Methodists Reject Ordination of Gays: But Bishops Don't Criticize Dissenters

By Witham, Larry | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 24, 1996 | Go to article overview

Methodists Reject Ordination of Gays: But Bishops Don't Criticize Dissenters


Witham, Larry, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


DENVER - The United Methodist bishops yesterday upheld the church's traditional norms on sexual behavior, though they refrained from criticizing 15 members who publicly endorsed the ordination of homosexuals.

In a statement to the General Conference, the 67 bishops said they "have been talking with one another in a new spirit of honesty and openness that is both painful and hopeful." They told the 1,000 delegates at the quadrennial meeting that the church's Book of Discipline is the church's standard and carries more authority than a bishop's opinion.

The Book of Discipline bans "self-avowed practicing homosexuals" from ordination. It says homosexual behavior is "incompatible with Christian teaching."

"Once the church has spoken, then as bishops our responsibility is to uphold what the church has spoken," Bishop Woodie White, president of the bishops, said at a news conference. "Once the General Conference has said what the church's position is on homosexuality, then the bishops will teach it and speak it." The 15 bishops had said April 16 that it was "time to break the silence and state where we are on this issue." That meant they were going to urge ordination of homosexuals but counsel against breaking church rules. Many of the bishops were from the West, but they included Joseph H. Yeakel of the District.

On the ordination of homosexuals, the Good News evangelical caucus, speaking for conservative United Methodists, said the Council of Bishops' statement was timid and "reflects an abdication of leadership."

The caucus also said the statement tried to preserve the "myth" that the bishops are united on the subject.

"The statement of the 15 bishops is not going to be popular in the Southeast churches," said the Rev. James Logan, a member of the Virginia delegation and professor at Wesley Theological Seminary.

He said the quadrennial, which is reviewing 3,000 petitions to improve the life of the church, is the voice of 1,000 delegates - half laity and half clergy. Rather than focus on the bishops' controversy, Mr. Logan said, "I would recommend the churches pay attention to the legislation."

The Southeast jurisdiction, with 2.9 million members, is the largest in the 8.6-million-member Methodist denomination. Next largest is South Central, with 1.8 million members. The church has 485,000 members west of the Rocky Mountains.

In legislative business yesterday, the conference approved a new framework to try to simplify church organization. It also voted to reduce the number of governing members in the 13 churchwide agencies from 950 to 630 over the next four years. …

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