The Commission on a Way Forward, which is working to find unity for The United Methodist Church regarding human sexuality, began its sixth meeting on October 30, 2017, with a devotion that challenged the members to be as one in the body of Christ and to see each person as a reflection of God.
The Rev. Dr. Tom Salsgiver, of the Susquehanna Annual Conference in the U.S., sharing on Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12, told his fellow Commission members: “I must be the reflection of the one who created me.”
“These passages say we are part of the body but we are not the head. ... We sure would like to be the one that calls the shots but we are not in the driver’s seat,” Rev. Salsgiver said, noting that “it is about God leading us.”
The 32 members of the Commission were appointed by the Council of Bishops to assist the bishops in their charge from the 2016 General Conference to lead the church forward amid the present impasse related to human sexuality and resulting questions about the unity of the church.
The Commission is holding the three-day meeting at the United Methodist Publishing House headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee, a week before the Council of Bishops are meeting in Lake Junaluska, North Carolina, to receive the interim report.
The moderators, Bishop David Yemba, Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball and Bishop Ken Carter are leading the members of the Commission to delve deeper into LGBTQ identity, guided by the values of multiplying Wesleyan witness, fruitfulness, a heart at peace, de-centralization and simplicity.
Using a clip from The Lion King movie when Simba is reminded that he had forgotten about his father and consequently forgotten who he was, Rev. Salsgiver challenged the members to look in the mirror and reflect on who each one of them is as part of God’s family.
“In the next two days as we pray and listen, I have to remember whose I am. Who do I reflect? I am just a small part of the body, as each of us are a small part. We are certainly individuals, in that body, corporately, we are part of it. We need to reflect the one who created the body,” Salsgiver said.
He pointed out that 1 Corinthians 12 and the third verse of the Roman’s passage make it clear what is a better or more excellent way to do the work. “Don’t misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it to you.”
The members were reminded that God’s grace is for everyone. “My love is not only for those I like or those who believe like I do. I am part of the body not because of my gifts but because God’s arms are open wide and accepted me. God expects and demands I do the same for all of God’s children.”
Members then spent the day discussing models to share with the bishops, expressing the need for the unity of the UMC, yet recognizing the different theological understandings and expressions on human sexuality.
The commission plans to issue an interim report to the bishops at their November 2017 meeting for feedback and direction before the final report is released in 2018. The bishops will present their report to the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference.