This morning, Bishop Bruce R. Ough (Dakotas-Minnesota Episcopal Area), President of the Council of Bishops, informed the General Conference that the Council of Bishops is concerned about the divisions in The United Methodist Church. He was referring to the divisions related to the various understandings of human sexuality and the church’s response. On behalf of the Council of Bishops he affirmed that the Council will continue to strive to lead The UMC in the way of unity.
Bishop Ough began his statement with a personal story on how he has experienced heartbreak and that the Council of Bishops “has a broken heart over the pain, anger, and disunity observed in our United Methodist Church.”
Then, he shared that, “Prior to arrival in Portland, we have been in dialogue meeting voices from various groups, delegations, and conference officials, to fully understand differing positions. We have risked exploring radically restructuring The United Methodist Church with ideas from those who are both more progressive and more conservative. The Council of Bishops is committed to maintaining the unity of the UMC, an authentic unity, not afraid of the truth, and respectful and inclusive of all. Therefore, we are not advancing or advocating any plan of separation or reorganization of the denomination.”
In a press conference immediately following the statement, Bishop Ough stated that the conversations held have been limited to high-level concepts of organizing the church, that there is a full range of ideas on the table, and that there is a remarkable spirit of Christian Conferencing. He acknowledged that some of the ideas on the table, ideas that are currently represented in proposed legislation, do not have to do with dividing the church. And, members of this group might test ideas with the body as General Conference goes on.
“You don’t create unity through structure. You create unity through relationships which is why there needs to be space,” shared Bishop Ough. “As long as we are guarded, we won’t be going to where the Holy Spirit may want to lead us.”
Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño, Resident Bishop of the California-Pacific Conference, shares that, “When the body of Christ is broken all suffer and our ministry suffers. However, unity must be genuine, mindful of the diversity of the members of the body of Christ and the sacredness and importance of each member (I Corinthians 12:12-26).”
The Council of Bishops is expected to continue to be in conversation about these matters.