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Three bishops accused of aiding disaffiliation (UM News)

November 3, 2022

Unhappiness over some episcopal leaders’ posture toward disaffiliation and a new, traditional denomination boiled over Nov. 3 at The United Methodist Church’s South Central Jurisdictional Conference.

The Rev. Stan Copeland took the floor to ask that the jurisdiction’s college of bishops address the conduct and status of three bishops he said have provided “promotion and support” to the breakaway Global Methodist Church — despite having taken vows to support The United Methodist Church.

Copeland specifically named Texas Conference Bishop Scott Jones, retired Bishop Robert Hayes Jr. and former Bishop Mike Lowry, who earlier this year resigned from the Council of Bishops and now is a member of the Global Methodist Church, where he holds the title bishop emeritus. 

Copeland said they have harmed The United Methodist Church by acting in support of churches disaffiliating and need to be held accountable.

“Simply stated, one cannot play for the Astros and pitch for the Phillies,” Copeland, pastor of Dallas’ Lovers Lane United Methodist Church and a North Texas Conference delegate, said of the three in his floor speech.

By late afternoon on Nov. 3, Missouri Conference Bishop Bob Farr, president of the jurisdiction’s college of bishops, reported to the delegates that the college would need more time to address Copeland’s request fully.

In an interview, Copeland said Jones and Lowry as active bishops created a climate that has led to disproportionate numbers of Texas Conference and Central Texas Conference churches and clergy deciding to disaffiliate.

“It didn’t seem like it made much sense for us to go through this jurisdictional conference and not address the obvious pain in some conferences,” Copeland told UM News.

Earlier on Nov. 3, they overwhelmingly approved a resolution calling on those United Methodists who have decided to leave the denomination to refrain for the rest of their time as United Methodists from exercising leadership in local churches, as well as in conferences, boards and other United Methodist entities.

The floor discussion of bishops and disaffiliation occurred one day after the South Central Jurisdictional Conference elected its first female African American bishop, the Rev. Delores “Dee” Williamston, and the first Native American bishop of The United Methodist Church, the Rev. David WilsonThe Rev. Laura Merrill also was elected on the first ballot.