Author: Bishop Albert Frederick Mutti, Retired
After the 2016 General Conference ended, the Council of Bishops appointed members to a Commission on Finding the Way Forward. That Commission met faithfully and brought regular reports to the scheduled meetings of the Council of Bishops. Retired bishops cannot vote in those sessions, but we can observe and offer voice comments. Each meeting was characterized by civility and deep respect for each speaker. Several possible plans for moving forward, among them the One Church Plan was chosen by a significant majority for recommendation to the special session of the General Conference in 2019.
Members of the Council will know that I have devoted myself to support of the quest for Christian Unity. This unity does not require everyone to agree to a single statement on the oneness of the church. It provides for a range of understandings within One Church.
Members of the Council will know, also, that I believe that every member of the church is a person of sacred worth. My own family journey leads to the belief that LGBTQ persons are loved by God through Christ and are persons of sacred worth who should not be excluded from the Church. The One Church Plan provides for that acceptance.
Members of the Council meet in small covenant groups in the morning during regularly scheduled meetings. Each group I have been a part of takes time for colleagues to tell about our personal spiritual practices. Each morning at 6:00 a.m. I take time for prayer and the reading of scripture. I follow a daily lectionary that takes me through the Hebrew scripture verses once a year and the Christian scriptures twice each year. Nearly every week I come upon passages that surprise me regarding actions that the writers believe were commanded by God, but seem out of character for the God we know as revealed by Jesus. This God “is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” (PS 103.8) The One Church plan recognizes that continuing study of the Bible leads us to new understandings and interpretations.
Members of the Council reside in different regions of the world, where different cultures lead us to interpret matters of sexuality and relational differently. This is true in the different regions of the United States, and in the Central Conferences of Africa, Europe and Asia. The One Church Plan allows for adaptations according to those differences.
I respectfully share these reasons for supporting the Council of Bishops’ recommendation of the One Church Plan.