What are the pension impacts of the three plans? 

Wespath has published FAQs, which are updated regularly, in an attempt to share information with the Church about the pension impact of all the Commission’s plans, which you can find here.   Their proposed legislation submitted as part of the Commission’s report (both as part of the Traditional Plan and the One Church Plan) would in fact mitigate the pension impact illustrated in the tool.

What is the Council of Bishops recommending? 

The Council of Bishops is recommending the One Church Plan that allows congregations to decide their marriage policies, pastors to determine who they will marry and Boards of Ordained Ministry and clergy executive sessions to determine fit and readiness for ministry.

The Council of Bishops is recommending this model to the General Conference because it preserves appropriate local decision-making and does not require congregations to think and act alike. It preserves our unity in the midst of differences, allows for contextualization and provides the least disruption to the mission of Jesus Christ.

What are the other proposals that were considered by the Council of Bishops?

The Commission on the Way Forward submitted three proposed plans to the Council of Bishops.  The One Church Plan that the Bishops supported and two others:

The Traditionalist Plan: Strengthen the existing language about homosexuality in the Book of Discipline and create swift and strong punishment of anyone that does not follow the Book of Discipline.  The Council of Bishops is not recommending this model to the General Conference because it will create disruption, church trials and pain for individuals and congregations that would distract us from our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

The Connectional Conference Plan: Create a Connectional Conference Model for the church which allows congregations to decide to be a part of one of three “branches”/conferences in the United States – progressive, centrist or conservative. These conferences could modify the Book of Discipline and align church practices to their theology and understanding. Present annual conferences and even congregations could choose different “branches”/conferences.  The Council of Bishops is not recommending this model to the General Conference. A similar model was created in 1939 which separated a majority of African Americans and the rest of the church into distinct conferences. It was finally disbanded in 1968 and caused lasting pain to many in our denomination. It would not be helpful for us to be separate but equal, separating us by theology and segregating gays and lesbians. It would also require years to implement, maybe as many as 10 years and that would detract us from the mission of Jesus Christ and focus us on institutional matters.

How will GNJ respond to the Special Session in GNJ? 

Regardless of the outcome of the 2019 Special General Conference, Bishop Schol has pledged to be a bishop of the whole church.

What can happen at the Special Session of GC?

The Special General Conference could adopt or modify the recommendation of the Council of Bishops or another plan or make no change at all.  If there is change, the Bishop has stated he will not make appointments or lead in a way that seeks to change minds about homosexuality. If General Conference does not make any changes to our Book of Discipline, the Bishop will continue to lead in our mission and respect our clergy and laity serving contextually in their ministry with their community.

Are we not replacing conference staff because of what may happen at the Special Session?  

The Greater New Jersey Annual Conference continues to act on our mission to equip spiritual leaders to make vital congregations who make disciples to transform the world.  Any change in conference staff is due to regular employment turnover.

Where can I get more information? 

The denomination has resources, videos, press releases and general information about the Special Session on its web pages.  http://www.umc.org/topics/general-conference-2019-special-session.

What book do you recommend for us to use as a guideline for discussion?

The Commission on the Way Forward encouraged its members to read The Anatomy of Peace by The Arbinger Institute as a resource to develop a heart at peace in advance of their discussions.  As a result, the Council of Bishops also read and discussed the concepts presented by the Arbinger Institute.   The Anatomy of Peace is the theme of the 2018 Clergy Convocation and clergy who register will receive a copy for discussion.  The tools outlined address how to affect change in our lives, our congregations and our world.

Do You Have More Questions?

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