Bishops: Be respectful in difficult times

Bishops pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance during worship Nov. 8 at the Council of Bishops meeting at Lake Junaluska, N.C. Photo by Heather Hahn, UMNS.
Bishops pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance during worship Nov. 8 at the Council of Bishops meeting at Lake Junaluska, N.C. Photo by Heather Hahn, UMNS.

As the denomination faces an uncertain future, bishops urge their fellow United Methodists to address their differences with respectful conversations.

“We are hearing of and observing angry words now escalating to actions that are resulting in fear, anxiety, loss of security and even physical harm,” said the bishops in a letter signed by Bishop Bruce R. Ough, Council of Bishops president. “These actions are repugnant to us as your bishops.”

Instead, the bishops call on church members to heed the advice of Ephesians 4:1-3: “Live as people worthy of the call you received from God. Conduct yourselves with all humility, gentleness and patience. Accept each other with love, and make an effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties you together.”

Bishop Gregory V. Palmer, who leads the West Ohio Conference, told fellow episcopal leaders that the letter responds to growing animosity and acrimony they are witnessing both in civil and church life.

Recent U.S. polls have shown continuing political polarization around immigration, sexuality and race. Other nations with a strong United Methodist presence, including Liberia and the Philippines, are contending with their own charged political debates. Countries around the globe are also dealing with record-level migration as people flee violence, poverty and environmental degradation in their home countries.  

Subscribe to our e-newsletter

Like what you're reading and want to see more? Sign up for our free daily and weekly digests of important news and events in the life of The United Methodist Church.

Keep me informed!

United Methodist leaders are trying to speak to all these challenges and welcome new neighbors, even as they cope with differing views within the denomination.

Palmer said he has heard that in a few cases, people even have disrupted worship services to expound on what direction they believe The United Methodist Church should take on homosexuality and immigration. “And they are not even members of those congregations,” he added.

The letter comes as United Methodist leaders are discussing how the church might stay together amid deep differences on how the church should include LGBTQ individuals. The bishops have appointed the 32-member Commission on a Way Forward to find a way through the impasse and spent much of their fall meeting in closed session discussing the group’s recommendations.

The bishops’ letter said the episcopal leaders renew their commitment “to do no harm, do good and stay in love with God.”

“We renew this covenant within the Council of Bishops to engage in holy conversation and Christ-like behavior especially when we do not agree with one another,” the letter said. “We call upon all United Methodists, even in the midst of disagreement and uncertainty about our future as a church, to do the same, and to love each other as Christ loved us.”

Hahn is a multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News Service. Contact her at (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.orgTo read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests.

Sign up for our newsletter!


Latest News

General Church
Central conference delegates to the 2019 United Methodist General Conference gather for a pre-conference meeting in Carlinville, Ill. The gathering was organized by the Africa Initiative and many of the delegates at the gathering expressed support for the Modified Traditional Plan at The United Methodist Church’s special called session of General Conference, which begins Feb. 23.

Africa Initiative gathers delegates before GC2019

Many central conference delegates at an Africa Initiative gathering expressed support for the plan that maintains the church's stance on LGBTQ people and toughens enforcement.
Mission and Ministry
Children maneuver trucks on one of the new play areas at Hanwa Mission School in Macheke, Zimbabwe. The playground and a state-of-the-art early childhood development center were built through a partnership between the Zimbabwe Episcopal Area and Volunteers in Mission from the Baltimore-Washington Conference. Photo by Kudzai Chingwe, UMNS.

Providing early education in rural Zimbabwe

Baltimore-Washington mission team, Zimbabwe Episcopal Area open state-of-the-art early childhood development center and playground at Hanwa Mission School.
Central Conferences
Women work in a rice field as part of a farming project in the Côte d’Ivoire Episcopal Area. The project is supported by UMCOR and encouraged by Bishop Benjamin Boni.  Photo courtesy Yves Dirabou.

Church in Côte d’Ivoire focuses on farming, food security

Bishop Benjamin Boni and Côte d’Ivoire Episcopal Area take holistic approach to agriculture involving women and youths.