As reported in last month’s e-news, a group of 33 retired United Methodist bishops sent a “Statement of Counsel” to the Council of Bishops of the UMC. In a formal statement, the Methodist Federation for Social Action “applauds the leadership, courage, compassion and faithfulness of those Bishops who have and will lend their names to the ‘Statement of the Counsel to the Church – 2011!’“ Through this Statement, the Bishops are asking us to change the way we relate to people who are gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered. Many if not all of these retired Bishops who signed the Statement are great friends of MFSA. Cliff Ives is the immediate past Co-President, and Joe Wilson is an active participant in the Central Texas chapter in Georgetown.
The beginning of the Statement reads as follows. The entire Statement can be read here.
Out of concern for the welfare of all God’s people, and, out of special concern for the people of The United Methodist Church, we, United Methodist Bishops – retired, 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
In February, the “Confessing Movement” issued a rebuttal to the retired Bishops’ Statement, refuting it in its entirety. (The Renewal and Reform Coalition: The Confessing Movement within The United Methodist Church, Good News, Lifewatch, RENEW, Transforming Congregations) These groups are associated with the well-funded Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) and are intent on stifling movement toward progressive ideas, such as inclusion and social justice. Refer to United Methodism @ Risk, 2003, by Leon Howell.
Immediately after the Confessing Movement issued their rebuttal, Rev. Wesley White (Mequon, Wisconsin) provided a progressive response to the religious right’s assertions. You can read both the arguments here.
This is an issue that is certain to be a focus of our time and energy between now and Tampa (General Conference 2012). Stay tuned.