United Methodist bishops keep Episcopalians in prayer
11/5/2003 News media contact: Tim Tanton · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn.
photos of Bishops Ruediger Minor, William Oden, Susan Hassinger and
Lindsey Davis are available at
By Tim Tanton*WASHINGTON
(UMNS)---United Methodist leaders say they are watching and praying for
their brothers and sisters in the Episcopal Church, where talk of
schism is increasing following the installation of that denomination's
first openly gay bishop.WASHINGTON (UMNS)---United Methodist leaders say
they are watching and praying for their brothers and sisters in the
Episcopal Church, where talk of schism is increasing following the
installation of that denomination's first openly gay bishop.
see no immediate implications for the United Methodist Church," said
Bishop Ruediger Minor, president of the United Methodist Council of
Bishops. Minor leads the denomination's Eurasia Area, with offices in
The Anglican communion is different from the United
Methodist connection, Minor said, noting that Anglican dioceses are more
independent from one another. "I see little effect on United Methodism
because of the completely different form of church government polity."
and others attending the Nov. 2-7 meeting of the United Methodist
Council of Bishops said they are praying for the Episcopalians. Bishop
Lindsey Davis of the North Georgia Area said the situation was a prayer
concern for his covenant group, which gathers each morning before the
bishops begin their general meeting.
The Episcopal Church
consecrated V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire on Nov. 2,
intensifying the controversy that began when he became his
denomination's first openly gay candidate for the post. Anglican leaders
from other countries, along with conservative Episcopal Church leaders
in the United States, warned that the consecration could cause a split
with the U.S. branch of Anglicanism.
United Methodist Bishop
Susan Hassinger, who leads her denomination's New England Area, was
among the ecumenical guests at Robinson's consecration ceremony. She
said it was important for her to attend since Robinson would be a
colleague in one of the five states that she oversees. She also said
that her attendance was a way of showing respect for another
denomination's polity. She drew a parallel by noting that although the
Roman Catholic Church doesn't recognize her as a bishop, individual
Roman Catholics have addressed her as bishop out of respect for United
At the service, Robinson acknowledged that many
in his church were pained over his election, Hassinger said. While
trusting that people wouldn't leave the church, Robinson said those who
did would be welcomed back as brothers and sisters in Christ. He also
said the church had an opportunity to show that it is a loving
fellowship by welcoming all God's children, according to Hassinger.
"I found it to be a very gracious statement in the midst of a difficult situation," she said.
United Methodist and Episcopal churches have shared roots - the
Methodist movement was founded by Anglican clergyman John Wesley in the
18th century - and the denominations are engaged in ongoing dialogue.
Bishop William Oden of Dallas leads the United Methodist Church's team
in those talks.
"I am in touch with the Episcopal Church
ecumenical office, which staffs the discussion," he said. "There is a
tremendous amount of pain that is going on right now in the Episcopal
Church, and we simply are having a prayerful wait-and-see attitude."
noted that some members of the Episcopal Church's dialogue team
resigned and were replaced. The next dialogue meeting will be in January
at United Methodist-related Perkins School of Theology in Dallas. "We
anticipate the dialogue will go forward," he said.
Oden added that discussions are under way for a joint meeting of the Episcopal and United Methodist bishops in 2005.
have drawn comparisons between the Episcopal Church and other mainline
Protestant denominations dealing with issues related to homosexuality.
an issue all mainline churches have been struggling with and each has
been trying to be faithful to Christian love, to Christian tradition and
its form of church polity," Minor said.
In its Book of
Discipline, the United Methodist Church states that homosexuals are
people of sacred worth, but it declares the practice of homosexuality
incompatible with Christian teaching. The book forbids the ordination
and appointment of self-avowed practicing homosexuals.
doesn't see the Episcopal Church's experience as instructive for United
Methodists. "The polity of the Episcopal Church is quite different than
ours, so I don't know that we'll learn much from their experience. I
think that issue, however, might make our discussions more intense, if
The United Methodist Church's top legislative assembly, the General Conference, meets April 27-May 7 in Pittsburgh.
crisis in the Episcopal Church won't have an impact on legislation
before General Conference, but it could affect the spirit of the
assembly, according to the Rev. Bruce Robbins, top staff executive of
the United Methodist Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious
"How people relate to one another across the chasms of
difference are very important," he said. United Methodists can learn
from the graceful way in which the Episcopalians have responded to the
conflict, he said.
The church has been sensitive and responsive, Robbins said. "I believe that grace has worked through the (Episcopal) church."
# # #
*Tanton is United Methodist News Service's managing editor.
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