By Roger Ross
While preparing for my trip to Portland, I prayed I would not have to write about this topic. Sadly, that prayer was not answered as I had hoped. Late tonight, we received confirmation that a plan of separation will come before the General Conference in the next few days. Our Council of Bishops has been meeting with a broad cross section of church leaders to determine the next best steps for our fractured fellowship.
For over 40 years, our global denomination has held rancorous debates around issues of homosexuality. At this point, many of our key leaders on all sides have decided it is time to end the fight.
All the details have not been shared, but in broad strokes, the plan suggests a three-way separation. Those pastors and congregations on the far right and the far left would leave, and those pastors and congregations in the middle would stay. Specific definitions of “right,” “left,” and “middle” have not been shared.
A special session of General Conference has been proposed for 2018 to finalize the separation plan. Until then, there would be a moratorium on church trials concerning pastors who come out as gay and pastors who perform gay marriages. Of course, these details could all change once a proposed plan comes before the entire body.
After years of increasing pain, it appears we have come to a watershed moment in the life of our United Methodist Church. My greatest concern is for our witness to a watching world. Please pray for the Holy Spirit of God to be poured out on our General Conference, so that every decision reflects the deep love of Christ for others and lives in the center of his will.