Another Watershed Moment?

posted on March 01, 2011

The Methodist Federation for Social Action applauds the leadership, courage, compassion and faithfulness of those Bishops who have and will lend their names to the “Statement of the Counsel to the Church – 2011!”  

Out of concern for the welfare of all God’s people, and, out of a special concern for the people of The United Methodist Church the Bishops are asking us to change the way we relate to people who are gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered.

•    Will this be a watershed moment as was May 4, 1956, in Minneapolis when the General Conference of the Methodist Church approved full clergy rights for women?

The Bishops are calling us all to consider a more loving and just path than we have been on and remove the language and practices of discrimination that dehumanize some among us as “incompatible.”

•    Will this be a watershed moment as was the 1968 General Conference, when the segregation of the Central Conference was abolished within our newly forming United Methodist Church? 

The Bishops are declaring their conviction that the current disciplinary position of the United Methodist Church need not and should not be embraced as the faithful position for the future.

•    Will this be a watershed moment as was the 1996 General Conference in Denver, when we stopped referring to persons with disabilities as being “handicapped?” 

The Bishops are making known their names to share their personal convictions on the matter of excluding gifted and called clergy from ordination, as a way to encourage others to do the same.

•    Will this be a watershed moment as was the “Denver 15” proclaimed, “We believe it is time to break the silence and state where we are on this issue that is hurting and silencing countless faithful Christians?”

The Methodist Federation for Social Action pledges to help our prophetic Bishops make this vision of hope for our denomination a reality with our prayers, our presence, our gifts and our service; that in all things God’s love and grace might be glorified and made known to all!

You can read the Bishops' statement here:

Bishops’ Statement of Counsel: January 31, 2011

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011 2:02 pm

On January 31, 2011, a group of retired bishops sent the following statement in an email letter to their retired colleague members of the Council of Bishops. It contains “A Statement of Counsel to the Church – 2011” signed by 33 of the retired bishops of the Council.  Later, 3 other bishops signed on.  Their names have been added to the list below.

Click here to read MFSA's response to the statement.

A Statement of Counsel to the Church – 2011

Out of concern for the welfare of all God's people, and, out of special concern for the people of The United Methodist Church, we, United Methodist Bishops – retired, believe The United Methodist Church should remove the following statement from The Book of Discipline (2008):

“…The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.” ¶304.3

Our lives and ministries over the years have included prayerful, thoughtful consideration of our Holy Bible, our Wesleyan heritage, reflection on our experience of the church and world, and our conviction of God’s intention for a world transformed.

With this statement of conviction and counsel we seek:

  • To affirm that the historic tests of “gifts and evidence of God’s grace” for ordained ministry override any past or present temporal restrictions such as race, gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.
  • To urge the Church, ecumenical and denominational, to change the manner in which it relates to gay, lesbian and transgendered persons in official statements, judicial proceedings, and in congregational life.
  • To declare our conviction that the current disciplinary position of The United Methodist Church, a part of our historical development, need not, and should not, be embraced as the faithful position for the future.
  • To make known our names and shared personal conviction on this matter and to encourage other church and Episcopal leaders to do the same.

With increasing frequency we observe and experience the following disturbing realities and know them to be detrimental to the mission of a Church of Jesus Christ:

  • Laity and clergy, gay and straight, withdrawing membership or absenting themselves from the support of congregational and denominational Church life in order to maintain personal integrity.
  • Young adults, especially, embarrassed to invite friends and expressing dismay at the unwillingness of our United Methodist Church to alter its 39-year exclusionary stance.
  • Closeted pastors, currently called and ordained in our church, living divided lives while offering effective appreciated ministry.
  • Bishops being drained of energy by upholding Church Discipline while regarding it as contrary to their convictions.
  • Bishops caught between care for the Church by reappointing an effective gay or lesbian pastor and care for the Discipline by charging them under current legislation.
  • Seminary leaders desiring greater flexibility and openness from the church in order to advance their mission of identifying, recruiting, enrolling, educating and spiritually forming Christian leaders
  • Christian gay men and women understanding themselves called of God to seek ministry opportunities within their United Methodist family Church home, but having to decide between:
    • leaving to go to accepting denominations, or
    • staying and praying for change, or
    • challenging Church law and accepting punitive actions.


Our United Methodist Church, ashamed and repentant in the past, ended official and unofficial restrictions on candidacy, ordination and appointment for reason of race, gender and ethnicity. We believe the God we know in Jesus is leading us to issue this counsel and call – a call to transform our church life and our world.

United Methodist Episcopal Leaders-Retired

  • Sharon Z. Rader
  • Donald A. Ott
  • Beverly Shamana
  • C. Joseph Sprague
  • Melvin G. Talbert
  • S. Clifton Ives
  • Joe A. Wilson
  • William Lewis
  • Forrest Stith
  • Susan Morrison
  • Susan Hassinger
  • Judy Craig
  • Dale White
  • William Boyd Grove
  • C. P. Minnick
  • Kenneth L. Carder
  • Roy I. Sano
  • Joe Yeakel
  • Kenneth Hicks
  • Joseph Humper
  • Monk Bryan
  • Jesse DeWitt
  • Jack Tuell
  • J. Lloyd Knox
  • Charles W. Jordan
  • J. Lawrence McCleskey
  • Marshall L. Meadors, Jr.
  • Franz Schafer
  • Sheldon Duecker
  • Fritz Mutti
  • Cal McConnell
  • Leontine T. C. Kelly
  • Robert C. Morgan
  • Daniel Arichea
  • Alfred Johnson
  • Richard B. Wilke

From the archives