In the midst of a long-standing debate on LGBT issues, eight current and former bishops of the United Methodist Church have signed a statement calling for a “new form of unity” after years of discord, according to the Christian Post.
“The events transpiring since the adjournment of the Special Session of General Conference illustrate how deep our division is,” the statement said. “Sadly, even greater discord, chaos and fighting loom on the horizon at the 2020 General Conference in Minneapolis.
“This is why we recognize our beloved United Methodist Church no longer can continue in our current form of unity. It is time to quit undermining our mission. It is time for the entire church to come together to figure out how to be the people called Methodists in a new way—to seek a new form of unity.”
The debate has focused largely on the teachings of the Book of Discipline which states that homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching.” In a 438-384 vote recently, delegates agreed to uphold the teaching. But an increasing number of bishops hope to create a more progressive Methodist denomination.
“It is time to end our conflict that undermines all our efforts to proclaim the Gospel,” the statement continued. “It is time to bless, support and free one another to be the church we feel God calls us to be.”
In 2020, delegates will discuss potentially splitting the denomination or allowing churches to decide their own stance on LGBT issues individually, known as the “One Church Plan.”
The Rev. Jeff Greenway, chairman of the Wesleyan Covenant Association, a conservative UMC advocacy group, said that he supports splitting the denomination.
“All the members of our council, both laity and clergy, have given years of service to The United Methodist Church; they have faithfully supported it with their talents, their time, and their service. So it was obviously a very hard and painful decision to conclude some form of separation is the only viable way forward given the great impasse that threatens the denomination and its local churches,” he said.
Bishops who signed the statement are Scott Jones, resident bishop of the Texas Conference; Mike Lowery, resident bishop of the Central Texas Conference; Mark Webb of the Upper New York Conference; and Eduard Khegay, resident bishop of the Moscow Area in the Northern Europe and Eurasia Central Conference.
Photo courtesy: Getty Images/Christian Ouellet