The bishop’s misdirection

Bishop Sally Dyck at the 2016 United Methodist General Conference. Photo by Mike DuBose UMNS

Bishop Sally Dyck at the 2016 United Methodist General Conference. Photo by Mike DuBose UMNS

By Walter Fenton

In a brief, but bitter sermon at General Conference’s morning worship service, Bishop Sally Dyck of the Chicago Episcopal Area said The United Methodist Church has “a category of humanity we call incompatible with Christian teaching.”

Bishop Dyck surely knows the church says no such thing. For almost 45 years the denomination has carefully and graciously stated that it believes “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”

When the delegates at the 1972 General Conference introduced the phrase into the Book of Discipline they did it without malice and chose their words very carefully. They wanted to make clear it was the practice of homosexuality they found incompatible, not people who identified as such. For a bishop to willfully misread the statement at a General Conference worship service demonstrates how bitter and polarizing the debate has become.

She went on to say, “I don’t believe LGBTQ people are any more sinful than I am. I know not all of you think the same way.” Of course, the bishop did not specifically call out anyone in the church who believes “LGBTQ people are any more sinful than” they are because she knows there’s no serious body of United Methodists who would ever peddle such rubbish.

“I’m not here to argue with you,” she claimed, which was true. Under the cloak of extolling the precious virtue of mercy, she inappropriately used her bully pulpit to score some grandstanding applauses when she knew no one would have the opportunity for a thoughtful rebuttal. We understand almost every preacher is tempted to go off on a rant from time-to-time, but the good ones know that’s not what the pulpit is for.

For evangelicals who have been in dialogue with Bishop Dyck, her sermon bordered on demagoguery as she attempted to portray the UM Church as a denomination fixated on categorizing LGBTQ people as “incompatible with Christian teaching.” Apparently, Bishop Dyck no longer believes in dialog with those with whom she disagrees. She is resorting instead to “prophetic” salvos, polarizing language, and false characterizations. Whatever happened to the “rules” of holy conferencing related to misrepresenting another’s opinion?

“Our church is structured on racism. … Racism is in the very air we breathe as we do our work together,” she intoned.

And then she cried out, “Why is racism not declared incompatible with Christian teaching? Why isn’t racism incompatible with Christian teaching!”

Her flamboyant rhetoric made for good theatre, but she never attempted to substantiate her claims. Either she was just taking potshots, or she needs to read more deeply into our Discipline if she honestly thinks we do not find “racism incompatible with Christian teaching.”

In her defense, we don’t actually say racism is “incompatible with Christian teaching,” we properly get rather direct on the subject, “We deplore acts of hate or violence against groups or persons based on race, … we recognize racism as sin.”

Bishop Dyck went on to strain credulity when she wondered why the UM Church does not state that “murder … [is] incompatible with Christian teaching.” Seriously? Does the bishop honestly believe United Methodists are so fixated on the practice of homosexuality that it’s the only thing they believe is “incompatible with Christian teaching?”

This is not only a jaundiced view of United Methodists, but it is also an intentional misreading of our Book of Discipline and the history of how the phrase was introduced. Thankfully, and much more helpfully, the Rev. Chris Ritter, an elder in the Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference, recently traced the history of the phrase Bishop Dyck willfully misconstrued for the sake of a bad argument. Ritter’s piece is far more interesting and edifying than the bishop’s tirade.

Ironically, the bishop’s theme was on mercy, and eventually she did get around to closing with, “I want to be part of a church that is willing to go learn mercy.” Who doesn’t? Unfortunately, twisting the language of the Discipline to impugn the motives and beliefs of United Methodists is an odd way to show others mercy.


Walter Fenton is a United Methodist clergyperson and analyst for Good News.



  1. Carole Vincent says

    Are you saying that there’s no problem with homosexuality, just the practice of it? Can one refrain from practicing what they are? Should heterosexual people refrain from practicing heterosexuality? Seems like the argument here about the language of the Discipline is splitting hairs. And what the Bishop says is true. There is no other category of people called “Incompatible with Christian teaching” in the Discipline.
    Rev. Carole Vincent, retired elder

    • Carole Vincent says

      Please, Go, learn mercy.

    • Carole,
      Yes, according to Scripture, heterosexual people should refrain from practicing heterosexuality if they are not married as husband and wife. According to Scripture, sexual relations of any kind outside that of a wife and a husband in marriage is sexual immorality. This feels really awkward. How can it be that a lay person is pointing this out to a retired elder?

      • I think it may be unfair to say that the practice of homosexuality can be separate from the person of homosexuality. You can argue other points, but to somehow feel that it is overreach to say we have claimed the incompatibility of a group of people with Christian practice, is not to be honest about personhood. The statement is saying “when you express that you are, then the homosexual that you are is at odds with the way of Jesus.” There is certainly deep, and rich, discussion needed around the idea of whether or not the way of Jesus incorporates various forms of sexual orientation, but we certainly need to be honest about what our current language means. Also, there is a large difference between stating that heterosexuality is condemned outside of marriage (which is lacking Biblical evidence if we are to be honest) and that homosexuality is condemned across the board. I think this was part of Carole’s point.

        • James Curtis says


          I invite you to open a Bible, read it and study it.

          FYI, here’s a list of Biblical verses on human sexuality:

          1 Corinthians 6:18 ESV / 83 helpful votes

          Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.
          Galatians 5:19-21 ESV / 59 helpful votes

          Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
          1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV / 42 helpful votes

          No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
          1 Corinthians 7:8-9 ESV / 40 helpful votes

          To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
          1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV / 30 helpful votes

          Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
          2 Timothy 2:22 ESV / 28 helpful votes

          So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
          1 Corinthians 6:9-10 ESV / 27 helpful votes

          Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
          Matthew 5:28 ESV / 22 helpful votes

          But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
          Ephesians 5:3 ESV / 21 helpful votes

          But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.
          Romans 13:13 ESV / 19 helpful votes

          Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.
          1 Corinthians 6:19 ESV / 18 helpful votes

          Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,
          Luke 17:1-2 ESV / 12 helpful votes

          And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.
          Mark 6:14-29 ESV / 10 helpful votes

          King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead. That is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” But others said, “He is Elijah.” And others said, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.” For it was Herod who had sent and seized John and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because he had married her. For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” …
          1 Corinthians 6:9-11 ESV / 8 helpful votes

          Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
          Proverbs 7:5 ESV / 8 helpful votes

          To keep you from the forbidden woman, from the adulteress with her smooth words.
          Proverbs 6:25 ESV / 8 helpful votes

          Do not desire her beauty in your heart, and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes;
          John 3:16-17 ESV / 6 helpful votes

          “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
          Luke 17:29-30 ESV / 5 helpful votes

          But on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all— so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed.
          Isaiah 47:7 ESV / 4 helpful votes

          You said, “I shall be mistress forever,” so that you did not lay these things to heart or remember their end.
          1 Corinthians 6:13 ESV / 3 helpful votes
          “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.

    • “Should heterosexual people refrain from practicing heterosexuality?”

      Yes. Heterosexuals are instructed to refrain from sexual practices outside of marriage.

      Continuing to purposefully conflate one’s predilections and one’s behavior only makes the LGBT caucus look disingenuous.

    • ‘Can one refrain practicing what they are?’ By God’s grace, I sure hope so …because by nature, I am a prideful, selfish, self-centered, moneyhungry, lustfull, man …who desires many women, much fame and fortune. In myself my identity is as St. Paul says ‘the chief of sinners’. But if my old self is given over my identity is then found in Jesus. Not in the practices of the old self …Coll 3:3-10…. then I no longer live out of any other claimed identity” heterosexual or homosexual’ as you put it.. those practices are no longer who I am. ” Instead, I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live but Christ who lives in me. Galatians 2:10. As Christains we find our identity in Jesus alone, not in any previous practice. So It does make a huge difference in stating if it is a practice or a person. The practices of the old sinful nature (pride, racism, hatred, lust, greed, sexuality immorality)…) all are incompatable with Christian teaching and yet thanks be to God they do not have to define us when we find our true identity in Jesus.

      • Amen David. The feelings and behaviors you listed, that the church has recognized as in our nature and condemned for centuries are sin but, they say homosexuality is not a sin, for whatever reason they decide it’s not sin.

        Their sin is not sin! It’s special, separate, different and they are not like the rest of us sinners. They are above us and deserve special recognition.

        They are upset that the Book of Discipline has to call them out with a special statement but, the reason it’s called out is because of the argument she’s making: That it’s not a sin. I and the UMC disagree. It is a sin and it’s not special. It’s like any other sin and they are like any other sinners.

        May God bless them and have mercy on them as he looks upon these “special sinners”.

    • James Curtis says

      Of course one can refrain from practicing what they are. Its called, abstinence, celibacy, and chastity. As Christians it is applicable to the entire human species.

  2. Licensed Local Pastor says

    And Bishop’s with mind set wonder why the denomination is declining. two schismatic acts have already been allowed on the floor of General Conference with no fear on the part of those involved of any type of accountability. Maybe the Bishop’s who feel this way should hope that the resolution allowing churches to leave the connection for reasons of conscience will pass and they along with their like minded followers can go their own way and be blessed as they go. James 3:1, Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. Do these Bishop’s really think that God can be mocked?

  3. Pastor Rick Duncan says

    I am ashamed of many of our Bishops and not the least is Sally Dyck.

  4. Mark Sewell says

    It was clear to me Bishop Dyck had an agenda and axe to grind. What is said as a Bishop she was free to do so, if she were a clergy might have faced charges for what was said. It is sad as a former almost life long United Methodist to see the Gay or queer as they seem to fond of saying now agenda being pushed forward again. My prayers are with my Wesleyan Evangelical Brothers and Sisters who are working hard to keep the UMC strong.

  5. Well, the time has certainly come for a segment in the UMC to have gathered around them, including Bishops, those who will tell them what they want (demand) to hear.

    For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own DESIRES, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.
    2 Timothy 4:3

  6. What happened to preachers preaching? All we get now politics from the pulpit.

  7. When you single out ONE human behavior and label it “incompatible” with Christian teaching, you imply that no other behavior deserves this distinction. Therefore you allow those who practice adultery, abuse children, commit domestic violence, use and distribute pornography, etc. to believe that “at least they are not one of ‘those'”. You also do not distinguish between a faithful love bond between persons in a committed relationship and those who practice promiscuity and exploitive sex. I say remove the discriminatory language and let us all join together in a strong campaign against sexual acts we can truly call sin because of the harm they cause.

    • “When you single out ONE human behavior and label it “incompatible” with Christian teaching, you imply that no other behavior deserves this distinction. Therefore you allow those who practice adultery, abuse children, commit domestic violence, use and distribute pornography, etc. to believe that “at least they are not one of ‘those’””

      Nonsense. The reason the other issues you mentioned aren’t being “singled out” is because there isn’t a concerted effort from a very loud minority to label those things as good and God-approved.

    • Daniel Christman says

      The Bible clearly states all the sins listed as incompatible with Christian teaching no one is arguing for those to be accepted unlike what the LGBTQ Community is doing with homosexuality.

  8. If I’m understanding this article correctly, it is saying that it is fine for people to be LGBTQ, just so long as they don’t act on their desires. One wonders whether the author the effect of removing any physical/sexual element from his own intimate relationships. What he is really saying is that God created people humans with powerful sexual drives, and created a subset of them with lesbian/gay sexuality, but expects them not to act on the urges they were created with. Frankly, such a being would be evil and unfit for worship.

  9. BIshop Dyck set up those strawmen and knocked them most expertly. Though I would expect more from a bishop.

    Not to mention her multiple exhortations against gun violence… as if knife or bomb violence would somehow be preferable.

  10. Pastor Glen says

    I am an evangelical with Wesleyan roots (Free Methodist/Wesleyan/Nazarene) and I am appalled at what is happening in the UMC. It certainly sounds much like 2 Timothy 4:3 and Jude. It is the same that has happened in the ELCA, PCUSA, UCC, and other churches. I don’t believe that Evangelical Bible-believing Christians should continue to tolerate and/or have fellowship with heretics who deny the essentials of the Christian faith including the scriptural teaching on sexuality/marriage. I have no respect for ANY Bishop or Pastor who would undermine the faith in such a way.

    • Christians must decide, do we believe in the HOLY BIBLE AS GOD’S WORD or do we not? Does man have the right to change the things in there they do not like? Does the HOLY BIBLE tell man its ok to change GOD’S WORD? Does anywhere in the HOLY BIBLE does it say that GOD changed his mind about homosexuality and that its not a sin? Are churches going to proclaim to believe in the HOLY BIBLE and then mock GOD’S WORD if hey allow same-sex marriages to be performed in their church? Are Christians going to be forced to go along with man trying to change GOD’S WORD or are they going to strong in their Faith and not bend to this sin? Granted there are others sins besides practicing homosexuality, but does this mean we are now to accept all sins and pretend its ok? Are churches going to allow the sin of a pastor marrying same-sex couples mocking GOD even more? For is that church says they believe in the HOLY BIBLE and practice what they preach, then no way can they allow same-sex marriages. The church is made up of people who are all sinners, but Christians who have received Christ as their Lord and Savior does not continue to live in their old ways and sins, as they have put their sinful acts away and now have the HOLY SPIRIT that dwells within them and helps and guides them to resist sin. So people have to decide, do we walk with Christ and accept his teachings, or do we go with the evil of man ? GOD allows us to choose and I pray that our churches will decide to follow CHRIST and not the devil.

  11. Pastor Mark says

    Personally…I love reading the comment sections on things like these, especially when the Pharisees come out to play. Talk of straw men and ad hominem, wearing Evangelical like a membership badge at a fancy country club. How we have forgotten our commission, our purpose, and the Scripture we hold so dear. (At least that which we choose not to ignore.) The same Scriptures we are using to judge is the same Scripture which tells us to share the Gospel, tell them the old old story, introduce them to the God of Creation and the precious Savior….and leave the rest to GOD. Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, remove the plank, learn mercy….and the list goes on and on. These are the same Scriptures that declare GOD the judge and not you. Your job is to share, care, and GROW! Seems to me, if you were actually following the Scriptures you yield like a mighty war hammer on every soul that does not conform to your personal bias, you wouldn’t have time for dribble like this. Be blessed!

    • You make much of scripture but don’t even care to state that they objectively teach homosexuality is sinful. You must nd talking another book.

  12. Stay strong in your beliefs and faith. To have our biblical understanding mocked is part of being in the world, but we must not succumb to it. I am saddened to see where our Methodist Church leadership is headed.

  13. Jonathon Hunt says

    The article says “Her flamboyant rhetoric made for good theatre” but some (many) of us might call what she said blatant lying.

  14. James brooks says

    Why do we have a BoD if leadership in the church allows progressives to blantantly disregard it? The rule of law seems to evade most progressives. We need courageous leaders to stand up to the blatant disregard for the Word of God. All those Pastors that professed they are practicing homosexuals should be removed. Anything less leads to more of the same.
    Local Pastor

  15. UMC racist? Dyck ignores history and scripture.

  16. Rev. Thomas l. Shanklin says

    Good news has been on the anti love, anti methodist war path for decades. This is nothing new from yhem. I’m sure they’d be welcome another denomination that thinks like they do.

  17. I find it interesting that this magazine writes a lot about homosexuality. A research study, that was released recently, found that people who are homophobic are more likely to have homosexual tendencies. As I read articles written by the Goodnews and watched the Goodnews youtube channel, I have to wonder…no judgement, just an observation.

    Why not spend more time in serving the LGBTQ community, instead of reporting your fear of the gay agenda? Teach the church how to love without compromising your beliefs. Show the LGBTQ community your unconditional love by being present with them. From what I have seen of General Conference, they are hurting, broken persons. If you really believe in your message, live it out and show them. Listen to their stories. Give them a cup of water.

    I’m not Methodist, but I was a bit puzzled after watching a reflection of GC from the Goodnews youtube channel. The gentleman who spoke, shared that their voices were finally heard because they were able to defeat a rule that would put power into a small group of people. What puzzled me was when he said that church leaders, I’m assuming bishops, needed to hear this, because the Goodnews affiliated churches contribute a lot of money and they need to be heard. I’m not Methodist, but I’m pretty sure this ideology is a non-Methodist value. I think it would be unfortunate to have the message of Good news be compromised because someone stated an ideology that is comparable to the Koch Brothers of Kansas.

    Be strong in your message, but live it out with less words and more loving acts of loving kindness. You’ll be amazed how God will work through you.

  18. I have a lot of Friends that are Methodist, so my heart breaks for them, These Bishops that betrayed their vow should have been disrobed and kicked out. But actually I believe it goes deeper then this, from what i am seeing, they have ripped pages out of the Word of God and are really trying to keep up with worldly misrepresentations. One of the Biggest to me is letting Women preside over Men, the Word of God plainly says no to this. The Methodist Men need to take The church back.

    • Wow, Gary- do you think the Spirit of the Lord only works through men? Women ‘s voices and their bodies have been legislated over across the world for over 100 years an continues today. Women have been killed and violated on a daily basis because of this misogynistic- male supremacy- thinking. Women were considered property during biblical and cultural times, and our current understanding of biblical scripture and how the Holy spirit calls both men and women to ministry is more evolved than that… I surely hope and pray that your misogyny- and male supremacy- is put in check, because you were not called to rule over women- in doing so, you undermine God’s authority of creation for women and men to be partners in the kingdom.

      • Oneida, I’ve been struggling with the as well. Please explain, using scripture, why women should be ordained as ministers? Please address 1 Timothy 2:12.

      • Garry Ranson says

        That is not what I said, women are equal to men, but they are not to usurp authority over the man in church. What bible are you reading from?

    • OliverChurchill says

      Of course they have.

      Jeremiah 23:1
      “How terrible for the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD.
      I would not want to be one of these bishops when they answer to God.

  19. In the Secular world, if a person touches “pitch” (tar) they will become defiled. If we have become part of the Body of Christ and we touch that which the Scriptures say that we should not, then we become defiled Spiritually. God does not want a defiled body, especially the Body of Christ. Do you not know your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.

  20. I believe all institutions even the church and family have disagreements but what behaviors and words are coming out is heartbreaking. My wife and I disagree on this particular matter, does that mean we should divorce? I really appreciated the words of one of the bishops that said unity is not something to be achieved, rather it is a gift.

    Why does a debate on differing theological views (our limited HUMAN words about God) turn into a bashing of the faithfulness of the other? Why can’t we continue to see the faithfulness of the other even when we disagree? I see this askew on both ends of the spectrum…

  21. This is what happens when you do not view the Bible or God as infallible. If homosexuality is not sinful, prove it with scripture. The Holy word of God clearly states a sexual relationship between a married man and woman is not sinful.

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