The Plan


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Points included in this document are provided as a summary of the recommendations to the special 2019 General Conference. For more information, please read the entire report from the Commission on a Way Forward.

This plan, preferred by a majority of the Council of Bishops, would remove restrictive language from the Book of Discipline that prohibits same-gender weddings in UMC properties and ordination of “self-avowed practicing homosexuals.” It would add language to protect churches and pastors who choose not to allow same-gender marriages.

Local Churches

  • Most likely would make no changes in practice at the local level
  • May rewrite wedding policies to explicitly allow or forbid same-gender weddings
  • Will covenant with bishop on whether congregation will accept LGBTQ pastor


  • Can exercise individual conscience
  • Bishop and Cabinet would take theological convictions into account for appointment
  • Ends potential for church trials
  • LGBTQ candidates can be ordained and appointed to local churches that approve and can request transfer of candidacy if conference Board of Ordained Ministry or clergy session chooses not to ordain LGBTQ persons

Annual Conferences

  • No vote is needed, though may be desired in clergy session
  • Board of Ordained Ministry and/or clergy session can discern whether to ordain LGBTQ persons
  • Conference in clergy session may return the current restriction on ordination

Council of Bishops

  • Council continues as one body providing spiritual leadership
  • Assignments will reflect convictions of bishops and annual conferences
  • Bishops will be protected if their consciences will not allow him or her to ordain LGBTQ persons

General Agencies

  • Continue to operate as they do now
  • If funding declines, boards and agencies would need to consider a strategic restructuring
  • Sustainability issues, however, are separate from the Commission on a Way Forward’s task

Related Institutions

  • Likely no changes
  • Commission conversations with members of these organizations indicate this plan makes it more likely for most institutions to maintain their affiliation

Finance & Pensions

  • Two petitions are recommended for any of the three plans:
    • Any church that leaves would have to pay their proportionate liability of unfunded pensions for their annual conference
    • Clergy would be removed from benefit and annuity risk pools have accrued benefits transferred to an individual investment account

Episcopal Fund

  • Salaries and benefits would be paid by each episcopal area in the United States
  • Other expenses would be shared via apportionments
  • No changes to central conference funding