Bishops’ Statement of Counsel: January 31, 2011

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011 2:02 pm

On January 31, 2011, a group of retired bishops sent the following statement in an email letter to their retired colleague members of the Council of Bishops. It contains “A Statement of Counsel to the Church – 2011” signed by 33 of the retired bishops of the Council.  Later, 3 other bishops signed on.  Their names have been added to the list below.

Click here to read MFSA's response to the statement.

A Statement of Counsel to the Church – 2011

Out of concern for the welfare of all God's people, and, out of special concern for the people of The United Methodist Church, we, United Methodist Bishops – retired, believe The United Methodist Church should remove the following statement from The Book of Discipline (2008):

“…The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.” ¶304.3

Our lives and ministries over the years have included prayerful, thoughtful consideration of our Holy Bible, our Wesleyan heritage, reflection on our experience of the church and world, and our conviction of God’s intention for a world transformed.

With this statement of conviction and counsel we seek:

  • To affirm that the historic tests of “gifts and evidence of God’s grace” for ordained ministry override any past or present temporal restrictions such as race, gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.
  • To urge the Church, ecumenical and denominational, to change the manner in which it relates to gay, lesbian and transgendered persons in official statements, judicial proceedings, and in congregational life.
  • To declare our conviction that the current disciplinary position of The United Methodist Church, a part of our historical development, need not, and should not, be embraced as the faithful position for the future.
  • To make known our names and shared personal conviction on this matter and to encourage other church and Episcopal leaders to do the same.

With increasing frequency we observe and experience the following disturbing realities and know them to be detrimental to the mission of a Church of Jesus Christ:

  • Laity and clergy, gay and straight, withdrawing membership or absenting themselves from the support of congregational and denominational Church life in order to maintain personal integrity.
  • Young adults, especially, embarrassed to invite friends and expressing dismay at the unwillingness of our United Methodist Church to alter its 39-year exclusionary stance.
  • Closeted pastors, currently called and ordained in our church, living divided lives while offering effective appreciated ministry.
  • Bishops being drained of energy by upholding Church Discipline while regarding it as contrary to their convictions.
  • Bishops caught between care for the Church by reappointing an effective gay or lesbian pastor and care for the Discipline by charging them under current legislation.
  • Seminary leaders desiring greater flexibility and openness from the church in order to advance their mission of identifying, recruiting, enrolling, educating and spiritually forming Christian leaders
  • Christian gay men and women understanding themselves called of God to seek ministry opportunities within their United Methodist family Church home, but having to decide between:
    • leaving to go to accepting denominations, or
    • staying and praying for change, or
    • challenging Church law and accepting punitive actions.


Our United Methodist Church, ashamed and repentant in the past, ended official and unofficial restrictions on candidacy, ordination and appointment for reason of race, gender and ethnicity. We believe the God we know in Jesus is leading us to issue this counsel and call – a call to transform our church life and our world.

United Methodist Episcopal Leaders-Retired

  • Sharon Z. Rader
  • Donald A. Ott
  • Beverly Shamana
  • C. Joseph Sprague
  • Melvin G. Talbert
  • S. Clifton Ives
  • Joe A. Wilson
  • William Lewis
  • Forrest Stith
  • Susan Morrison
  • Susan Hassinger
  • Judy Craig
  • Dale White
  • William Boyd Grove
  • C. P. Minnick
  • Kenneth L. Carder
  • Roy I. Sano
  • Joe Yeakel
  • Kenneth Hicks
  • Joseph Humper
  • Monk Bryan
  • Jesse DeWitt
  • Jack Tuell
  • J. Lloyd Knox
  • Charles W. Jordan
  • J. Lawrence McCleskey
  • Marshall L. Meadors, Jr.
  • Franz Schafer
  • Sheldon Duecker
  • Fritz Mutti
  • Cal McConnell
  • Leontine T. C. Kelly
  • Robert C. Morgan
  • Daniel Arichea
  • Alfred Johnson
  • Richard B. Wilke

19 Responses to “Bishops’ Statement of Counsel: January 31, 2011”

  1. I. Lee McKlenshaw Says:

    I am filled with hope that this statement by our retired bishops will hasten the day when The United Methodist Church will fully embrace all persons regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation. However, please be careful to use the words "council" and "counsel" correctly. This statement is a statement of "counsel" not "Council" since it does not emanate from the entire Council of Bishops, but rather only from those bishops who have signed it.
    Sincerely yours for peace with justice,
    I. Lee McKlenshaw

  2. Julie Fuschak Says:

    I fully support the Bishop's statement and hope this change to the Discipline come to pass. Thanks you for doing this.   Julie Fuschak.  FUMC Georgetown, Tx. 

  3. Gary Thompson Says:


  4. Dale Merkle Says:

    Hallelujah!   My thanks to all of you!  My wife and I have worked for such a change for the UMC for over twenty years.  I have fought the urge to leave the church because of this issue, but have prayerfully stayed active hoping to promote equality and justice for our gay children and all GLBT persons.

  5. Ralph Barlow Says:

    God is still speaking!  Three cheers for the thirty-three!

  6. Kris Meinhard Says:

    This is a long overdue statement. Thank you very much for making it. It is past  time for the church to stop the violence toward LGBT brothers & sisters. Now, how do we get General Conference to act?

  7. Ivan Burnett Says:

    I thank God for the leadership that these Bishops have demonstrated.  Truly they believe in "Open doors, open hearts, open minds."

  8. Jonathan Almond Says:

    The "Statement of Counsel" signed by thirty-three retired United Methodist Bishops is commendable and long overdue.  I am increasingly discouraged and disheartened by the exclusive stance of our denomination.  The formative years of my ministry began over fifty years ago during a time of great pride in our church's strong social justice declarations and its determination to be inclusive.  I sincerely hope the will of those elected to General Conference in 2012 will vote to change our Book of Discipline by striking Par.304.3.

  9. craig carpenter Says:

    I applaud the courage of the the retired bishops of the UMC.  The current statement against homosexual christians is no different than the statements made against African American Christians in the recent past. There is no difference! UMC Church leaders are cowardly hiding behind the Bible similar to pastors in the south. As we begin the celebration of Black Month it is unspeakable to even celebrate with black people since the UMC continues to keep homosexual christians in "their proper place" exactly as was done in the south. Prejudice against homosexual christians is no different than the bigotry against black christians prior to the civil rights movement. Its time for the bigotry of the UMC to "come out of the closet"  

  10. Lynda Sloan Says:

    I agree with the bishops' request. As a member of a reconciling congregation I feel that it is time for the United Methodists to become truly united and embrace all of its members as children of God, including the GLBT members who seek to fill pastoral roles without fear of retribution, disciplinary action, or prohibition against living their lives honestly.

  11. Nell Rush Says:

    I am in agreement with and happy to see this statement from these
    Bishops (retired) of our United Methodist Church.

  12. Nell Rush Says:

    I thank you for this Statement of Council and support your concern.

  13. Jared Says:

    Awesome!!  Thank you, bishops!!

  14. Donna Neilson Says:

    As a former member of the UMC (now a member of a More Light Presbyterian church), I am encouraged by these words of the bishops for the family of God.

  15. Lois M. Congdon Says:

    This is great!  I plan to write to three bishops with whom I have connections:
    Leontine Kelly was an inspiration to me as I tried to follow my call into the ministry even before women were accepted as conference members.  (I was the first woman in what was the New York Annual Conference in 1960).
    Bishop Knox: He met with me when he was a district superintendent, and I was trying (unsuccessfully) to transfer into the  Florida Conference.
    Dale White was my bishop for a while. 
    Where are the other bishops who served in the New York Annual Conference, which was considered to be one of the more liberal ones?  Herbert Skeete and Dale White?  I got on the blacklist of the cabinet by speaking for Paul Abels in our clergy meeting that voted to let him continue to serve in Greenwich Village until the General Conference threw him out.

  16. Kat Freeze Says:

    As a Lesbian woman brought up in the Methodist faith, who chose to leave my families tradition to seek self and religious acceptance in the Episcopal church, I am thrilled to see this progress in the Methodist denomination.  You are all inmy prayers as you move toward a placeof greater openness aaand acceptance as a Church and a peopleof faith.  Thank you for your hard and prayerful work ahead.  

  17. wendell luke, jr Says:

    I thank God for your proclaimtion. I will be keeping you all in my prayers and that more will join you.
    In Christ's love, Wendell

  18. Tex Sample Says:

    Hooray for our Bishops!!! I am thrilled. Tex

  19. Sally Geis Says:

    I have tried since 1972 to change our church's official policy on homosexuality.Thank God for our the contiuned leadership of our retired bishops. 

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