Why the Retired Bishops Statement fizzled, Focus 3

Yesterday, Bishops Sharon Zimmerman Rader and Don Ott were at the Love Your Neighbor tent across from the Convention Center to talk about the statement they released last year calling for The United Methodist Church to abandon its view on homosexuals and ordination. They circulated their statement and garnered the signatures of 34 other retired bishops.

Rader is the Ecumenical Officer of the Council of Bishops. Ott is the  Correspondent for the Council of Bishops.

Rader and Ott both spoke of the untenable position that bishops are put in because they are asked to support a denominational position that they cannot personally support.

It goes without saying that the decision on our church’s doctrine and polity on these matters is reserved solely to the delegates to General Conference, and this group of retired bishops has neither voice nor vote in such deliberations.

We are dismayed that bishops who have agreed to live within the covenant defined by our Book of Discipline and who are charged in the Book of Discipline “to uphold the discipline and order of the Church” are undercutting that very discipline and order, encouraging dissension and disunity, and advocating on behalf of positions that have been repeatedly rejected by our General Conference after focused prayer, study, and holy conferencing.

After ten General Conferences, numerous dialogues, at least two General Church study commissions, official study resources, dozens of convocations, a plethora of books, demonstrations and disruptions of the General Conference business, and extended impassioned debate, our denomination has consistently affirmed a holistic position that is pastoral and biblical, compassionate, and redemptive.

The reason for the lack of trajectory and growing irrelevance of the retired bishops statement is because it is woefully inadequate in its failure to address the clear pronouncements of Scripture (it referred to Scripture not at all). Nor did it even give a cursory nod at the teachings of almost 2,000 years of Christian history.

In essence, the retired bishops’ statement is a plea for the church to accommodate to the world and compromise with the relativism of our age. Scripture and Christian history steadfastly warn against such accommodation and compromise.

How sad that those who want to change the Church’s position are still appealing to a statement that gathered no traction, garnered no support, and has been absent from the church’s conversation in any serious way since shortly after it was issued.