Council of Bishops president responds to Judicial Council ruling
United Methodist Council of Bishops
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 28, 2017
Washington, D.C.: In the wake of the United Methodist Judicial Council’s ruling that the consecration of a gay bishop violates church law, the president of the Council of Bishops, Bishop Bruce R. Ough urged all United Methodists to respect the decision and pray for the unity of the church.
Although the Judicial Council ruled that “a self-avowed homosexual clergy person cannot be legally consecrated a bishop,” the council said that “self-avowal does not nullify the consecration and cause removal from office.” The denomination’s top court decreed that the bishop's constitutional right to fair and due process must be protected, and until the completion of the administrative and/or judicial process, the bishop remains in good standing.
The ruling came in response to a request from the South Central Jurisdiction for a declaratory decision regarding the nomination, election, consecration and/or assignment as a bishop of a person who claims to be a "self-avowed practicing homosexual" or who is in a same-sex marriage.
Bishop Ough acknowledged that there will be mixed reactions to the court’s conclusion, but he stressed that the Council continues to remain committed to keeping the church united for the sake of our mission.
“We acknowledge that the decision does not help to ease the disagreements, impatience and anxiety that permeates The United Methodist Church over the matter of human sexuality, and particularly this case,” said Bishop Ough. “Our compassion and prayers of intercession extend to all those who are hurt, relieved, confused or fearful.”
“The Council of Bishops remains committed to the unity of the church and the flourishing of its mission,” he said. “We are confident of the work that the Commission on a Way Forward has begun and we believe the Holy Spirit is working through the Commission and Council to accomplish God’s purposes.”
The South Central Jurisdictional Conference’s (SCJ) request for a decision related to questions surrounding the lawfulness of last year’s election by the Western Jurisdiction of Bishop Karen Oliveto, who is a spouse in a same-sex marriage. The SCJ passed a motion by lay delegate Dixie Brewster of the Great Plains Annual Conference to request a decision during their meeting in July 2016.
He also expressed confidence in the process that has already begun: to lead the church along the path that the General Conference has laid out with the work of the Commission on a Way Forward.
“I am encouraged by the relationships that are developing within the Commission. The distinct and diverse opinions among its members reflect the richness and vitality of The United Methodist Church. The Commission is committed to its task. I believe that their work will bear fruit as we meet for a Special Session of the General Conference in February 2019,” said Ough.
As the highest judicial body of The United Methodist Church, the nine-member council determines whether actions of the denomination’s official bodies conform to church law. Traditionally the Judicial Council speaks only through its decisions, and those decisions are final and not subject to appeal.
Bishop Ough expressed appreciation for the Judicial Council’s careful and deliberate consideration of the matter and for the thoughtful and considerate participation of all parties to the case.
“The Judicial Council has a distinct and critical role in the governance structure of the denomination,” said Ough. “We recognize and respect the Judicial Council as the body responsible for deciding complex questions of church law, including the right to declare jurisdiction. We implore all within the United Methodist structure and family to honor the Judicial Council ruling.”
Bishop Ough said that he remains optimistic for the future of the denomination despite the divisions that exist.
“Nearly every day, I hear an inspiring new story of how the people of The United Methodist Church are at work in the world, enriching people’s lives,” said Bishop Ough. “This is what we’re about. This is our calling. This is the work we do together, no matter our differences. May we continue to do so for the greater glory of God.”
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