Bishops select 32 for Commission on a Way Forward, 1 from MN
October 26, 2016
By: Christa Meland with contributions from United Methodist Communications
Washington, D.C.: The United Methodist Council of Bishops has announced the 32 people selected to serve on the Commission on a Way Forward, which will work to address the denomination’s differences regarding human sexuality. The group includes Minnesota layperson Dave Nuckols, a member of Minnetonka United Methodist Church.
“After three months of diligent and prayerful discernment, we have selected 8 bishops, 11 laity, 11 elders and 2 deacons to serve on the Commission,” said Bishop Bruce R. Ough, president of the Council of Bishops. “This group is representative of our theological diversity.”
Ough said the makeup of the 32-member commission is roughly comparable to U.S. and Central Conference membership. All of the members of the Commission have indicated their willingness and availability to serve.
The Commission’s purpose
The Commission’s mission is to “bring together persons deeply committed to the future(s) of The United Methodist Church, with an openness to developing new relationships with each other and exploring the potential future(s) of our denomination in light of General Conference and subsequent annual, jurisdictional, and central conference actions.” The stated vision is for the Commission to “design a way for being church that maximizes the presence of a United Methodist witness in as many places in the world as possible, that allows for as much contextual differentiation as possible, and that balances an approach to different theological understandings of human sexuality with a desire for as much unity as possible.” (Learn more about the mission, vision, and scope of the Commission's work.)
The 2016 General Conference gave a specific mandate to the Council of Bishops to lead The United Methodist Church in discerning and proposing a way forward through the present impasse related to human sexuality and the consequent questions about unity and covenant.
The Commission on a Way Forward is a group appointed by the Council of Bishops to assist the Council in fulfilling this mandate. As such, the Council has appointed bishops from across the global connection to serve on the Commission alongside laity and clergy. While clergy and laity will vote at a General Conference on these matters, the bishops have the responsibility to lead the church. Thus, the Commission is designed to inform the Council’s leadership of the General Conference. After hearing concerns that the proposed composition did not include enough laity, three additional laypersons were added from the original pool of more than 300 nominees.
The Council of Bishops used eight criteria in selecting members for the Commission. They sought:
People who have core convictions but also demonstrated experience in working across lines for unity and reconciliation
Theological diversity from progressive to centrist to traditional/evangelical
People experienced in these conversations and others who bring fresh perspectives
Racial diversity, knowing that within groups, not every theological or political perspective could also be honored
A range of ages and gender inclusivity
Individuals in and related to the LGBTQ community
Composition roughly comparable to the U.S. and central conference membership of the church
Symmetry between bishops, clergy, and laity, understanding that while laity and clergy will vote at General Conference, bishops have the responsibility to lead the church
Nuckols, who is active in the Reconciling Ministries Network and its Parents’ Reconciling Steering Committee, said he is “pleased, honored, and humbled” to be appointed to the Commission.
“I hope to bring to the Commission my experience as the parent of a queer young adult, as the co-lay leader of a vital and growing Reconciling congregation, and as a bridge-builder who has worked across the UMC’s theological differences during and in-between the last two General Conferences,” said Nuckols, who was an alternate General Conference delegate in both 2012 and 2016. “As one of a small number of lay persons on the commission, I look forward to listening to as many UMCers as possible—from Minnesota and elsewhere in our global connection—in the months to come.”
Nuckols recently became the Minnesota Conference’s co-lay leader and will serve on the Extended Cabinet. Before that, he spent four years on the Minnesota Board of Ordained Ministry. He is also co-lay leader at his church, Minnetonka United Methodist—one of the fastest-growing congregations in the conference. At the North Central Jurisdictional Conference in July, Nuckols was elected to serve on the Connectional Table, created in 2004 to serve as both the visioning body of the church and the steward of resources to carry out the vision of the denomination worldwide.
“I believe it is critical that this Commission begin with relationship-building, trust-building, and deep listening,” said Nuckols. “We need stronger mutual understanding between gay and straight Christians, across our theological differences, and across the variety of geographical and cultural contexts. In some ways, the process we follow and the information generated will be more important even than the recommendations.”
The Commission’s moderators—Bishop Ken Carter, Bishop Sandra Steiner-Ball, and Bishop David Yemba—will soon convene the Commission to begin to organize their work and finalize their meeting schedule. The first in-person meeting will take place in late January.
At its fall meeting, taking place Oct. 30 to Nov. 2, the Council of Bishops will make a decision about a called General Conference and will review a plan to conduct additional and complementary work in annual conferences designed to broaden the conversation with hundreds of lay and clergy members.
The members of the Commission are:
USA, Florida, elder, male
USA, California, elder, male
Jacques Umembudi Akasa
Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo, laity, male