To the students, staff, faculty, alumni/ae and friends of Perkins School of Theology:
Decision 1341 of the United Methodist Judicial Council – the decision on the election, consecration and assignment of Karen Oliveto as a bishop of The United Methodist Church – was issued on Friday, April 28. Read the UMNS article.
Reaction to the Judicial Council decision has – not surprisingly – reflected the distinct and diverse opinions present within the denomination related to church law and human sexuality.
Perkins School of Theology is a microcosm of the wider church. We are a diverse community of learning, which – not unlike the denomination at large – reflects a rich membership of persons from across multiple spectrums: theological, racial/ethnic, geographic and gender. We value each and every member of our community as a beloved child of God and remain committed to our mission of preparing women and men for faithful leadership in Christian ministry.
Numerous statements responding to the Judicial Council’s decision have been issued, some of which are linked below. My comments here are meant to provide a pastoral word to the Perkins community and especially to our students, staff, and faculty:
We all say we want to be welcoming of diversity, and this is a time that tests that commitment. At a moment of such uncertainty about the future of our denomination, it is imperative that we recommit ourselves to being something increasingly rare: a community with the capacity for respectful, honest and loving dialogue about difficult issues. We are situated in a university whose mission statement affirms the promotion of “an environment emphasizing individual dignity and worth,” in the context of a “historical commitment to academic freedom and open inquiry.” Moreover, we strive to be a community that lives out the Gospel of Jesus Christ, even – or perhaps, especially – when divergent positions are articulated and as we struggle together with our differing beliefs and opinions. To paraphrase Jesus in Matthew 5:46, “If we love only those who agree with us, what more are we doing than anyone else?”
The Judicial Council’s most recent decision – another component in a decades-long struggle around the issues of human sexuality – is part of a larger picture: the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church, through the Commission on a Way Forward, continues its examination of all content in the Book of Discipline related to human sexuality and is committed to exploring options that “help to maintain and strengthen the unity of the church.” A Special Session of the General Conference has been called for Feb. 23-26, 2019, in St. Louis, Missouri, which will receive and act on a report from the Council of Bishops based on the recommendations of the Commission on a Way Forward.
In the midst of uncertainty, of this we are certain: Perkins School of Theology is committed to being a community in which all feel welcomed; where all are valued as sisters and brothers created in the image of God; and where each – regardless of sexual orientation, theological understanding, race or any other attribute – is honored, respected, heard and loved. Nothing has happened or will happen that will change that.
Craig C. Hill
Dean, Perkins School of Theology
Additional responses to the Judicial Council ruling:
A Statement Regarding Judicial Council Decision 1341 from Bishop Bruce R. Ough, President of the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church:
A Statement from Bishop Michael McKee, resident bishop, North Texas Annual Conference (and chair of the Perkins School of Theology Executive Board):
Responses from additional episcopal leaders, United Methodist schools of theology, independent United Methodist-affiliated caucus groups, and news outlets (collated by The United Methodist Reporter): http://unitedmethodistreporter.com/2017/04/29/responses-across-the-connection/