United Methodist Church Calls for 75-Week 'Focused Prayer' on Homosexuality Debate

Delegates pray before a plenary session at the United Methodist Church's 2016 General Conference in Portland, Oregon. | (Photo: Facebook/United Methodist General Conference)

The United Methodist Church is calling for a 75-week period of "focused prayer" in light of its ongoing internal debate over whether to change its official stance against homosexuality.

Earlier this month, UMC leadership announced their call for prayer among the regional bodies of the Mainline denomination starting on New Year's Day 2017.

Known as the "Praying Our Way Forward" initiative, the process will involve each annual conference adopting one of the 75 weeks as a time to pray for the future of the denomination.

"The second phase of the 'Praying Our Way Forward' initiative will be launched New Year's Day with 75 weeks of focused prayer for The United Methodist Church," according to a statement from the UMC earlier this month.

"During phase 1 of the new initiative, 84 bishops of the church spent 15 minutes each day for four months in prayer for the selection and initial work of the Commission on A Way Forward."

Over the past several years, the UMC has experienced much internal debate over the Church's position on LGBT issues.

The UMC's Book of Discipline states that homosexuality is a sin, that marriage is only between one man and one woman, and that clergy are prohibited from being involved in same-sex relationships.

At the UMC General Conference meeting back in May, delegates voted in favor of a recommendation to create a commission that would analyze the position of the Church.

The headquarters for the North Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church, located in Garner, North Carolina. | (Photo: Bill Norton)

"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.

"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."

According to the UMC, the 75-week prayer initiative will begin in the North Carolina Annual Conference this coming Sunday and conclude in the West Angola Episcopal area in June of 2018.

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