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A Way Forward

"A Way Forward" in the United Methodist Church: Background Information and Our Communication Plan


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.

The Traditional Plan was the plan passed at the special General Conference that met in St. Louis on February 23-26, 2019 but parts of the Traditional Plan violate the constitution of the United Methodist Church, so it will be further reviewed. For more background information, visit the links on this page. If you have questions, you may contact Pastor Bill Eaves.

As we learn more, we will communicate more.

February 24, 2020

Big Waters District Superintendent Susan Neinaber will host an informational meeting, Preparing for General Conference, at WBLUMC at 7pm on Monday, Feb. 24

January 3, 2020

Diverse Leaders’ Group Offers Separation Plan

November 13, 2019

Bishop Ough discusses Judicial Council decisions and Council of Bishops meeting

November 1, 2019

"Legislation setting special provisions for United Methodist churches deciding to leave the denomination took effect immediately at the end of the special General Conference last February, the church’s top court has ruled."

October 2019

A list from the MN Conference of the UMC, "adapted and expanded upon from a report originally published on the Greater Northwest Area of The United Methodist Church website, is not exhaustive but includes plans that have been distributed publicly."

August 2019

Sixty United Methodist scholars to meet in the "Post-Way-Forward Gathering of UM Scholars," including 34 presentations live-streamed on August 7 & 8.

July 2019

  • From the MN Annual Conference: "Rev. Cindy Gregorson, Minnesota Conference director of ministries, and Rev. Carol Zaagsma answer some questions and reflect on what the vision for full inclusion means for our conference."
  • Bishops and church leaders meet to discuss "a new way forward through consensus."

June 2019

"[Minnesota] Annual Conference members voted 491-86 to adopt a vision for Minnesota that names a commitment to the full inclusion of LGBTQIA+ people in the life of the church."

April 17, 2019

An Update from the Board of Directors...

How you can take action if you would like to participate in the movement of Minnesota Methodists, which is working for an inclusive denomination:

  • If you haven't already, sign the open letter. Please. And then ask ten other laity, clergy, and congregations to do so. The more who do, the more power we have to move forward together. 
  • Donate to the movement here. Help raise $20,000.
  • Review the powerpoint from the March 28, 2019 forum. It names Minnesota Methodists' goals and shares our call to action items and planned organization. (Pages 1-16 are a recap of the General Conference 2019, and pages 17-38 involve Minnesota Methodists.)
  • Read the ideas shared by those present at the Minnesota Methodists' March 28, 2019, forum for next steps in congregations and communities. 
  • Share your vision for an inclusive church here. And then read others'.
  • Support and attend Our Movement Forward, happening at Minnehaha United Methodist Church, May 17-18.

March 28, 2019

An update from Pastor Bill

March 22, 2019

An open letter from laity, clergy, and churches of the Minnesota Annual Conference

March 15, 2019

An open letter to Bishop Ough from the Clergy of the Minnesota Annual Conference

March 7, 2019

A letter from our Board of Directors
An update from Pastor Bill

March 3, 2019, Conversation and Listening Time at WBLUMC

We gathered to discuss the Way Forward and the decision of the UM General Conference on issues related to same-sex marriage and LGBTQ clergy. Listen online to audio from that session. The video from Bishop Ough that is mentioned in the conversation is included below.


March 1, 2019

A statement from Kenneth H. Carter, Jr., President, Council of Bishops

February 27, 2019,

A statement from Pastor Bill Eaves after the special General Conference 

More Resources

  • A January 24, 2019, pastoral letter from the bishops can be found here.

  • "A Way Forward: The three plans and resources for churches"
    (a reader-friendly article from the MN Conference of the United Methodist Church that includes links to short videos and a PowerPoint presentation)

  • From the MN Conference of the United Methodist Church: "The Council of Bishops is recommending the 'One Church' model to the special session of General Conference as the way forward for The United Methodist Church around the issue of homosexuality. In the four-minute video below, several bishops, including Bishop Bruce R. Ough, talk about why that model makes sense."

  • From the MN Conference of the United Methodist Church: "Bishop Bruce R. Ough gave a powerful sermon at seven 'Way Forward' gatherings held across Minnesota in late September and early October. He talked about the importance of staying in love with union and pointed out that 'we are the way forward.'" The video is about 20 minutes long; a written version is available here.