United Methodist bishops suggest ways forward
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Eight United Methodist bishops have authored a book aimed at enunciating and clarifying pathways that represent faithful, responsible, and constructive ways forward amidst the denomination’s questions and conflict about same-gender relationships.
The new book, Finding Our Way: Love & Law in The United Methodist Church, is published by Abingdon Press, publishing imprint for The United Methodist Publishing House.
Eight United Methodist bishops — Reuben Job, Gregory Palmer, Hope Morgan Ward, Melvin Talbert, Kenneth Carter Jr., J. Michael Lowry, John Yambasu, and Rosemarie Wenner — each articulate a view to move readers through tensions related to views about homosexual practice, same-gender unions, qualifications for ordination, and related issues of church teaching and governance.
Finding Our Way encourages frank, constructive dialogue and prayer to help United Methodists conference together and open themselves to God’s guidance in seeking faithful, fair, just, and loving resolution to issues that challenge the faith community.
“We submit that the thoughtful, honest, and respectful airing of views and claims about authority and what to teach and do are in the best tradition of the Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren founders whose heirs have come together to form the people called United Methodist,” states Job, a retired United Methodist bishop, and Neil Alexander, chief executive of United Methodist Publishing House (and Abingdon Press). “We see this discussion as a part of a process, not as the summation or conclusion of the continuing debates.”
Readers are encouraged to engage in this conversation at MinistryMatters.com/FindingOurWay.
Contents of Finding Our Way is organized in the following order:
Frame: An introduction about the guiding vision and theological framework as we seek together to be faithful to God and to our covenants (by Job, retired from the Iowa Area, and Alexander).
Part 1: Options
Enforce (follow the Book of Discipline):The Discipline interprets scripture and contains the rule of law for United Methodist congregations and elders. When sacred promises are violated, leaders must uphold the spirit and letter of the law and follow the process defined by it (by Palmer, who serves the Ohio West Area).
Emend (work to change the Discipline): The General Conference legislative process must be engaged to emend the Book of Discipline or not. This is the responsible and thoroughly United Methodist way of moving through disputes and reaching consensus (by Ward, who serves the Raleigh Area).
Disobey (biblical obedience): Scripture and the sanctity of love are a higher authority than the Book of Discipline. Therefore, the current impasse must be broken by loving acts of conscientious fidelity to higher principles (by Talbert, retired, from the San Francisco Area).
Disarm (suspending conflict between personal and social holiness): In many conflicts, in marriage and in war, the conflicted parties drop their weapons or grievances, agree to a cease fire, and search for a peaceful way to resolve their disagreement (by Carter, who serves the Florida Area).
Part 2: Responses
Order (supporting our covenant): Our sacred trust depends on keeping our promises (by Lowry, who serves the Forth Worth Area).
Unity (dwelling in God’s church as a family of Christ followers): When two elephants fight, the grass suffers (by Yambasu, who serves the Sierra Leone Area).
Diversity (coexisting with differences): (by Wenner, who serves the Germany Area and is current president of the Council of Bishops).
Part 3: Steps
Trust God (discernment): Immerse ourselves in an intense process of prayerful discernment. This approach pleads for the guidance of the Holy Spirit and asks all to open themselves without condition or pre-judgment to the insight and inspiration that comes through deep prayer and listening (by Job).
The book is available through Cokesbury at Finding Our Way.
Editor’s note: Abingdon Press is the publishing imprint for The United Methodist Publishing House. It has a long tradition of publishing to resource robust conversations about matters of theology, church practices and the Christian life . It has a commitment to providing the best, most effective religious publications available which include a wide array of quality Christian living, fiction, devotional, academic, professional, and reference titles published each year to enrich church communities across the globe. Visit online at AbingdonPress.com.