Finding Our Way

Love and Law in The United Methodist Church

By Kenneth H. Carter, Jr., J. Michael Lowry, Rueben P. Job, Hope Morgan Ward, Gregory V. Palmer, Rosemarie Wenner, Melvin G. Talbert, John K. Yambasu, Neil M. Alexander Published
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Questions and conflict about homosexual practice and the church abound. We encounter media reports of same-gender unions and clergy trials. This leads to talk in congregations and district preacher's meetings, in the hallways at district, conference and general church gatherings, and in the deliberations of the Council of Bishops where we hear prayers, questions, and an outpouring of conviction or anguish.

We observe The United Methodist Church grappling with issues of importance that divide and confound us. We hunger for our church to engage hard questions and decisions in a spirit of generosity, gracefulness, and mutual respect.

This book could change the nature of the conversation. It encourages frank and constructive dialogue that will help us conference together and open ourselves to God's guidance. We seek faithful, fair, just, and loving resolution to issues that challenge our faith community.

Finding Our Way: Love and Law in The United Methodist Church is authored by several United Methodist bishops. These writers enunciate and clarify pathways that represent faithful, responsible, and constructive ways forward through the current controversies. Each bishop articulates a prescription for moving through current conflict about homosexual practice, same-gender unions, qualifications for ordination, and maintaining the "good standing" of elders. Go to www.ministrymatters.com/FindingOurWay to read the introduction and to comment.

Contents:

Frame: An introduction about the guiding vision and theological framework as we seek together to be faithful to God and to our covenants. By Rueben P. Job, retired, from the Iowa Area, and by Neil M. Alexander, who is publisher for The United Methodist Church.

Part One: Options

Enforce (follow the Book of Discipline): The Discipline interprets scripture and contains the rule of law for UM congregations and elders. When sacred promises are violated, leaders must uphold the spirit and letter of the law and follow the process defined by the Discipline. By Gregory V. Palmer, who serves the Ohio West Area.

Emend (work to change the Book of Discipline): The General Conference legislative process must be engaged to emend the Book of Discipline -- or not. This is the responsible and thoroughly United Methodist way of moving through disputes and reaching consensus. By Hope Morgan Ward, who serves the Raleigh Area.

Disobey (biblical obedience): Scripture and the sanctity of love are a higher authority than the Book of Discipline. Therefore, the current impasse must be broken by loving acts of conscientious fidelity to higher principles. By Melvin G. Talbert, retired, from the San Francisco Area.

Disarm (suspending conflict between personal and social holiness): In many kinds of conflicts, in marriage and in war, the conflicted parties drop their weapons or grievances, agree to a cease fire, and search for a peaceful way to resolve their disagreement. By Kenneth H. Carter Jr., who serves the Florida Area.

Part Two: Responses

Order (supporting our covenant): Our sacred trust depends on keeping our promises. By J. Michael Lowry, who serves the Forth Worth Area

Unity (dwelling in God's church as a family of Christ followers): When two elephants fight, the grass suffers. By John K. Yambasu, who serves the Sierra Leone Area.

Diversity (coexisting with differences). By Rosemarie Wenner, who serves the Germany Area and is current president of the Council of Bishops.

Part Three: Steps

Trust God (discernment): Immerse ourselves in an intense process of prayerful discernment. This approach pleads for the guidance of the Holy Spirit and asks all to open themselves without condition or pre-judgment to the insight and inspiration that comes through deep prayer and listening. By Rueben P. Job, retired, from the Iowa Area.

About the Authors

Kenneth H. Carter, Jr.

Kenneth H. Carter Jr. is Resident Bishop of the Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. He is a moderator of the Commission on a Way Forward and in 2018–2020 will serve as president of the Council of Bishops.
Bishop Carter is the author of ten books, including Pray for Me, A Way of Life in the World, The Gifted Pastor, and Near the Cross. He is a contributor to Feasting on the Word and The Wesley Study Bible. He formerly served as senior pastor of Providence United Methodist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, where his ministry was described by the American Religious Historian Diana Butler Bass in her Christianity for the Rest of Us, and superintendent of the Smoky Mountain District in Western Northern Carolina, which included seventy churches across seven counties, all in the region of Appalachia. 

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J. Michael Lowry

New Church Development and Transformation, Southwest Texas Conference, United Methodist Church.

Rueben P. Job

Rueben P. Job, a retired United Methodist bishop, was formerly World Editor of The Upper Room publishing program. He has authored or co-authored many books including Three Simple Rules, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants, A Wesley Spiritual Reader, and A Guide to Retreat for All God's Shepherds. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

Neil M. Alexander

Neil M. Alexander is President and Publisher of The United Methodist Publishing House. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee.