February 8, 2011
Last week, 33 retired United Methodist bishops released a statement in which they "counsel and call" for the removal of this paragraph 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
We believe it is a serious matter for a group of retired bishops to communicate to the church their disagreement with the established doctrine of the church. Therefore, we are prompted to write this joint letter to the people of the Holston Conference. We want to make it clear that we respect the right of people of good conscience to disagree with the positions of The United Methodist Church. However, we assure you that we are committed to faithfully upholding The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church. We also remind you that the only body with authority to change church position is the General Conference. In response to the 33 retired bishops, the Executive Committee of the Council of Bishops has stated the following:
“The Council of Bishops remains committed to leading the church in our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Such transformation includes increasing the capacity of church and culture to engage in thoughtful, prayerful dialogue about sensitive and challenging issues, and to make decisions that grow out of that thought, prayer, and reflection. We call this Holy Conferencing. We are committed to embody this in our own life as a council and lead the church in doing the same. We are further committed to living within the covenant defined by our Book of Discipline and fully understand that it is the General Conference that reexamines that covenant every four years and has the responsibility to define our covenant for the next four years.”
We stand in solidarity with this Council of Bishops statement. We believe it to be a faithful response to the issue currently before us. We believe the best years of this great church are not behind us but ahead of us and the Holy Spirit still leads us forward. We call upon the people of Holston, both lay and clergy, to join us in praying for the Council of Bishops as they seek to lead our church through a renewal that the wind of the Holy Spirit is blowing into existence.
Yours in Christ,
JAMES E. SWANSON, SR.
Resident Bishop of the Holston Annual Conference
MARY RUTH RICHARDS
Holston Annual Conference Lay Leader
- What is the denomination's position on homosexuality? (UMC.org)