San Francisco Area Bishop Warner Brown Jr., who just completed his two-year term as Council of Bishops president, said he hopes United Methodists view the covenant as sincere.
"We are wrestling in conversation, and we have more work to do," Brown told United Methodist News Service. "But we're committed to serve this church with all our heart and faithfully."
United Methodist bishops have adopted a "Covenant of Accountability," in which they pledge to work for church unity and remain in community with each other despite differences in Christian conscience.
The covenant, the bishops stated, "is rooted in our consecration vows and … outlines how we intend to fulfill those vows and provide spiritual leadership prior to, during, and after General Conference."
The covenant comes at a time when the bishops — as well as many of the United Methodists they lead — struggle with how the church should minister with gay and lesbian individuals.
The Council of Bishops released the covenant after hours of closed-door meetings in the days leading up to the 2016 General Conference. In all council decision-making, retired bishops have voice but not vote on the final document.
In the covenant, bishops vow to "Offer pastoral care to and with anyone," and "Carry out our presidential duties in a manner that enables the work of the General Conference to be conducted in an orderly and non-disruptive manner."
West Virginia Area Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball said she hopes United Methodists will know the bishops are working toward unity and "are committed to hearing all voices in the church in a pastoral and caring way."
Dakotas-Minnesota Area Bishop Bruce R. Ough, the newly installed Council of Bishops president, said his prayer for General Conference is that "we would demonstrate to ourselves and the world that we are a community of grace — that we would show the grace to one another that Christ has shown to each of us."
Heather Hahn, multimedia news reporter for UMNS
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