The Commission on a Way Forward was tasked by the Council of Bishops, with approval from the 2016 session of General Conference, to completely examine, and possibly revise, every paragraph of the Book of Discipline concerning human sexuality. As part of this, they explore options that help to maintain and strengthen the unity of the church.
General Conference sessions are held every four years, which is next scheduled for May 5-15, 2020; however, the work of the Commission on the Way Forward is building to the Special Session of General Conference on February 23-26, 2019. During the special session, General Conference will receive and take action on the commission's report.
The Council of Bishops called all in the United Methodist connection to join them in a three-part prayer initiative in preparation for the special session.
Phase 1 involved 84 members of the Council of Bishops praying for The United Methodist Church’s way forward for 15 minutes daily, from August to December 2016. This was followed by Phase 2, which resulted in 18 continuous months of daily individual and corporate prayer by faithful members of annual conferences around the globe.
Phase 3 launched on June 3, 2018, and invites all United Methodists to engage in a weekly Wesleyan 24-hour fast, pray daily for the church's mission and way forward from 2:23 to 2:26 (which represent the dates of the special session), and pray using a weekly calendar from UMCPrays.org through the end of February 2019.
During the 2018 annual conference session, Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. provided an overview of the history of The United Methodist Church's struggles over human sexuality and introduced a video featuring the Rev. Tom Berlin, a pastor in the Virginia Conference and a member of the Commission on a Way Forward.
A more detailed presentation was made during a listening session the afternoon of June 13.