United Methodist Church Delays Denomination's Process to Decide Homosexuality Stance

Delegates meet at the United Methodist Church's 2016 General Conference in Portland, Oregon. | (Photo: Facebook/United Methodist General Conference)

The United Methodist Church is putting a delay on the creation of a commission meant to analyze and possibly suggest changes to the denomination's position on homosexuality.

Earlier this year at their General Conference, UMC delegates approved a resolution that created a commission that would review the Church's positions on homosexuality and gay marriage.

In a statement released Wednesday, the Council of Bishops' Executive Committee noted that an unexpectedly large number of nominees has prompted a delay in the procedure.

"… an overwhelming number of nominations for the Commission on a Way Forward has delayed the appointment of Commission members. More time is needed for all nominees to be given adequate consideration," explained the Council of Bishops.

"Following their July meeting, the Council of Bishops' Executive Committee asked all current residential and retired bishops to nominate up to five persons by August 15. At that time, they expected to name the Commission members by August 31, with a target of October for an initial meeting."

The Executive Committee explained that they received more than 300 nominees for membership on the commission, which made for a process that will take longer than previously expected.

"We are well along in prayerfully vetting each of the nominees to create a Commission that reflects the global and theological diversity of the church, as well as Commission membership that is truly open to finding a way forward," said Bishop Bruce R. Ough, Council of Bishops president, in a statement.

"However, the enormity of the task, the desire to do it well and the urgency of beginning this work all need to be balanced."

According to the United Methodist Book of Discipline, homosexuality is labeled "incompatible with Christian teaching" and marriage is defined as being between one man and one woman.

Over the past several years, the mainline denomination has experienced much internal debate over whether to amend the Book of Discipline's language to be more pro-LGBT.

In May at the UMC General Conference in Portland, Oregon, delegates voted in favor of a resolution that put a moratorium on efforts to change the Book of Discipline.

Known as "An Offering for a Way Forward," the resolution involved the Council of Bishops forming a commission to review the Church's positions and then offer recommendations for the next General Conference.

"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."

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