The United Methodist Church announced that its top legislative body will hold a special session in order to determine what stance the mainline denomination will hold on homosexuality.
For the past several years, UMC has seen much internal debate over its official position against homosexuality, gay marriage, and ordination for those involved in same-sex relationships.
In a letter to its annual conferences written on Monday, UMC's Council of Bishops announced that the special session of General Conference will take place Feb. 23-26, 2019, in St. Louis, Missouri.
"The purpose of this special session of the General Conference shall be limited to receiving and acting upon a report from the Council of Bishops based on the recommendations of the Commission on a Way Forward," the council explained in the letter.
"The Council of Bishops encourages the entire church to continue in deep, unceasing prayer for Holy Spirit breakthroughs for the Commission on a Way Forward and the special session of General Conference."
John Lomperis, delegate at the 2016 General Conference and member of the theologically conservative Institute on Religion & Democracy, told CP that he was "glad we will finally have time to address the issues we put off in 2016."
"Time and again, we have shown that the votes are simply not there to liberalize the Discipline's biblical standards on sexual self-control — no matter how much political organizing, money, and dishonest rhetoric about 'compromise' gets thrown into liberal efforts," said Lomperis.
"The [Book of] Discipline (which constitutes the denomination's law and doctrine) does need to change — but to strengthen enforcement and accountability of our already-settled biblical standards."
At the 2016 UMC General Conference, delegates approved a recommendation creating a "Commission on a Way Forward," which would analyze the denomination's stance on LGBT issues.
"We recommend that the General Conference defer all votes on human sexuality and refer this entire subject to a special commission, named by the Council of Bishops, to develop a complete examination and possible revision of every paragraph in our Book of Discipline regarding human sexuality," read the recommendation from 2016.
"We will name such a commission to include persons from every region of our UMC, and will include representation from differing perspectives on the debate. We commit to maintain an on-going dialogue with this commission as they do their work, including clear objectives and outcomes."
In October, the United Methodist Council of Bishops announced the names of the 32 people who would be members of the commission, noting the "theological diversity" of those selected.
"All of the members of the Commission have already indicated their willingness and availability to serve. The team of moderators — Bishop Ken Carter, Bishop Sandra Steiner-Ball and Bishop David Yemba — will soon convene the commission to begin to organize their work and finalize their meeting schedule," stated the Council of Bishops.
"After hearing concerns that the proposed composition did not include enough laity, three additional laypersons were added from the original pool of more than 300 nominees."