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Bishop Sprague Threatens a "Coming Out" Of Pro-homosexuality Bishops

Sprague-Rader homosexuality resolution defeated by Council of Bishops

While General Conference delegates were preparing to travel to Cleveland, the Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church was forced to discuss homosexuality, perhaps the most controversial issue before the denomination. On Friday, April 28, the Council defeated a surprise resolution submitted by Bishop C. Joseph Sprague (Northern Illinois) and Bishop Sharon Zimmerman Rader (Wisconsin) urging General Conference delegates to remove prohibitive language regarding homosexuality from the Book of Discipline.

According to the April 28 issue of the Northern Illinois Conference edition of The United Methodist Reporter, Sprague said if the active bishops do not vote to approve the resolution, "we will offer bishops, individually, the opportunity to sign the statement." A similar statement caused a firestorm at the 1996 General Conference in Denver when 15 bishops issued a statement without consulting with their episcopal colleagues.

Sprague and Radar intended the resolution to be provided as an "advisory" recommendation to the General Conference delegates. Sprague told the Reporter that he brought the resolution because he believes "it is important that the Council of Bishops express itself on this very important issue, realizing as we do that the General Conference will make the decision, and rightly so."

Sprague said that bishops, who are charged with enforcing the Discipline approved by General Conference, "have not only the right, but the awesome responsibility to speak a pastoral and prophetic word whenever we can."

The complete text of the resolution published in The United Methodist Reporter is:

"As the Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church, we register our hope born in our biblical and theological understandings, nurtured in our pastoral and administrative experiences and augmented by our understandings of continually emerging biological and psychological data that sexual orientation is not a chosen life-style but an inherent reality, that the 2000 General Conference will find faithful pastoral and administrative ways to affirm gay and lesbian United Methodists and neither condemn homosexual orientation per se nor reject candidates for representative ministry solely on the basis of sexual orientation nor refuse to honor same-sex covenants of holy union in that such unions hold gay and lesbian United Methodists to the same sexual standard of monogamous fidelity to which heterosexual United Methodists are bound."

The Council of Bishops rejected the Sprague-Rader resolution.

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