One Church Model: A Statement of Support from Uniting Methodists

The Uniting Methodists movement bears witness to the love and grace of God that we experience in Jesus Christ, strives for clarity in our mission, and seeks unity in our life together. It affirms holiness as the rule for our relationships with God and one another, and calls for collaboration in Christ-like love that is animated by the Holy Spirit in honest, humble conversation – all so that we will continuously and earnestly strive for spiritual and structural unity in the church.

Based on our current understanding of the models that are being considered by the Commission on a Way Forward and the Council of Bishops, and consistent with the mission and vision which more than 5,000 United Methodists have endorsed, the Coordinating Team and friends of Uniting Methodists affirm church-wide support for what has been called the One Church model. While there are diverse views within the Uniting Methodists movement with regard to biblical interpretation and implications regarding God’s gift of human sexuality, we are deeply committed to sharing our ministry together to fulfill the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

The preliminary descriptions of the One Church model fulfill the mandate to enable the presence of a United Methodist witness in as many places in the world as possible with as much contextual differentiation as possible and as much unity as possible. The framework honors local contexts that illumine for the church how best to fulfill the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world in different places and cultures. It would not dictate how each annual conference must respond but provides space for communities to discern what is required in their contexts, allows for the exercise of Christian conscience in matters over which faithful people disagree, and provides congregations the latitude they need to fully express their love for Christ and participate together in ministry around the world.

The essential features of the One Church model help us turn away from paths leading to schism by providing the basis for a grace-filled unity that affords annual conferences, local churches, and pastors the necessary flexibility required for such a time as this while sustaining the essential character of the Wesleyan tradition and the vitality of the global connectional ministry of The United Methodist Church.

The One Church proposal is . . .

. . . Faithful to Scripture

Throughout scripture, God is relentlessly at work to reconcile broken relationships, to heal the brokenness of our world, and to create a community that is bound together in unity and love.

  • The psalmist celebrates “how good and pleasing it is when families live together as one!” (Psalm 133:1, all quotations CEB).
  • Jesus prays, “I pray they will be one . . . so that the world will believe that you sent me” (John 17:21).
  • Paul calls the conflicted congregation in Corinth to “be restored with the same mind and the same purpose,” while also affirming the “different spiritual gifts” that the Holy Spirit activates “for the common good” (I Corinthians 1:10, 12:4, 7).
  • Revelation envisions a day when Jesus’ followers “from every nation, tribe, people, and language” will be gathered together around the throne (Revelation 7:9-12).

We believe the elements found in the One Church proposal would be a finite expression of God’s vision of unity revealed in scripture.

. . . Faithful to Orthodox Doctrine

The One Church model is grounded in the unchanging affirmations of the Christian faith expressed in the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds, the Articles of Religion, and in the Doctrinal Standards and Our Theological Task contained in Part III of The Book of Discipline. It demonstrates an evangelistic passion to invite others to follow Jesus and to participate in God’s Kingdom, coming on earth as it is in heaven. These, along with our baptism and the unmerited grace shared through Holy Communion, are the nonnegotiable core of belief that binds us together.

. . . Faithful to the Wesleyan Tradition

The One Church model bears witness to key elements of our Wesleyan tradition.

  • We are a movement centered in loving God and loving others and committed to offering God’s grace to all.
  • We are a connection of Christian disciples who share a common baptism, faith, mission, and tradition while allowing space for diversity of conviction about how to bear witness to that faith in different settings.
  • We are a global body of believers that reaches beyond the boundaries of any one nation, race, or culture and celebrates the witness of the church in diverse contexts.
  • We acknowledge that by the power of the Holy Spirit at work among us, we are imperfect people in an imperfect church moving on toward Christian perfection.

. . . Faithful to the Conciliar Model of the Church

The process by which the Commission on a Way Forward and the Council of Bishops have been doing their work is consistent with how the early Church dealt with internal conflict around the acceptance of Gentile Christians in Acts 15. It demonstrates the unique way United Methodists search for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in Christian conference. It affirms our common unity in Christ while honoring contextual diversity.

. . . Faithful to the Mandate of the General Conference

The One Church model would provide a grace-filled way of maintaining the unity of our connection that accomplishes the “Mission, Vision and Scope” of the Commission on a Way Forward to enable “the presence of a United Methodist witness in as many places in the world as possible with as much contextual differentiation as possible, and as much unity as possible.”

. . . Faithful Witness to the Future

As the world is being torn apart by political, social, economic, ethnic, and religious polarization; and as we see a significant portion of younger people turning away from the witness and fellowship of the church, the One Church model provides a countercultural witness of unity in Christ and sets in place a process by which the church will continue to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Uniting Methodists is an informal network of laity and clergy profoundly grateful for the historic Wesleyan witness of The United Methodist Church. We are passionately committed to a future that affirms unity while respecting diversity as we make disciples of Jesus Christ across an array of diverse cultures and communities for the transformation of the world.

We support the Commission on a Way Forward and the Council of Bishops as they continue to lead the church toward a bold and faithful mission-centered unity as envisioned in the outline of the One Church model.  We call upon delegates to the 2019 General Conference to resist schism and with humility and hope to support this framework for unity for The United Methodist Church.

March 2018