Commission on the Way Forward

The Commission on a Way Forward (COWF) was proposed by the Council of Bishops to do a complete examination concerning human sexuality and explore options to maintain and strengthen the unity of the church. 

Post-General Conference Update

Dear Church Family,

The special called General Conference of the United Methodist Church ended last night. As you may have heard on the news, the Traditionalist Plan was passed as well as an exit process for those Annual Conferences and churches that cannot abide by the new plan. This plan retains the current language on sexuality but also imposes additional sanctions for those who violate the Book of Discipline.  

However, the plan has been referred to the Judicial Council for a declaratory ruling on the constitutionality of the entire Traditional Plan. The Judicial Council will rule on it when they meet in April. Due to previous rulings of the Council (which works somewhat like the Supreme Court), we can expect that portions of the plan will be found unconstitutional—but not because of their statements on sexuality (which has not changed). The amendments were ruled unconstitutional 1) because of major changes in the level and ways that clergy, churches, conferences and Bishops are held accountable and 2) also because the plan only called for accountability at those levels for this one issue and not other violations of the Book of Discipline. *
In other words, it’s complicated.

On Saturday morning, the clergy of the North Alabama Conference will meet with the Bishop and the General Conference Delegation to discuss the implications of this vote. Staff Parish Relations Chairs, Lay Leaders, and Lay Members of Annual Conference will join us in the afternoon. I expect to have a statement and/or video from the Bishop to share on Sunday in worship.

We are aware that the national and local media are covering the actions of General Conference and that there are various reports on social media. Please remember that the most reliable source of information about General Conference is the United Methodist New Service.

In the meantime, please continue to pray! Right now, some feel this is a victory for traditional values. Others, however, are grieving on behalf of your LGBTQ brothers and sisters. Still others may grieve the potential loss of centrist and progressive United Methodist brothers and sisters who feel pushed out by the new plan. Still others are dismayed by the poor witness of some—both traditionalist and progressive—at General Conference. As Jesus instructed, we encourage you to be kind and gentle with one another (especially those with whom you disagree). And please continue to pray for the United Methodist Church.

And for those of us at Aldersgate, we will continue to work together to be and to make passionately devoted followers of Jesus Christ who love God, love others, and serve and share Jesus as the church with the warm heart.

Sherill and Tim

Handouts from the Bishop’s Meeting on 3/2/19

* One way to try and understand the situation is to envision the UMC like our federal and state governments. At the “federal” level, we have a legislative branch (General Conference) and a Judicial Branch (Judicial Council), but we don’t actually have an Executive Branch. The Council of Bishops express opinions, oversee Annual and Central Conferences, and preside at General Conference, but they do not have what one would call Executive powers—this was intentional. At the “state” level, we have annual and central conferences. The Annual Conference is the “fundamental” body of the Church (Article IV of our Constitution). The Annual Conference is the body that ordains and makes decisions on the character of clergy as well as many other local decisions. The Traditional Plan establishes a “Federal” top-level organization for oversight of bishops and it requires Annual Conferences, Boards of Ordained Ministries, churches, and clergy to agree to uphold the Discipline (on this one issue and not others) or be encouraged to leave the denomination. There is more to it, but that is the basic plan.

2-16 UpdATE

With the special called General Conference of the United Methodist Church a week away, I wanted to give you just a few updates. 

  • Please keep the delegates and Bishops in your prayers during the next few weeks. I am attaching a prayer guide with suggestions on prayers beginning tomorrow, February 17th through March 3rd. The file is formatted for a booklet, which is wonderful if you know how to print it and a bit frustrating also. Hardcopies will also be available on the Welcome Tables in the Narthex and the Gateway Hospitality Center.
  • I’ve also attached a spreadsheet that summarizes the impact of the 4 major plans. The Commission on the Way Forward put forth three plans: One Church Plan, Traditional Plan and Connectional Conference Plan. The majority of Bishops recommended the One Church Plan and the Judicial Council found that it was in accordance with the United Methodist Church’s constitution with a few minor changes. The Judicial Council found major problems in the Traditional Plan so a modified Traditional Plan will be presented to the General Conference (however, the Judicial Council has not ruled on the modified plan). The Judicial Council did not rule on the Connectional Plan because, if approved, it requires constitutional amendments.  The spreadsheet also summarizes a fourth plan that has been submitted by progressives called the Simple Plan. Please note: more than likely which ever plan is approved will be approved with modifications. As I understand it, all the plans will be discussed and adjusted as a result of the work of the General Conference.  And regardless of which plan is adopted, no changes will occur for some time.
  • General Conference will begin on Saturday, February 23rd and end on Tuesday, February 26th.   
  • If you are interested in watching or keeping up with the proceedings:
  • You can watch the live stream here.
  • I’m sure the mainstream media will be watching and reporting on the Conference. Please keep in mind that they generally have no idea how the UMC functions and as a result misrepresent the actions of General Conference. I don’t recommend putting too much stock in what they report and the opinions that they share. The United Methodist News Agency is a better source for information. You can find links to more information on theUMC website.
  • You can also sign up at our conference website to receive updates.
  • On Sunday, March 3rd, we will have a special message from our Bishop to share with you during worship about the results of the General Conference. 

In the meantime and no matter which plan passes, we will continue to move forward with our work to be and make passionately devoted followers of Jesus Christ loving God and others and serving and sharing Jesus as the church with the warm heart. 

January 14 Message

Dear Aldersgate Family and Friends,

As some of you may know, the United Methodist Church is in the midst of a difficult time of discernment about the future of our denomination. Disagreement and tension about our theological convictions regarding human sexuality and the inclusion of LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning) persons has been building over many years.

The Commission on a Way Forward (COWF) was proposed by the Council of Bishops to do a complete examination concerning human sexuality and explore options to maintain and strengthen the unity of the church.  There will be a special called General Conference held in St. Louis, February 23-26, 2019 to consider the three options put forward by the COWF.

This page contains an audio recording of the information session that Matt McCollum, chair of our Staff/Parish Relations Committee and I held last night as well as some other resources that you might find helpful.


January 13, 2019 Information Session.

Rev. Tom Berlin’s video presentation

Handouts from the session will be available later this week.

If you wish to join in a longer conversation on this issue, you are invited to join Sherill and Matt on Sunday nights from 5-6:30 pm beginning January 20th for a book discussion “Unafraid and Unashamed: Facing the Future of United Methodism” by Wil Cantrell. You can order the book from both in paperback or Kindle on Amazon or order the paperback from Cokesbury. (Classroom to be announced later this week.) Please help us prepare by emailing Sherill to let her know you plan to attend.