Magazine article The Christian Century

UMC Bishops Split on Ordaining Gays

Magazine article The Christian Century

UMC Bishops Split on Ordaining Gays

Article excerpt

Declaring that it is "time to break the silence," 15 United Methodist bishops have called on their 8.6-million-member denomination to allow the ordaining of homosexuals to the ministry. But the dissenting bishops pledged that they would not commit ecclesiastical disobedience by ordaining gays and would uphold current church law.

That law declares active homosexuality "incompatible with Christian teaching" and bars self-avowed, practicing gays from the ranks of the clergy. It also bans the giving of church money to any "gay caucus or group" and forbids church money to be used to "promote the acceptance of homosexuality." In the secular arena, however, the UMC has supported laws aimed at protecting gays' civil and human rights.

William Hinson of Houston, pastor of the UMC's largest congregation, said he was dismayed that "the conscience of 15 of our bishops will not affirm the doctrine and discipline of our church." Asserting that these bishops not only have broken their silence, but much, much more," Hinson pleaded with the other bishops to "break their silence" and tell the General Conference delegates "in a clear and convincing way' that they support the standards of the scriptures, the Discipline, church laws and majority rule.

The statement, signed by 11 active and four retired bishops, was issued April 18, the third day of the denomination's General Conference, which was meeting in Denver. The General Conference is the church's top policymaking body and meets every four years. "We believe it is time to break the silence and state where we are on this issue that is hurting and silencing countless faithful Christians," the statement by the 15 bishops declared. "We will continue our responsibility to the order and discipline of the church but urge United Methodist churches to open the doors in gracious hospitality to all brothers and sisters in the faith," it added.

The dissenting bishops said they affirmed "the commitment made at our consecration to the vows to uphold the Discipline [church law] of our church. However, we must confess the pain we feel over our personal convictions that are contradicted by proscriptions in the Discipline against gay and lesbian persons within our church and within our ordained and diaconal ministers. …

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