As we prepare our hearts and minds for the Special Session of General Conference (Feb. 23-26, 2019 in St. Louis, Missouri), here are some highly recommended resources for you to use individually, with a small group, or with your congregation. The book and small group study resources are available through Cokesbury, unless otherwise noted.
The Council of Bishops launched a multi-phase "Praying Our Way Forward " initiative that invites all United Methodists, between now and the Special Session of General Conference, to:
1. Engage in a weekly Wesleyan 24-hour fast from Thursday after dinner to Friday mid-afternoon. Those who have health situations causing food fasts to be unadvisable might consider fasting from social media, email, or another daily activity.
2. Pause and pray for our church’s mission and way forward daily for four minutes from 2:23 through 2:26 a.m. or p.m. in your own time zone (or at another time of your choosing). The reason for the recommended time period is that the Special Session of General Conference will be held Feb. 23-26, 2019.
3. Pray using a weekly prayer calendar that goes through the end of February 2019. The calendar lists a unique cluster of names each week. The names include United States bishops and delegates, Central Conference bishops and delegates, general secretaries, Commission on a Way Forward members, the Commission of the General Conference, and General Conference staff.
• Commission on a Way Forward full report: The Commission on a Way Forward’s full report to General Conference, including all three plans that the Commission submitted to the Council of Bishops for their consideration. View report
• Article summarizing three possible ‘Way Forward’ plans: A detailed and objective look at all three plans—how they’d work, as well as the pros and cons of each one— Read article
• Chart compares three possible ‘Way Forward’ plans: The Great Plains Conference developed a chart that compares how the three plans developed by the Commission on a Way Forward would affect churches, clergy, annual conferences and other parts of the denomination. View chart
• “The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict” by The Arbinger Institute: This is one of the books studied by the Commission on a Way Forward. It seeks to inspire reconciliation through the premise that people whose hearts are at peace do not wage war, whether they're heads of state or members of a family. Access book
• “Embracing the Wideness” by Bishop Kenneth H. Carter Jr.: Bishop Carter looks at the two distinct conceptions of church held by United Methodists—a separatist church and an activist church. Carter encourages individuals and churches to look at the good that can be accomplished through converging the conceptions of church. Access book
• “God Unbound: Wisdom from Galatians for the Anxious Church” by Elaine Heath: Just as Paul led the Galatians through a radical cultural change to expand their view of God, themselves, and the church's mission, today’s Christians are challenged to boldly follow the Holy Spirit's leadership beyond buildings and programs to join what Jesus is doing in the world. Access book
• “Unafraid and Unashamed: Facing the Future of United Methodism” by Wil Cantrell: This book cultivates faith, respect for disparate opinions, appreciation for the Wesleyan means of grace, and commitment to the church. It was designed as a tool for effectively communicating the issues facing the denomination in a manner that strengthens the church. Access book
• “Finding a Way Forward” handbook: This tool for United Methodist Church bishops is a compilation of some of the resources that the Commission on a Way Forward used that includes resources for witness, contextual leadership, and unity. It can be used as a tool for study, reflection, and prayer. View handbook
• “Unity of the Church and Human Sexuality” by General Board of Higher Education and Ministry: Suitable for a four-week study, this resource addresses how the church be a witness and provide for a diversified human community. It gives United Methodists an opportunity to think about what has become a cultural and ecclesial flashpoint—human sexuality—and comes out of the conviction that the church is thirsty for theological conversation. Access study
• “Living Faithfully: Human Sexuality and The United Methodist Church” by Abingdon Press: This four-week study will help you understand the shape of the debate about human sexuality. Each chapter includes background on the Bible, Christian theology, history, stories from diverse viewpoints, and United Methodist structure and practice to guide reflection and conversation. View study
• Courageous Conversation about the Way Forward: Discipleship Ministries offers a detailed outline for four 90-minute sessions that provide background about the current debate on human sexuality, give an overview of the three plans from the Commission on a Way Forward, and afford an opportunity for participants to discuss the three plans in a respectful and healthy manner. View online
• “A Conversation on a Way Forward part 1” (39 minutes)
• “A Conversation on a Way Forward part 2” (36 minutes)
• “A Conversation on a Way Forward part 3” (61 minutes)
• “Council of Bishops on One Church Model” (03:52): The Council of Bishops is recommending the One Church Plan to the Special Session of General Conference as the way forward for The United Methodist Church. Several bishops, including Bishop Bruce R. Ough, talk about why that model makes sense. Acess video
• “A Way Forward” (02:59): Rev. Boyd Blumer, retired clergy and Jerry Stavia, who serves Mitchell First UMC, why the Dakotas elected delegates at the recent annual conference. They also provide an overview of the Commission on A Way Forward and what's next as The United Methodist Church seeks a way forward. Access video
• “A Parable for Today” (05:15): Gil Rendle, a consultant to the Commission on a Way Forward, uses a parable to explore the difference between positions that are taken and the convictions that lead us to those positions. He maintains that when we look beyond our positions and talk about what’s important to us, the Spirit moves. Access video
• “Sugar Packets: An Illustration” (19:23): Rev. Tom Berlin, a pastor in the Virginia Annual Conference and member of the Commission on a Way Forward, uses sugar packets to outline in simple terms the dynamics at play in the debate about human sexuality and poses some key questions to ponder in the conversation about this issue. Access video