By Michael Gryboski, The Christian Post.
The United Methodist Church is considering a new process for proposals given at General Conference for agenda items pertaining to the debate over the denomination’s stance on homosexuality.
The Commission on General Conference, which plans the regular Church legislative gathering, proposed something called a “Group Discernment Process,” according to Heath Hahn of the United Methodist News Service.
“Under the plan, the first stop of all sexuality-related petitions would not be legislative committees. Instead, all 864 delegates would review the petitions in small groups with no more than 15 members,” reported Hahn.
“The groups would each have geographical, linguistic, ethnic, gender and age diversity, along with a mix of clergy and lay people … The commission asks each small group to make recommendations on the petition. Members will have the opportunity to review and sign the recommendations.”
According to the Book of Discipline, which is an important governing document for the UMC, homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching.”
The Discipline further defines marriage as between one man and one woman, bars clergy from performing same-sex weddings, and allows for homosexuals to be ordained provided they remain celibate.
Over the past several years, the UMC has debated whether or not to maintain these official positions, with some groups lobbying for those parts of the Discipline to be changed.
At the last General Conference, held in 2012, an amendment to the Discipline that would have replaced the “incompatible” language with an “agree to disagree” statement failed.
As the debate over the Discipline language continues, some have wondered aloud if the UMC will experience a schism over the theological differences.
As part of the Group Discernment Process model, Commission members hope that more moderate voices on the debate will get heard.