Ohio UM Bishop Hopkins Rides Fence on All Issues In Interview
Saturday, December 11, 2004
As the new bishop of the East Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church, [Bishop John L.] Hopkins said Christians must embrace "social holiness."
The church, he cautioned, must be on guard against extremism, demagoguery and "Balkanization," saying that some Christians are reducing social issues to sound bites and political issues, rather than "doing the hard work of getting to know people."
"Dr. King loved Bull Connor as much as he loved the people Bull Connor beat up on," he said. "We have people who despise people who disagree with them. You have to learn to love people you don't understand. You need to be open to learning something from them.
"Theologically, the church has always struggled with extremism. Do we protect ourselves or rest in the belief that God has overcome evil? Some people can't do that."
Though Hopkins describes the United Methodist Church as "vibrant," it is not without controversy. On Dec. 2, a minister in Philadelphia was defrocked after it was learned that she was in a same-sex relationship, a violation of church policy.
"There's been a lot of pain around this issue," Hopkins said. "People have been hurt because they're gay. ... It's hard to know why it's (issue) occupied so much time. Rightly or wrongly, people who would want to change church policy, try to make comparisons to blacks and women.
"Once you make that comparison, it becomes a huge issue. I personally don't believe gay marriage undermines (traditional) marriage or our culture. However, I believe in the biblical definition of marriage, between a man and a woman."
Hopkins, who has served as a pastor, a missionary, and a bishop in Minnesota, listed his short-term goals.
"I want to find out where God is alive and well," he said, smiling. "My job is to point out to people where God is, to help congregations put a face on God in their communities."
Hopkins said he also wants to work with other organizations to "build up a community that is suffering from economic decline, tension and fear."
"I'm a missionary at heart," he said. "I believe in 'social holiness.' Lay and clergy need to be held accountable for spiritual growth and effective ministry."
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