Conference pleads with bishops for leadership

Delegates asked the Council of Bishops to lead the church out of the “painful condition” it is in after an address by Bishop Bruce Ough that called for unity but did not address full inclusion of LGBTQ people.

The Rev. Mark Holland, a delegate from Great Plains, said the May 17 call for unity did not provide a path forward. He asked the Council of Bishops to meet today and bring back a report tomorrow. His motion passed 428-364.

The bishops do not have a vote at General Conference, but they can call for a special session of the General Conference.

“This morning, Bishop Ough said that at General Conference, the role of the bishop was to preside,” said the Rev. Tom Berlin, Virginia Conference. “Quite frankly, bishop, we think it’s your role to lead. We are asking for your leadership.”

As delegates returned to the plenary, a large group of LGBTQ supporters were singing, “Blest Be the Tie that Binds,” as they held up hands bound in rainbow stoles while others were bound hand and foot on the floor. The initials stand for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning or queer. 

“You have the right to call a special General Conference to focus on this particular issue of how do we reorder our life so that we have a chance to move forward, whatever that looks like,” said the Rev. Adam Hamilton, Great Plains Conference.

The Rev. Jerry Kulah, Liberia Conference, speaking against the referral, said, “I would like for us to follow the rules and not compromise the integrity of our General Conference.”

Hamilton pleaded with the bishops to help.

“We are in a stuck place at this General Conference. We in theory could find ourselves leaving on Friday still stuck and wounded.

“I’m pleading with you. Please help us.”

The bishops responded to the pleas, beginning closed-door meetings at 4 p.m. PDT that after a dinner break they expected to last long into the evening. 

"There have been some wonderfully meaningful conversations where people are sharing at a very deep level their hopes and yearnings for the church," Ohio West Area Bishop Gregory Palmer told United Methodist News Service. "There is biblical and theological reflection. There is historical reflection, and there is some practical dreaming. We got here in an interesting way, but I've been inspired by the depth of the yearning that we be one." 

Los Angeles Area Bishop Minerva Carcaño, after the dinner break, told UMNS that she and other bishops consider the delegates' invitation "a gift."

"None of us can remember a previous General Conference that asked for the advice of the Council of Bishops," she said.

Earlier in the day, she and 27 other bishops joined in signing "A Pastoral Response" to the more than 100 United Methodist clergy and clergy candidates who have come out as LGBTQ

Hodges and Gilbert are United Methodist News Service reporters. Heather Hahn also contributed to this story. Contact them at [email protected].

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