|Bishop urges leadership on homosexuality issue|
By Linda Green*
May 8, 2007 | SPRINGMAID BEACH, S.C. (UMNS)
A retired United Methodist bishop told colleagues that any plan that
could address the issue of homosexuality in the denomination would "be
superior to prudent silence."
Bishop Jack Tuell
Bishop Jack Tuell of Des Moines, Wash., urged the Council of Bishops
to exercise leadership on the divisive and emotionally charged issue.
Tuell offered his comments to the council May 3 after an episcopal
committee voted to table a recommendation to change the church's stance
on homosexuality. The denomination's Book of Discipline says the
church "does not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider(s)
this practice incompatible with Christian teaching."
A council subcommittee had recommended replacing that proscription
with language that the church does not condone sexual relationships
between people of heterosexual or homosexual orientation "outside the
bonds of a faithful, loving and committed relationship between two
persons; marriage, where legally possible."
But the full administrative committee voted May 1 to table the
recommendation, and it never formally went before the Council of
Had the council approved the recommendation to amend Paragraph 161G of the Book of Discipline,
the proposal would have gone before a legislative committee of the 2008
General Conference for action before being considered by the 1,000
worldwide delegates at the April 23-May 2, 2008, gathering in Fort
Worth, Texas. The General Conference is the only entity that speaks for
The United Methodist Church.
The bishops - 68 active and 59 retired - gathered outside Myrtle
Beach April 29-May 4 for their semi-annual meeting to focus on their
role in the growing denomination and the nature of the church. Among
other things, they explored the possibility of ending lifetime terms for
bishops and limiting them instead to either eight or 12 years, with an
option for re-election. Currently, upon retirement, bishops retain voice
but no vote on the council.
Oklahoma Bishop Robert Hayes, who is secretary of the administrative
committee, said advancing the recommendation on homosexuality would have
"proven to be divisive and counterproductive to the unity that
currently exists in the Council of Bishops and to the church today."
Bishop Robert Hayes
He said the committee discussed the proposal at length, but did not
act "because it would not have been for the betterment of the church at
Tuell told the bishops and guests that while he understood and
respected the committee's action, he believed the Council of Bishops
should give leadership to the church on the debate. He said there should
be a better way to "express the mind of our United Methodist church
than the language we have at present."
The proposal states disapproval of sex between unmarried people,
"whether practiced by heterosexual persons or homosexual persons," and
says the denomination's incompatibility clause, adopted in 1972, "is
based on highly questionable theology and biblical understanding and
causes profound hurt to thousands of loyal United Methodist members and
Tuell said the council is "somewhat immobilized these days on some of
these issues that are really facing our church that are big issues" and
hoped "we will find the ways more intentionally to be about the
business of giving leadership in this area."
While acknowledging that he did not have suggestions on the "right
way to give leadership," Tuell said he believes "that almost any
thoughtful plan of leadership would be superior to prudent silence."
Following Tuell's comments, the bishops moved without comment to other issues.
*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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