Our Book of Discipline defines our position, saying that the Church "...does not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider(s) this practice incompatible with Christian teaching."
According to the UMNS article:
"A council subcommittee had recommended replacing that proscription with language that the church does not condone sexual relationships between people of heterosexual or homosexual orientation 'outside the bonds of a faithful, loving and committed relationship between two persons; marriage, where legally possible.'"Now, the homosexuality is not a major issue for me. I have taken homosexuals into Church membership, and would consider doing so again. I have friends who are practicing homosexuals. I also believe, however, that all sides need to respect and practice Church teaching, and I have been disappointed when parties seek loopholes in an effort to, in my view, be disingenuous. The Bishops have the right, I suppose, to suggest any change in policy they see fit to suggest, providing that they, too, abide by canon law, regardless of their personal feelings. If they cannot do that in good conscience, then there is no shame in resignation.
What bothers me about the entire affair isn't that the Bishops talked about the issue, nor that they considered a proposal to change the position of the Church. What bothers me is that the issue was tabled. Not defeated, amended, or passed...tabled.
Retired Bishop Jack Tuell said that the Council of Bishops is, "...somewhat immobilized these days on some of these issues that are really facing our church...", making public his hope that, "...we will find the ways more intentionally to be about the business of giving leadership in this area."
The article says of Bishop Tuell, "While acknowledging that he did not have suggestions on the 'right way to give leadership', Tuell said he believes 'that almost any thoughtful plan of leadership would be superior to prudent silence.'"
Why was the proposal tabled?
"Oklahoma Bishop Robert Hayes, who is secretary of the administrative committee, said advancing the recommendation on homosexuality would have 'proven to be divisive and counterproductive to the unity that currently exists in the Council of Bishops and to the church today.'"
Unity is a wonderful thing, and it is worth pursuing. I believe, for example, that it is every pastor's obligation to seek and to nurture ecumenical cooperation in their respective ministry setting, and also feel that failure to do so is completely irresponsible and unfaithful. Unity is important, and leading it is crucial.
But leadership sometimes requires risking disunity. There's nothing wrong with upsetting soomeone to do what you feel is the right thing. If the Bishops feel that the Church needs to accept homosexual behavior as a viable Christian practice, they should say so. Yes, this might lead to real problems (and likely schism), but if they feel strongly enough, say it.
The Church has suffered from a lack of episcopal leadership on this issue (and other issues as well). The Council of Bishops has seemed more intent on preserving their own unity than in leading the Church, one way or the other. They have seemed afraid of leadership; not what we want to see in our episcopal leaders! The Church and her mission deserve better.
Several years ago, for example, when the Iraq War began, the Bishops were silent. Two years later, when much of the public had turned against the war, many our Bishops released a statement saying, essentially, "Oops; we should have spoken up two years ago...we don't think this war is a good idea." That, to me, was cowardice, not leadership, and it was too little, too late.
I have considered the possibility of leadership by silence. But at some point, I believe, that needs to transform into words and/or actions.
Leadership is a risk-taking venture. Sometimes, it means fighting for unity. In times of uncertainty, to lead means to risk anger, disunity, and failure. I pray that our Bishops decide at some point to lead, rather than to remain silent.