Time running short as bishops gather in Dallas

Council of Bishops President Bruce R. Ough challenged colleagues to be open to changing their minds as they grapple with how to avoid a breakup of The United Methodist Church over homosexuality.

He noted that the council’s meeting here this week coincides with Lent, a season for reflection and change.

“Let us practice the Lenten discipline of self-emptying, letting go of the positions we came here to defend and the battles we are plotting to wage in this council or the Judicial Council or on the floor of the special General Conference,” Ough said in a Feb. 25 sermon that doubled as a presidential address.

“Let us practice the Lenten discipline of listening to God and one another to the point of dying to ourselves.”

More than 100 active and retired bishops are in Dallas for a special, four-day meeting. It’s focused on refining options presented by the Commission on a Way Forward, a group advising the bishops on how to avoid denominational schism after four decades of division over how accepting the church should be of homosexuality.

Apart from worship and devotional services, the meeting will be behind closed doors, with the bishop moderators of the commission leading discussion on plans that could turn into legislative petitions.

The Council of Bishops has another meeting scheduled for April 29-May 4, the last before the July 8 deadline for petitions to the special 2019 General Conference, in St. Louis.

“We’re running out of time,” Ough said in an interview after his address. “I don’t expect we’re going to be making any final decision or vote at this meeting. But we added this meeting because we know that by the time we get to the April-May meeting, we’ve got to be pretty clear where we’re going.”

The 32-member commission, which last met in January, has suggested three different frameworks for the church’s future.

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