Retired Methodist Bishops Urge Church To Reconsider Stance on Homosexuality

A number of retired United Methodist bishops are urging the United Methodist Church to change its anti-gay stance and accept gay people as they are. To that end, they’ve signed a petition (PDF) that’s worth reading. Yes, it talks a lot about “God’s grace,” but even though I don’t support their religious views, it’s good to see older Christians seeing the light regarding how horribly and unfairly their church has treated homosexuals over the years:

[W]e… believe The United Methodist Church should remove the following statement from The Book of Discipline (2008):

“…The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.” ¶304.3

With this statement of conviction and counsel we seek:

  • To affirm that the historic tests of “gifts and evidence of God’s grace” for ordained ministry override any past or present temporal restrictions such as race, gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.
  • To urge the Church, ecumenical and denominational, to change the manner in which it relates to gay, lesbian and transgendered persons in official statements, judicial proceedings, and in congregational life.
  • To declare our conviction that the current disciplinary position of The United Methodist Church, a part of our historical development, need not, and should not, be embraced as the faithful position for the future.
  • To make known our names and shared personal conviction on this matter and to encourage other church and Episcopal leaders to do the same.

36 retired bishops have signed this statement — that’s 42% of all retired bishops in the church.

The fact that some current bishops are staying true to their bigotry didn’t stop the others from signing the document:

“I think that it’s unfortunate that this group of bishops has stepped outside of the covenant relationship and find this the only way in which to voice their opinion about the issue of homosexuality,” Oklahoma Bishop Robert E. Hayes Jr., said in an interview.

“This circumvents our way of handling difficult issues,” Hayes said. “I am very disappointed the bishops chose this way to make their opinions known.”

Which is what? Publicly? Honestly? With their real names? This is the type of actions more people in churches ought to be taking up. It doesn’t make their religion any more true, but it certainly makes their faith more inclusive.

Maybe young Evangelical Christians can learn a lesson in courage from these bishops. They certainly don’t have many role models in their own megachurches when it comes to fighting for equal rights for gay people.

(Thanks to Ryan for the link)

  • Peter Mahoney

    Current Bishop Hayes said:

    “I am very disappointed the bishops chose this way to make their opinions known.”

    The church’s response is SO ridiculous (and telling)!

    Basically, it says: “How DARE members of a church voice the own personal opinions!?!” (especially opinions free of bigotry)

    Next thing the church members will want to start thinking and speaking for themselves on other topics! Heresy! Blasphemy! No individual thinking allowed!! Quick, stop them!!

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    Maybe we will have to call them the Ununited Methodists (and that would be a good thing).

    I recently attended a Methodist service for a reason that is irrelevent and once again was a bit disgusted at all the talking in unison with everybody saying vows and statements of belief. I hate it when people do that in unison. It is so creepy.

  • Stephen

    The bishops’ intentions are right, but they are incorrect in stating that homosexuality is compatible with Christianity. Homosexuality is as incompatible, according to their bible, as shellfish, collecting sticks on Sunday and letting your son smart-mouth you without stoning him.

  • Richard Wade

    Perhaps I’m being cynical, but I’m not going to assume that the petitioners have had a sincere change of heart about how they’ve treated GLBT people. No, I think they’re looking at over forty years of the UMC hemorrhaging membership in the U.S and U.K., and they realize their bigotry is one of the main reasons that young people are leaving.

    “This circumvents our way of handling difficult issues,” Hayes said. “I am very disappointed the bishops chose this way to make their opinions known.”

    Your way of handling difficult issues has been to ignore them and to disparage or punish anyone who urges you to change. Better get into the tub while you finish your exsanguination. You’re making a mess on the carpet, and it will be harder to sell the building.

  • Silent Service

    I know at least one minister who left to join the Episcopal to get away from the overt bigotry. I can’t quite get her to see the silliness of going from one church to another, but then, she is a minister and kind of has a lot invested in her faith.

  • Claudia

    Maybe I’m being too cynical, but this reminds me greatly of retired Republican politicians who suddenly become in favor of gay marriage. Yeah that’s swell guys, but maybe you could have said something whe you were in an actual position of authority.

    I mean yes, this is nice and all, but I’ll be more impressed when people who have something on the line, like current bishops, speak out.

  • walkamungus

    Richard is pretty much right-on: The document basically says, “We see people leaving the church, or being unwilling to join the church, because we’ve been acting like total asshats to and about gay people. So maybe we should quit acting like asshats. Just sayin’.” Baby steps. At least they put it out there where it couldn’t get tucked in the circular file.

  • anon

    Call me cynical, but maybe the bishops are only speaking out after retirement because they now they can’t be fired from their posts.

  • Drew M.

    Yeah, I’d be more impressed if there were some non-retired bishops on that document.

  • Kimpatsu

    A number of retired United Methodist bishops are urging the United Methodist Church to change it’s anti-gay stance and accept gay people as they are.

    Hemant! Apostrophe abuse alert!

  • http://neosnowqueen.wordpress.com/ neosnowqueen

    There actually IS a process in the United Methodist Church to amend the Book of Discipline, which is basically “The Book of How We Do Things and Why.” I’m not certain, but it may be an annual process. At the most, every few years.

    The bishop is probably pissed that they’re not doing it by the proper in-house political process, through petition to amend. This is the equivalent of complaining about other people’s votes in a public forum and not voting yourself. They’re raising their objections when they’re safe from any reprisals, but when they also can’t do anything but talk.

    Then again, he’s probably pissed at all the UMC ministers who ARE doing it by the proper in-house political process. Uppity liberal ministers without a pulse on the sentiment of their congregations…. Besides, if they felt their words were welcome and their positions secure if they expressed these opinions, they wouldn’t have to wait until they’re retired.

  • Lion IRC

    Retired Methodist Bishops Urge Church To Reconsider Stance on Homosexuality, Coveting, Idol Worship, Adultery………

    If respecting another persons “lifestyle choice” is so important then I assert my right to a lifestyle based on God’s Law.

    • Bruce

      What a bunch of crap you are spreading.  God’s word is clear.  Who is the moron that started this anti-Bible idea?

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant Mehta

    Hemant! Apostrophe abuse alert!

    Fixed! Thanks :)

  • Samiimas

    I’m glad churches are changing their minds about homosexuality, but think every single one of these churches should remind all of their members that they can never, ever, make any sort of claim that the Bible and it’s rule are in any way objective, infallible or unchanging, since we all just watched them change a rule.

    I know it’s not gonna happen though. They’re gonna be given a free pass to whitewash history and we’re still gonna have to listen to lectures about how are morals are worthless because they change whenever enough of us want them to change.

  • nankay

    neosnowqueen is right. The next big conference where there’s a chance to change The Great Big Book of Everything is in the spring of 2012. The issue is brought up regularly and regularly voted down.

  • Erp

    The Presbyterian Church USA is voting on the issue right now, presbytery by presbytery (173 of them). So far it is 37 to 30 in favor of repealing the current situation of no out gays allowed in the ministry.

    Also though in the US retired bishops might suffer no major repercussions, retired Bishop Christopher Senyonjo of the Ugandan Anglican Church was stripped of his pension and privileges when he suggested that persecuting gays should stop (he also had to temporarily flee the country).

    United Methodists are a big deal as they are the largest mainline Protestant denomination in the US and the third largest denomination in the country (after the Catholic Church and Southern Baptists). However it also has a large number of non-US members, many of them in very conservative places (and a fair number of their members in the US are immigrants from those countries) so I don’t see church policy changing soon.

  • http://www.spiritualatheist.co.uk SpiritualAtheist

    Surely, the problem with this it that it’s again trying to change the basis of the religion.

    The church, and the bible are quite clear on homosexuality, and if the church did allow it it would just be another example of them ignoring the parts of their belief that have gone out of fashion.

    Don’t get me wrong, I would love the church to change it’s policy and to accept homosexuality, but don’t pretend that it’s what God want’s people to do. Just admit that parts of your faith are wrong!

  • joe-bob

    I agree with everyone who said this is a nice, wonderful, touching outreach to the gay community by these bishops.

    That being said, it is also pathetic. The retired bishops are the ones stepping forward. Please note the word retired. I am so sick of people who come forward after they have spent years doing nothing while in positions of power and then decide to speak up once they are out of office. These people are nothing but moral cowards. They wait until they are safe from all retribution before coming forward. Rosa Parks risked jail time, MLK did go to jail, Muhammed Ali lost years of his boxing career because of his pacifism, ghandi risked severe abuse in opposing the British, and on the list continues. Those are examples of real moral courage and leadership. I’m still waiting to see that today.

  • jeff

    i agree with you all who said that it would be much more impressive if current bishops would speak up for equality. the active bishops seem to believe their job is to prevent schism. the only way to do that is to keep things the way they are until the current antichange folks are dead. that could take a while!


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