Council of Bishops President Bruce Ough, addressed his fellow colleagues in a stirring presidential message in May concerning what would happen if The United Methodist Church divides.
"Let's be clear, if we divide, nearly all our essential unifying institutional activities would be lost or severely diminished," he said.
He went on to mention ecumenical agreements, educational work, prophetic statements, global mission partnerships, benefits programs, communications, publications and more.
"I don't even know how to begin to assess this cost!" Ough said.
"The entire church is rightly watching how we will lead in this moment and as we go forward," Ough said.
In his address, Ough used the Easter story, particularly the rolling away of the stone at Jesus' tomb, as a focus point as he warned bishops and challenged them.
"My heart breaks, as a bishop of the whole church, and particularly in this role as president of the council, when I see our stone-rolling mission at risk," Ough said.
Ough noted that significant mission work by the denomination goes forward, through the Four Areas of Focus, and he called on the bishops to redouble their leadership of such efforts.
The address turned personal as Ough offered himself as an example of a leader not doing enough.
"Jesus' judgment falls hard on me," he said. "I have seen many hungry people, but felt no pain in my stomach. I have seen the sick and homeless on the streets of Port-au-Prince, but I slept in a comfortable bed."
Even as he urged efforts to hold the denomination together, Ough said the "final exam" was about serving the broader world.
"I urge us to prayerfully and tenderly minister to the distress in our own United Methodist household, but reclaim today that the distress of every single human being is a priority of the living God," he said.
Ough's address drew a standing ovation, and strong praise from Boston Area Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar.
"This is one of the most prophetic, pastoral, theologically insightful episcopal addresses that I've heard," Devadhar said.
Sam Hodges, multimedia news reporter, United Methodist News Service
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