Dr. David Watson, academic dean at United Theological Seminary, has provided thorough analysis of the interim report sent to the Council of Bishops from the Commission on the Way Forward. He offers an assessment of each of the three plans given to the bishops for consideration at the special called 2019 General Conference in St. Louis.

“The problem is that we lack not only a common vision for the church, but a common vision of the church,” writes Watson. “Put differently, it’s not just that we disagree over what the church should do. Rather, we disagree over what it means to be a church. I have insisted in the past, and will continue to do so, that the church is, among other things, a moral community. We have to make decisions—as a community—over our standards of right and wrong. Disagreement among our ranks doesn’t change this. When there is disagreement, we have methods of resolution. In fact, every church has methods of resolving disagreement because, without these, unity is impossible. Our decision-making processes in the church, our ways of resolving disagreement,are instruments of unity. Once we abandon these instruments unity becomes impossible. Our recent denominational history bespeaks as much.”

To read his full article, click HERE.


  1. I doubt David has ever pastored a small part time appointment church. He wonders if given the choice to leave (with their assets) would anyone leave. The small churches would leave in droves. At a recent meeting this possibility was raised and almost everyone said they would. Small churches have been disenfranchised in this process and generally ignored by our conferences. Struggling for money and getting no benefit other than a pastor (my churches words, not mine, and they roll their eyes when I suggest otherwise) they will be happy to shed their apportionment’s and tons of paperwork that they see little use in.

  2. With apologies, Dr. David Watson a house divided cannot stand! It does not matter how many plans the Commission on a Way Forward comes up with this denomination will split. Our theological differences on the interpretation and authority of scripture are to vast to overcome. When you have Bishop’s who deny the resurrection and divinity of Christ you have a problem bigger than any commission can address.

    Matthew 12:25, Luke 11:17 and Mark 3:25.

    I believe a lot of small churches would be only to happy to throw off the bureaucratic yoke of the current UMC and the Council of Bishops who have led us to this point with their supposed gnosis and liberal political agendas.

  3. Scott,
    My friend is a part-time local UMC pastor in a more rural setting, and the ONLY interest the General Church has in that congregation is their apportionment payment. The rest is eyewash and pretentiousness. That congregation is as far removed from General Church as East is from West. I suspect this is true across the denomination. However, local licensed part-time pastoring is growing while the ordained clergy class keeps shrinking. Bottom line, our church is disconnected and estranged from top to bottom. That’s a primary reason the liberals have maneuvered their way into the power elite over these decades at the almost complete unawareness of these small churches. Yep, after recovering from the initial shock, this little church would hit the road, retain its apportionments, and find their own pastor if some left agenda is presented to them for a vote.

  4. Excellent article. The second-to-the-last paragraph is on target. United Methodists currently do indeed lack a shared vision for, and of, the Church. As Dr. Watson states, a part of being the Church is being a moral community led by Jesus Christ — whether there is harmony in the Church or not. And when the disharmony reaches an intolerable level, the Church goes to its established ways and means of resolving the conflict — all in the service of the Church’s unity. That, too, is being the Church. This is theological manna from heaven.
    It seems that in this aforementioned paragraph Dr. Watson is actually making the case for Sketch #1, perhaps unintentionally. That sketch — if accompanied by the teaching of the Council of Bishops, by resident bishops, and by seminary professors like Dr. Watson — holds promise for The United Methodist Church becoming more faithfully the Church. That would not involve an easy road. But it is the road pointed to by the risen Christ, who now rules His Church through His Spirit, the Bible, doctrine, and discipline. If Sketch #1 is adopted by General Conference 2019, Dr. Watson is deeply concerned that the current, tiresome “fighting” in The United Methodist Church will continue into the future. Methinks such fighting is better described as contending for the Church’s faith. That is part of being the Church, whether we like it or not.

  5. Best article title, in United Methodist life, of the decade!

  6. Many people in the pew are in the dark on what is happening to their Church. Only the Leadership and a few informed individuals knows about the polity that is in play now. It is noble to remain committed to the process. The real question is how many progressives vs traditionalist are there on each side? Progressives are not committed to abiding by any outcome except their side. Therefore, people will vote with their feet and pocketbook, once a decision is made. We are just awaiting for things to be official, so one can decide which road they will take.

  7. William,
    You are absolutely correct. Unless the pastor of most churches has made them aware of what is going on the congregation is oblivious. When they are face with some type of vote after the 2019 GC they will be in shock. This is when the explosion of upset will happen. You are very correct. The leadership of the church is totally disconnected from the small congregation churches. Everything is designed for and attuned to the large churches that pay large apportionment’s. Small churches, especially those represented by Local Pastors have been totally disenfranchised in this process. Who represents us?.

  8. while searching for a more accurate reflection of orthodoxy in my area,( my local UMC having been away for awhile and returning to the area has embraced a more liberal position on many matters of Biblical understanding) attending a local UMC, their statement reflected today’s societal mores (the essential or characteristic customs and conventions of a community.) then that of the Creed traditionally woven to reflect ones local mission. While I believe that we welcome all who come seeking redemption and forgiveness, that is not to be confused to accept all that have no apparent conviction of sin (Romans 12 2) and God loves you just the way you are.

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