the same time, I see so much commitment and passion to the work entrusted to us - passion for mission and ministry; passion for our forms and expressions of unity; passion for God.”
Rev. Cunanan said she was confident that, “with the Holy Spirit’s leading, I believe we can embrace together a way forward.”
“By listening and through reflections I have learned - in all humility - that unity, which seems so simple in the church, is fragile because each person has their own personality, their own cultural and religious context, their own education, their own life experiences, and their own truth,” said Dr. Aka Hortense, a layperson from Côte d’Ivoire.
By giving great attention to traditional, contextual and progressive values, the Commission members weighed input from across the denomination as they discerned the best proposals for a way forward.
As part of reaching out to various constituencies, Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball, one of the moderators, met with general secretaries of the church agencies while Bishop David Yemba, another moderator, and other members of the Commission gave an update to the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters. Members of the Commission have also shared with various general agencies, jurisdictional and central conference gatherings, annual conferences and local churches.
“The purpose of these meetings includes initiating healthy conversations that educate, share information, and invite people to think and dream about God’s preferred future for The United Methodist Church. Conversation serves to break down fear, build relationships, and helps us to collectively think about what is possible,” said Bishop Steiner Ball. “Conversation also serves to remind us that no matter what position persons or groups hold within the church, they love Christ, love The United Methodist Church, and strive to be faithful in service to God and to God’s people.”
Rev. Julie Hager Love from Kentucky Conference, noted that the Commission is filled with persons who deeply love The United Methodist Church and have worked together to find a way forward through prayer, worship, Bible study, dialogue, study and fellowship.
As they discussed the possible ways forward, the Commission members gave attention to the traditional, contextual and progressive values, ensuring that as many diverse voices were given chance to be heard, said Bishop Ken Carter, one of the moderators of the Commission. “The values being discussed are grounded in deep listening to our global church, and are at the heart of the call of Jesus Christ to discipleship in the very different contexts where our people live and are in ministry,” Bishop Carter noted.
“We are in a crucible together, trying to create something that does not yet exist,” explained Bishop Gregory Palmer, resident bishop of West Ohio Area and a member of the Commission. “God’s grace and mercy in Jesus Christ sustains us through the ups and downs of the process that we trust leads to newness.”
The Commission presented its final report to the Council of Bishops at the COB meeting in April 29.
Rev. Dr. Maidstone Mulenga, Director of Communications, Council of Bishops
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