Bishop Mike Coyner responds to the Western Jurisdiction

Excerpts from a statement issued by Bishop Mike Coyner:

The Western Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church, meeting in their Jurisdictional Conference in July, took the unusual step of adopting “A Statement of Gospel Obedience” in which they expressed their belief that our UMC statements are in error. The Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference adopted a similar resolution. However the Western Jurisdiction went a step further. They urged their clergy and congregations to “act as if Paragraph 161F does not exist.”

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My own prayerful response to the Western Jurisdiction and the reported actions and statements of its leaders is to offer the following critique and some (hopefully) helpful suggestions for moving forward.

First, the statement of the Western Jurisdictional Conference comes across as a kind of “neo-colonialism.” For years we United Methodists have celebrated becoming more of a global church, but now that the General Conference is dominated by a large number of delegates from other countries, most notably from Africa, the Western Jurisdiction seems to be distrusting the wisdom and experience of those delegates and instead saying, “We know better. We are more enlightened. We have more experience leading the church. We do not trust the decisions of a church which is no longer US-dominated.”

Second, the statement about acting “as if certain parts of our Discipline do not exist,” is a very poor substitute for the honorable practice of civil disobedience as expressed most clearly by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the civil rights movement in the United States. Dr. King taught that when a person believes a law is unjust, that person is obliged to disobey that law and to accept the consequences of such disobedience. Accepting the consequences of disobedience is a part of the witness against the unjust law – even if that consequence means imprisonment. For the Western Jurisdiction to invite persons simply to ignore parts of our Discipline dramatically weakens the ethical impact of their disagreement with that Discipline.

Thirdly, the Western Jurisdiction’s action does not offer the church any way forward on this difficult issue. While those who voted to adopt “A Statement of Gospel Obedience” may have felt some satisfaction or even self-righteousness for their vote to offer “radical hospitality” to all persons, the statement itself did not offer the same radical hospitality to those who disagree on this issue.

To read the rest of Bishop Coyner’s response to the Western Jurisdiction, click HERE