May we never see another day like it

By Rebekah Miles, Special Contributor…

Rebekah Miles

Please God, may we never see another day like yesterday, July 19.  At the meeting of the South Central Jurisdiction we voted to affirm the decision of our episcopacy committee to call for the involuntary retirement of one of our Bishops. We must have accountability, but no jurisdiction, no episcopacy committee, no conference, no Bishop, and no Bishop’s family, should ever have to go through what we went through.

We tried yesterday and over recent days to make the best of a terrible situation. Even so, let’s don’t fool ourselves; this has been a bloody mess. We are now deeply wounded as a jurisdiction, and we will be carrying wounds and then scars for years to come.

What can we do to bring some healing and to help this never happen again?  I can think of four things right off.

We need to fix The United Methodist Book of Discipline. There is not a person on our episcopacy committee or among our episcopate who would say that the process in the Book of Discipline could not be clarified and improved.  Our jurisdiction specializes in reform legislation; writing, supporting and passing reform legislation is our hobby and our calling.  Other jurisdictions can help us.  We must have a way to hold Bishops and other clergy accountable, but we, as a church, can find a better way.  Let’s get to work.  

We need to talk more to each other, even — and especially — when it is hard.  The very best way to encourage accountability is person to person.  If a Bishop is struggling with effectiveness, other Bishops need to pay him or her a visit.  The same holds true for other elders and for deacons. Before we ever reach the stage of these formal processes of accountability, we need to have talked honestly with other. Yes, many have already been doing this, but we can do it more and better.  Let’s keep telling one another the truth, even – and especially – when it’s hard.

We need to talk about race. Please, please hear me, I am not at all saying that the decision of the episcopacy committee was racist or that race was at the heart of things, but if race were not already an issue in the larger context of our church, this would not have been nearly so brutal. It’s nigh on impossible to look, for example, at our patterns of appointment and say that race isn’t still an issue for our jurisdiction and others. Our dynamic young Anglo pastors and our dynamic young African-American pastors simply do not have the same opportunities. We have to talk about race.  When I have floated this idea, some African American brothers and sisters have told me “White people don’t want to talk about race.” Of course, we don’t … but we have to. United Methodist leaders, of whatever culture or ethnicity, have a long tradition of carrying the Good News of Jesus Christ into places of pain.  That’s where the Gospel is needed.  Let’s talk about race in all its complexity.

Finally, we all need to repent. I’m not blaming anybody in particular . . . I’m blaming everybody.  In one way or another, we are all complicit.  This is one of my least favorite parts of the Gospel, and it’s the part I most need to hear.  In this part of our life and most others, we need to repent and throw ourselves on the mercy of a God. We cannot heal this, but there is a balm in Gilead . . . a balm that is healing enough even for the deep wounds we now bear.  Let’s fall to our knees before a merciful God . . . and then let’s get up and get back to work.   

 P.S. To the delegates of the South Central Jurisdiction, to the members of our episcopacy committee, and to all our Bishops and their families, I give thanks to God for you and your faithfulness.

Dr. Miles teaches at Perkins School of Theology and served as an Arkansas Conference delegate to General Conference and South Central Jurisdictional Conference.

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7 Comments on "May we never see another day like it"

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
 
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methodistpie
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This sadness puts me thinking about the law of unintended consequences. In taking strong African-American preachers/leaders out of local churches, "promoting" them to the superintendency and episcopacy, we have surely weakened our predominately African-American congregations. Someone in this thread mentioned "opportunities." Haven't we agreed that the greatest opportunities to make disciples for Jesus Christ are in the local congregations? Equating hierarchy with success is part of the United Methodist tragedy.

mdsh
Guest

The reason for PC elections and nominations is the false Social Gospel, which is Marxism in sheep's clothing. The Kingdom of God is "not meat and drink but righteousnes, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit." Therefore, it has nothing to do with social justice defined by the distribution of political power and influence. John Wesley said that we have "nothing to do but save souls," and "a never-dying soul to save and fit it for the sky." The two biggest problems with our Church are Social Gospel professors and Social Gospel bishops.

dee
Guest
I agree that we need to discuss why race is even an issue. Martin Luther King said in his dream that there would come a day when a man would not be judged by the color of his skin but by his actions. I truly believe that day has come in this case. Earl Bledsoe was the pastor of the church that my husband and I joined, his color had nothing to do with our joining. Earl is a wonderful spiritual leader but I know first hand that his administrative skills are not great. He has control issues but his… Read more »
drw
Guest

Dr. Miles is a wonderful gift to the church. After we talk about race, we would also do well to discuss what we mean by "opportunities."

progressivedrjonte
Guest

Very well said, Dr. Miles as always when you express your opinion. Out of everything you said, and I agree with all of it, perhaps the most important thing is: "We need to fix the United Methodist Book of Discipline". Not only in this process but in so many other processes as well. We are an unfinished church and we and to quote you again, "and then let's get up and get back to work."

churchlady
Guest
Let's talk about race. Earl Bledsoe was elected four years ago on the first ballot. As I remember, he did not go through the same process as did other episcopal candidates, although he was formally endorsed by our Texas Annual Conference. Did he experience a paved path because of his race? Honestly! Because we yearn to be an inclusive church, do we sometimes make accommodations and overlook our most gifted leaders, pastors, preachers, and theologians? Our church (and our God) deserve the very best we can supply! At such a time as this, our United Methodist Church failing in so… Read more »
friar pat
Guest

Well said, Dr. Miles, Well said!!!

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