By Thomas Lambrecht –

The Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church is asking the JudicialCouncil for a declaratory decision on what petitions can be submitted to the denomination’s Special Session of General Conference called for February 2019. The Council of Bishops announced their request in a statement issued this week.

“The intent is to resolve the question of whether additional petitions, beyond the report of the Commission on a Way Forward and the Council of Bishops, can be submitted to the Special 2019 General Conference prior to the convening of the Special General Conference,” said Bishop Bruce R. Ough, president of the Council of Bishops.

A faction of the Council of Bishops is arguing that the special called General Conference ought to only consider whatever the bishops propose as a way forward for the church in resolving disagreements over our understanding of marriage and same-sex practices. There is a powerful push to adopt the “Uniting Model” that would allow annual conferences to decide whether or not to ordain practicing homosexuals and clergy to decide whether or not to marry same-sex couples. A heavy-handed attempt by some bishops to prevent consideration of other options does not speak well of their leadership, but may indicate a level of panic, striving at any cost to keep the church “united.”

We applaud the Council of Bishops for requesting this decision in order to bring certainty to the process. Based on previous Judicial Council decisions, the Judicial Council should allow other relevant proposals to be submitted to General Conference. (Even if Judicial Council rules they cannot be submitted as part of the regular process, there is nothing preventing other proposals from being introduced on the floor of General Conference as a substitute for the bishops’ proposal.) Allowing proposals to be submitted as part of the regular process is critical to enable those alternative proposals to be properly evaluated prior to being considered by General Conference.

The General Conference delegates ought to be allowed to consider any and all proposals for a faithful way forward for our church. It is their decision that will determine the future course we take, after all. The work of the Commission on a Way Forward and the proposal(s) submitted by the bishops are important, but they do not define the final outcome. Only the General Conference can speak for the whole church in determining how we will proceed.

Thomas Lambrecht is a United Methodist clergyperson and vice president of Good News.



  1. Tom, thanks for everything you’ve done. You’ve been in a tough, albeit interesting position being on the Commission on A Way Forward. But you’ve balanced the need for confidentiality during your work with being as candid and forthright with us as possible.

    Thanks for remaining firm in supporting the scriptures and Book of Discipline. Many of us continue to look to Good News as a trustworthy source of information in these times. In order to make wise decisions, we need to be well informed, and Good News has been one of the sources that has continued to provide accurate information. It’s much appreciated.

  2. Amen to Mike’s thoughts. In the midst of deep sadness at how our ordained leadership has so strategically, pointedly, embarrassingly abandoned us, I find it difficult to imagine that they still feel they actually support us, lead us, speak for us. There’s a Rock that is higher than I. I cling to that; not to some shifting sand of experimental thought that cannot hold together a denomination, let alone build the Church.

  3. DEEP SADNESS — indeed as we wait in great anticipation for the day when the good and faithful people called Methodists will stand up and put an end to this madness.

  4. I attended our District meeting “Holy Conference on Way Forward” last night. I left feeling unrepresented by my church. My local church would keep the language of the Book of Discipline as it reads on homosexuality. But it seems more likely that the General Conference will enact legislation that will eventually lead to some form of “Contextual” ministry which in turn will result in multiple variations of interpretations or changes in the language of the Disciple. The rationale? “This is no longer a moral issue but an issue of Social Justice.” Also, “the progressives will not stop and we can not move forward with ministry and missions as a united church until we are an inclusive church.” Neither of these sound like biblical responses to me. I have been a United Methodist pastor for over 30 years and now I am fearful of discrimination because of my traditional beliefs. Where are the voices of the Traditionalist? Or am I truly a minority?

  5. Dear Fearful,

    Remember the words of Jesus “fear not”. He is in charge and you are not alone. The majority is on the traditional side. The bishops have the bully pulpit, but we have the votes. The only thing that will defeat us is resignation that we must accept the inevitable. We all know the ending of the story, God Wins! I can assure you that you have many friends here!

  6. The Bishops and the Way Forward are playing religious politics by asking the Judicial Council to make a ruling on this issue as if the only valid proposal could come from them. Their proposal, regardless of the Judicial Council ruling, doesn’t mean it is a mandate to be voted upon. As the General Conference is the ruling body, to decide what the future of the Church might be, any proposal submitted, could still be “Amended” on the floor of the Conference or even “tabled” until a future General Conference time. It doesn’t have to be a complete replacement or new proposal. Delegates to the Conference should be made aware of this and be prepared to act accordingly to their instructions from their represented area prior to going to the Conference.

  7. Fearful,

    Along with Scott I would say you are not alone. Among the clergy, there is probably a majority that are progressive/liberal or at least liberal/centrist (if that’s any different). But among the laity, a majority are clearly conservative/traditional or conservative/traditional centrist (trying very hard and bending over backwards to be tolerant of the progressives constant pushing).

    What conference are you in? Some seem much more progressive/liberal than others because of the clergy leadership and the Bishop, who tend to push the agenda/s much more than the laity do.

  8. An update on the Council of Bishops request. The Judicial Council has scheduled a special session. Of course any fair minded person would agree with the WCA position (below) on attempts to restrict petitions to only those submitted by the Council of Bishops. It is completely inconceivable to imagine that the Judicial Council would place such restrictions on this conference. Such a restriction would handcuff this General Conference so extremely that it would be unable to accomplish anything at all.

  9. Does the church still have freedom of religion? Does the Bible say that marriage is between one man and one woman? Does our current Book of Discipline say the same thing? Do we think that these are the times that we should be following our faith and Bible, rather than changing it to meet society’s ways? Should our clergy have respect for the church, follow the faith, and uphold their vows? (If it were their spouse who was breaking vows, they would have a whole different opinion. Remember, clergy/church are known as the “bride” of God. ) If the church permits same-sex marriage, will it next have to permit multiple-spouse marriage? After all, this is the USA and we have equal rights here! Other areas of the world practice this in their society, but abstain from it, because of the vows made to the church, and they will want to implement it. Please don’t say we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it, because the definition of marriage is being changed now! Our clergy are being disrespectful and arrogant now!

  10. Amen. Where are they?

  11. If a church accepts monies from its congregations under the pretense that it’s purpose is spreading a well-known religion, that is governed by well-defined principles and rules, but DOES NOT, can it be held legally liable for NOT operating as the charitable organization that it represents itself?? Is that misuse of charitable funds??

  12. I have been a METHODIST for over 75 years and never thought THIS WOULD ever happen HERE….YES William there is DEEP SADNESS with the FAITHFUL….and GREAT FEAR that next year will NOT COME, for this MY Beloved METHODIST.

  13. William,

    That’s because liberals (progressives, whatever…) have threatened to leave (or continue their disobedience) if there is no change in the Church’s ethics on homosexuality, and their # 1 goal or focus is unity at all costs.

    I guess that means they’ve chosen to ignore the fact that conservative traditionalists have also threatened to leave if they change the BOD to something we can’t live with in good conscience. So – you’re right – they’re moving forward in favor of the liberals and hoping that conservatives will continue to be the tolerant ones (as we have always been, even though we’ve been labeled otherwise as they push one boundary after another with little or no consequences).

  14. When I said “their goal” in my post above, I meant the Bishops’ goal, not progressives – just in case that wasn’t clear…

  15. Mike,
    Thanks. Liberals in our church have been practicing deceit, dishonesty, deception, and passive aggressiveness on a level that makes some of their secular counterparts look like amateurs. Where I worked, I would have been outright FIRED with my credentials lifted. The accommodation in our church of these tactics is beyond reprehensible. Certain liberals intentionally break church law, of which they vowed to defend and uphold, with acts of actual separation on the one hand while calling for “unity” on the other. While doing this, they claim that it is the traditionalists who advocate a church split.

    Delegates to the 2019 General Conference must arrive aware of what is going on, vote to retain the sexual ethics and marriage definition of the church while putting into place real enforcements of church law. From there, those unable to live within church law will officially complete their separation from the church.

  16. As of June 28, 2018 I will probably still be preaching but it will be non-denominational

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