Bishops ‘get act together’ in San Diego meeting


Bishop Sally Dyck of the Northern Illinois Conference hands out health kits at the California-Mexico border/UMNS PHOTO

Active bishops of the UMC wrapped up their meeting in San Diego on Thursday, emerging with no action items or joint statements, but insisting the time had been fruitful.

The sessions at The Catamaran Resort Hotel & Spa were not open to the press, though the bishops did invite press coverage of a visit they made to the gritty California-Mexico border, to underscore the importance of the immigration issue.

Greater Northwest Area Bishop Grant Hagiya compared himself and his colleagues to dysfunctional family members who have been too polite to one another. He said the bishops must become more candid and accountable to lead the church in troubled times.

Having the press at the San Diego gathering  might have had bishops worrying about being misquoted or misunderstood, he said, rather than opening up with one another.

“We really did need some time to get our act together in this kind of setting,” he said in a telephone press conference Thursday afternoon.

This week saw a New York Times story about ongoing divisions within the UMC over homosexuality, but the bishops did not discuss that issue in plenary, nor did they agree on any new emphasis on immigration, said Bishop Rosemarie Wenner of Germany, president of the Council of Bishops.

She called the San Diego meeting a “wonderful week of learning together” and noted that only a full Council of Bishops meeting, involving both active and retired bishops, can take actions on behalf of the Council.

The active bishops formed small, self-selected accountability groups, and heard from such speakers as Brian McLaren, popular author and leader of the emergent church movement, Maria Dixon Hall, a professor at Southern Methodist University, and retired Army Lt. Gen. James Dubik, a consultant for the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management.

The Tuesday trip to the border had the bishops traveling in four groups, meeting at the end of the day for a Holy Communion Service, with some bishops on the Tijuana, Mexico side of the border and some on the U.S. side.

One group hiked 1 ½ miles through the Tijuana Estuary, an undeveloped area, and another crossed into Mexico to an open-air migrant encampment, and distributed health kits.

Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey of the Louisiana Conference blogged about how deeply moved she had been by the trip. The trip was “a powerful experience, a spiritual experience,” said Bishop Warner Brown of the San Francisco Episcopal Area, who joined in the post-meeting press conference with Bishops Wenner and Hagiya.

The Council of Bishops decided last year to create a “Forum of Residential Bishops,” consisting of active bishops only, and this was the first meeting of that group. The full Council of Bishops meets next in Lake Junaluska, N.C., from Nov. 10-15.


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Sam Hodges, Former Managing Editor, UMR

Sam Hodges

Sam Hodges was the managing editor of The United Methodist Reporter from 2011-2013. A formee reporter for the Dallas Morning News and the Charlotte Observer, Sam is a respected voice in United Methodist journalism.

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