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While the Methodist Church traces its founding to John Charles Wesley in 1736, the church we know as the United Methodist Church was created on April 23, 1968, as a union of the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church. This was not the first reorganization of these church bodies, which include various changes in structure and doctrine throughout their histories.
The UMC is governed by a Book of Discipline—basically the rules for the administration of the Church. This "Discipline" is subject to review and revision at each quadrennial General Conference (GC) of the Global UMC.
Throughout the history of the Methodist movement in America, there have been changes to the theology and practice of the various groups that ultimately became the UMC. This history of change continued at the GC in 1972 (4 years after the UMC was formed), when a change was made that called homosexuality "incompatible with Christian teaching" (which was not a part of the initial Book of Discipline). Changes in other aspects of the Discipline have been made during each GC since, including further limitations to the full inclusion of LGBTQ persons (referred to in the Book of Discipline as "homosexuals") in the life of the church.
The quadrennial debate about this issue, which has been ongoing for decades, was brought to a head at the 2016 GC, when the Council of Bishops was asked to take a leadership role in proposing a way forward for the UMC with regard to issues of "human sexuality." The result of this request was a proposal that was accepted by the GC for the formation of a special commission that would propose "A Way Forward" for the UMC.
This "Commission on A Way Forward," a diverse, 32-member group appointed by the Council of Bishops, has spent the past two years working to address the denomination’s differences on this topic. (Group members included 21 from the USA, 7 from Africa, 2 from Europe, and 2 from the Philippines; among those were 11 laity, 11 Elders, 2 Deacons, and 8 Bishops.) The Commission developed and discussed three plans, one of which was subsequently recommended by the Council of Bishops.
All three plans and the Bishops’ recommendation will be presented to a special General Conference that will meet in St. Louis on February 23-26, 2019. For more information about the three plans, visit the links on this page. If you have questions, you may contact Pastor Bill Eaves.
As we learn more, we will communicate more.