Bishops pray with their episcopal colleagues who serve on the Commission on a Way Forward during a meeting of the Council of Bishops at Lake Junaluska, N.C., on Nov. 8, 2017. Photo by Heather Hahn, UMNS.

By Heather Hahn, United Methodist News Service

United Methodist bishops are exploring three possible models for how the church should handle LGBTQ inclusion.

The models come to the bishops from the Commission on a Way Forward, which has the task of trying to find a way for the church to stay together despite deep divides over homosexuality.

The bishops have been meeting in closed session Nov. 6-9 to discern whether the commission is heading in the right direction. The bishop-appointed commission has three more meetings planned early next year, and the bishops do not plan to develop any final recommendations until May 2018.

The possibilities under consideration:

  • Affirm the current Book of Discipline language and place a high value on accountability. The church policy book says the practice of homosexuality “is incompatible with Christian teaching” and lists officiating at a same-gender union or being a “self-avowed practicing” gay clergy member as chargeable offenses under church law.
  • Remove restrictive language and place a high value on contextualization. This sketch also specifically protects the rights of those whose conscience will not allow them to perform same-gender weddings or ordain LGBTQ persons.
  • Create multiple branches that have clearly defined values such as accountability, contextualization and justice. This model would maintain shared doctrine and services and one Council of Bishops.

Each possibility includes a way to exit for those church entities that feel called to leave the denomination.

To read Heather Hahn’s entire report, click HERE.


  1. Unless Model One (the first one listed here) is approved by the 2019 General Conference, a sure breakup will follow and will have to be dealt with the following year at the 2020 General Conference.

  2. In all honesty, I don’t see how Model One is any different than what we have now. “Affirming” the BOD does noting to alleviate the problem of LBGTQ pastors who will break covenant as they are already doing, and being protected by bishops who willingly turn a blind eye to–or even support–their actions. These are already chargeable offenses. Without accountability the BOD is only as good as the people who uphold it, and we’ve shown we aren’t very good at that. How does Model One change any of that?

  3. The manner in which the UMC is handling the issue of accountability is very disappointing to me! Poor leadership with no accountability is a sure way to end the effective ministry of any denomination! We are spending far too much time and money trying to find a way to get around preaching and teaching the truth of God’s word! And we have no one willing to take a stand against heresy like Martin Luther did with the Roman Catholic church.

  4. They need a fourth model. One that calls for a division of The UMC that will prevent us from taking each other to court all over the country.

  5. Unless option one allows for a “purge” of progressives from the denomination, which it won’t, nothing will be achieved by it. I am sure it will be a “strongly worded resolution” with absolutely no teeth. If you read the commissions press release it is obvious that the commission and the bishops are putting unity ahead of Christ. My bet is on number 2 as an interim step to full gay inclusion. I can only hope that the “graceful exit” means that those churches that still believe in the Bible can leave with their property. I’m not holding my breath.

  6. I like this idea. I left the UMC over a decade ago because of these same issues and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. All my conservative relatives have left as well. I was raised in the UMC so I still keep up with what is going on.

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