Service of Hope seeks to ease pain of homosexuality debate

On a cold and rainy Sunday afternoon, more than 200 people gathered at First United Methodist Church to offer prayers for the church as it struggles with the issue of homosexuality.

Beneath the beautiful lantern ceiling and ring of glass angels in the 1895 sanctuary, retired Bishops Richard Wilke and George Bashore reminded participants that Jesus Christ commands us all to love one another.

"We need to work side by side, loving each other, perhaps then the miracle of understanding will emerge," Bashore said at the May 2 service.

Wilke gave a sweep of the history of the United States from the 1930s to the present time to illustrate how much has changed.

In the 1930s, all the preachers were men; in the ’40s and ’50s, all the people attending seminary were white; in the ’80s, people started "coming out of the closet," he said.

"At the 1984 General Conference, I supported a petition on ‘fidelity in marriage and celibacy in singleness.’ I have had a lot of different opinions in my life."

Since that time, Wilke said he has spent time talking to homosexuals, psychotherapists and others, and "I have learned it is not good to live alone."

"He spoke of a letter he received from a member of one of his congregations that expressed the pain and suffering of a Christian gay person.

"Why would anyone choose to live a life that leads to such abuse?" the man asked in the letter.

Bashore said he is not cheering this 2004 General Conference.

"We are divided. There is no shalom and there can be no fulfillment until all are fulfilled," he said.

Bashore said the world needs to see an alternative to violence. "The world needs to know we love, we bless and we do not curse each other."

Bishops William Morris and Mary Ann Swenson led the service in liturgy and communion.

The Western Pennsylvania task team on homosexuality and unity of the United Methodist Church organized the Service of Hope. The team of about a dozen church members formed three years ago when legislation on homosexuality was before the annual conference.

"We decided we needed to find a way to stop the hatred and talk to one another," said the Rev. David Keller, pastor at First United Methodist Church.

*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer.

News media contact: (412) 325-6080 during General Conference, April 27-May 7.
After May 10: (615) 742-5470.

Radio Stories


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
Judicial Council
The Book of Discipline contains the rules that guide The United Methodist Church. The Judicial Council — the denomination’s top court — faces multiple questions related to a new Disciplinary provision that allows congregations to disaffiliate with property under certain conditions. Photo by Mike DuBose, UM News.

Judicial Council to review church-exit rules

The United Methodist Church’s top court faces multiple questions related to the deadline for General Conference legislation and a new law allowing congregations to exit with property.
General Conference
At a Nov. 18 online meeting, the Commission on the General Conference and staff pressed forward with planning for the postponed legislative assembly. After the coronavirus has twice altered their plans, commission members expect to make a final decision in the first quarter of next year on whether General Conference can take place as scheduled Aug. 29-Sept. 6 in Minneapolis. UM News screenshot via Zoom.

Setting criteria for a 2022 General Conference

Organizers named the values that will guide their decision on whether the denomination’s legislative assembly goes forward as scheduled.
Connectional Table
Nordic-Baltic Area Bishop Christian Alsted preaches during the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore. The Connectional Table chair gave the opening devotion during the leadership body’s online meeting Nov. 17. File photo by Paul Jeffrey, UM News.

Connectional Table aims to restructure

The United Methodist leadership body that coordinates denomination-wide ministries is looking to shrink its size and become more global in membership.