Bishop Ough: 5 thoughts on unity amid division and talk of split

May 17, 2016

By: Christa Meland

On Tuesday morning, in a point of personal privilege, Bishop Ough spoke on behalf of the Council of Bishops and addressed the plenary floor, acknowledging the pain, distrust, anger, anxiety, and disunity that exists within The United Methodist Church. “I have a broken heart and collectively we have a broken heart,” he said. At a time when there's considerable discussion about a denominational split, Ough said he's committed to unity, and he urged all United Methodists to remain in dialogue, to maintain a bond of peace, and to discern together where God is leading us. In a press conference immediately after he spoke on the floor, he answered questions about the denomination's future, the role he believes the Council of Bishops needs to play, and how he wants to lead as the new president of the council. Here are five thoughts he offered in the press conference: 

1. “I am committed as the president of the council, I’m committed as a bishop in my episcopal area to be the kind of leader that keeps inviting people to a broader understanding and a broader visioning, a broader imagination of what God leads us to be and do.”
2. “The Council of Bishops is in an interesting position within the life of the church because everybody wants us to lead provided we’re leading in their direction and at the same time our authority to lead in some directions is actually limited by our polity…I can tell you what we were trying to accomplish…and that is to acknowledge that we are broken, and in the midst our brokenness, we believe that the shepherds of the flock, the bishops of the church, we are called to maintain the unity of Christ and…much of that work has to begin at home because the council itself is not all of one mind…and we have work to do within the council in order to be effective in maintaining the unity of the church or leading the church toward greater unity.”
3. “I don’t know of an individual or for that matter a family unit that hasn’t experienced division…I don’t know of anybody that hasn’t wrestled with the dilemma of what it means to have different viewpoints at times, different understandings of what to do, uncertainty of what to do. I think the way to communicate to the rest of the church…is to acknowledge that we are the body of Christ and we are a body that’s made up of human beings and we are a body that’s made up of human beings who are sinners and we struggle like everybody struggles. And that’s intensified by a tradition that has always been a big tent, and we’re a big tent because we’ve always understood that it’s important to focus on the essentials and not to be overly concerned about the other things. Do we love one another? Can we practice on a daily basis the means of grace? I think the way to communicate to the rest of the world is to say: ‘Look, how are we different? And we want you to know that our debates over certain issues, which have historically changed over time, they do not keep us from being the body of Christ, they do not keep us from doing good in the world, they do not keep us from making a difference.”
4. “One of the difficulties with any kind of separation is what happens to all those things God has blessed us to be the champions of in the world?...All that we do to sustain hundreds of health clinics around the world, universities, colleges, mission work. What happens to all of that? That’s what gets left on the sidelines…The council is very clear: One of reasons we’re so committed to the unity of church is because there is so much of God’s kingdom work at stake that could suffer.”
5. “The bishops have got to be collectively more directly involved in creating the narrative for the church. We need to be making the case why being United Methodist makes a difference…We need to be reminding people that we are more than our debate over human sexuality, as important as that is and as unresolved as that is. We are more than our division on any one issue.”

Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

122 West Franklin Avenue, Suite 400 Minneapolis, MN 55404

(612) 870-0058