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
Theology and Education
Africa University graduates show off their diplomas during ceremonies June 11 at the United Methodist university. The 28th graduation class included 712 students from 18 countries across Africa. Photo courtesy of Africa University.

Africa University celebrates its 28th commencement

Graduating class includes 712 students from 18 countries across Africa.
Theology and Education
The Rev. Julio Andre Vilanculos (center) stands with Bishop Joaquina Filipe Nhanala (right) and the Rev. Jamisse Taimo (left) during his inauguration as rector of the United Methodist University of Mozambique in Cambine, in 2018. Vilanculos graduated from Africa University in 2009 with a degree in theology and a masters in arts and religious studies. File photo by Francisco Cumbe.

Africa University graduates share their gifts

AU alumni are making a difference in many fields and sharing their blessings with The United Methodist Church in Mozambique.
General Church
A diverse group of bishops and other United Methodist leaders gather for a group photo in 2019 after reaching agreement on a proposal that would maintain The United Methodist Church but allow traditionalist congregations to separate into a new denomination. More than a quarter of that team have now rescinded their support for the agreement in its entirety, saying it no longer offers an adequate path forward for The United Methodist Church. Photo courtesy of the Protocol Mediation Team.

Protocol’s day has passed, some negotiators say

Based on discussions with General Conference delegates and other United Methodists, five of the 16 leaders who negotiated a denominational separation agreement say they “can no longer, in good faith, support” the proposal.