Coalition to Africa bishops: Let’s talk

A coalition of 13 official and unofficial United Methodist caucuses hope a letter responding to a statement from the African bishops opens a channel for working together— even as the church seems destined to butt heads over accepting or rejecting ministry with LGBTQ people.

“We must insist that peace is not going to come through ignoring the demands of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Christians for full inclusion in the church,” a letter from the Love Your Neighbor Coalition states in response to a letter written by the College of Africa Bishops in September 2015.

In “A statement on the state of global UMC and our common world,” the bishops said the Holy Bible and the church’s lawbook are “being grossly ignored” in “favor of social and cultural practices.”

The Rev. Steve Clunn, coordinator of Love Your Neighbor Coalition, said the Africa bishop’s letter “continues to surface as an influence around discussions on schism, something LYNC opposes.”

“We felt compelled to respond in a way that would hold the bishops accountable for their words and yet let them know we have great hopes for working together on the many issues that they raised,” he said.

The Africa bishops condemned global terrorism around the world and expressed hope that the denomination will draw attention to the “needless suffering and pain in our world.”

LYNC agreed and called on the church to not just raise voices of lament to the suffering but to bring together our best minds, “engaging our most fervent prayers, and utilizing our significant resources” to bring about peace.

Areas of disagreement

However, both groups sharply disagreed on how the church should view issues of human sexuality at the upcoming 2016 General Conference. The denomination’s top lawmaking body meets every four years to decide church policy. The 2016 Conference will be May 10-20 in Portland, Oregon.

The church has grappled with the issue since it declared in 1972 that all people are of sacred worth but “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”

As more nations, including the United States, have legalized same-gender civil marriage, the debates have intensified. However, homosexuality is illegal in 38 African countries.

“We submit to the teachings of Scripture that God designed marriage to be between man and woman, and the procreation of children is a blessing from God,” the bishops’ statement said. It was signed by the 13 active bishops and one retired bishop from the Africa College of Bishops.

“The Christian marriage covenant is holy, sacred, and consecrated by God and is expressed in shared fidelity between one man and one woman for life. In this vein, we denounce all forms of sexual exploitation, including fornication, adultery, sexual commercialization, slavery, abuse, polygamy, etc.”

Love Your Neighbor Coalition includes the church’s five ethnic caucuses –Black Methodists for Church Renewal, MARCHA (Methodists Associated Representing the Cause of Hispanic Americans), Native American International Caucus, National Federation of Asian American United Methodists and Pacific Islanders Caucus of United Methodists — as well as some unofficial United Methodist groups. It was formed in 2011 before the 2012 General Conference to tackle issues from full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer people to working for racial justice and equality.

“The real issue that confronts us in our battles about human sexuality is not the existence of diversity in belief and practice, but the mean-spirited way that those who advocate for change in the church’s traditional position have been treated,” reads part of the coalition’s letter.

Gilbert is a multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News Service. Contact her at (615) 742-5470 or [email protected]


Like what you're reading? Support the ministry of UM News! Your support ensures the latest denominational news, dynamic stories and informative articles will continue to connect our global community. Make a tax-deductible donation at ResourceUMC.org/GiveUMCom.

Sign up for our newsletter!

UMNEWS-SUBSCRIPTION
General Church
Northwest Texas Conference voters pray for the conference’s 14-member transition team appointed by Bishop W. Earl Bledsoe to educate voters about their options under a proposed plan of denominational separation heading to the coming General Conference. During the Aug. 13-14 Northwest Texas Annual Conference meeting in Lubbock, Texas, voters signaled their hope for the conference to move to a new denomination under the plan. Photo courtesy of the Northwest Texas Conference.

Conference signals its plans post-separation

The Northwest Texas Conference passed a nonbinding resolution indicating aspirations to join a new traditionalist Methodist church under a proposed protocol for separation.
General Church
As organizers of the United Methodist General Conference look to the possibility of an in-person session in 2022, the new strain presents new challenges. Coronavirus image courtesy of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; graphic by Laurens Glass, UM News.

Virus bedevils General Conference planning

After two postponements, organizers continue working to hold the United Methodist lawmaking assembly next year. However, the delta variant presents new challenges.
Bishops
With increased giving and reduced expenses, the Episcopal Fund that supports bishops’ work is in better shape. The General Council on Finance and Administration board voted to give bishops their first raise in three years, but the board still sees challenges ahead for the fund. General Council on Finance and Administration episcopal services department graphic, courtesy of GCFA.

Funding for bishops improves but still shaky

With increased giving and cost savings from retirements, the fund that supports United Methodist bishops is in better shape. Financial leaders approved the bishops’ first raise in three years.