Bishops stress commitment to unity, moving church forward
Sept. 9, 2005
|A UMNS photo by Dawn Hand
More than 550 people attended the "Hearts On Fire" convocation Sept. 2-5.
By Kevin Rippin*
LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C.
(UMNS) — Seven United Methodist bishops from across the United States
discussed issues surrounding leadership, dialogue, homosexuality and
other topics during a forum at a controversial church caucus event.
bishops emphasized their intention to work for unity in the church.
During a panel discussion, they were asked how they should deal with
divisions in their own ranks.
this (most recent) class of bishops, we will be bishops of the whole
church,” said Bishop John Schol of the Washington (D.C.) Area. “We are
here (at this event) because we are truly committed to working
important) to be part of a group to move the church forward and commit …
to model how we live in community,” said Minnesota Bishop Sally Dyck,
who led the panel discussion.
More than 550 people
attended “Hearts On Fire,” the 8th National Reconciling Convocation
event, held Sept. 2-5 by the Reconciling Ministries Network. The
unofficial United Methodist caucus is, according to its own mission
statement, “a national grass-roots organization that exists to enable
full participation of people of all sexual orientations and gender
identities” in the life of the church.
Some Christian and
United Methodist organizations had objected to Reconciling Ministries’
use of the Lake Junaluska facility, “a United Methodist retreat and
conference center” because of the group’s position on homosexuality.
Those attending the gathering were met at the lake’s entrances by heavy
security and protesters, including the White Knights of the Ku Klux
Bishops participating in a Sept. 3 plenary were Minerva Carcaño, leader
of the church’s Phoenix Area; Sally Dyck, Minnesota Area; Scott Jones,
Kansas Area; Susan Morrison, Albany (N.Y.) Area; John Schol, Washington
Area; Melvin Talbert, retired bishop and executive director of Black
Methodists for Church Renewal; and Richard Wilke, retired.
|A UMNS photo by Bilha Alegria
collection of stoles, given by clergy in protest of the United
Methodist Church’s exclusion of "self-avowed practicing" gays from the
ministry, lines the hallway at the “Hearts On Fire” convocation.
kicked off the first segment of the plenary by exploring the Jerusalem
Conference, described in Acts 15, as a model for Christian discernment
and dialogue. He stated that, according to Scripture, controversy has
always been a part of the church.
held mock dialogues with Peter, Paul and Luke as if they were
contemporaries, and asked how they might deal with today’s controversies
in the church, including the homosexuality issue. With each voice
rendered, Wilke uncovered the points of view of the early church
personalities that mirrored the voices in the church today. He pointed
out the infighting among Paul, James, Barnabas, Peter and Luke concerned
law vs. its application, hypocrisy, Christian action and direction of
second segment of the plenary featured bishops on stage for questions
and answers. Dyck, moderator, asked if the bishops had words of hope
concerning the controversy.
“Don’t let anyone take your church away,” Talbert said. “It’s your church, too.”
Jones, Morrison and Carcaño said the controversy was a generational issue that time would solve.
“How do we stay together despite the divisions in our church?” Dyck asked.
Schol responded by saying, “One of our biggest fears is conflict. …
Affirm that there’s going to be conflict … and we can work through it.”
|A UMNS photo by Dawn Hand
United Methodist bishops from across the United States participate in a panel discussion.
Dyck followed up on that question by asking, “How do we pastor and relate to those we serve?”
responded: “There’s room for both reconciling and transforming
congregations. We have to consistently say that.” Transforming
Congregations is another church caucus that believes the practice of
homosexuality is a sin and that gays can be “transformed” through the
grace of Christ.
Dyck next asked about the prophetic role of the bishops in all matters that occur in the church.
“The prophetic role in this day and age is to remind us who we are. … It’s all about Christ,” Jones said.
took another angle: “I’m a child of the ‘60s in a 1940s job. I thought
(it might be possible) to dialogue in a leadership role.”
A listening post followed the panel discussion.
controversy surrounding the conference did not create security
problems, according to Buddy Young, director of residential services for
Lake Junaluska. Security was enforced for the Labor Day weekend. “We
had cooperation from the Sheriff's Department and state police and extra
security officers from our force. We did our best to maintain the
traffic coming in and out of the Lake and throughout the weekend, and we
had absolutely no problems.”
*Rippin is editor of the United Methodist Church’s North Carolina Christian Advocate
newspaper. Cintia Furtado, communications specialist with the church’s
Southeastern Jurisdiction, contributed information from Lake Junaluska
News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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