UMNS Photo by Mike DuBose
Bishop Rosemarie Wenner of Germany blesses the bread and juice for Holy Communion during the April 24 opening worship of General Conference. Bishop Wenner is the incoming president of the Council of Bishops.
From a variety of writings on blogs and in articles in the American church media, it appears that some bishops are having the blues.
“They don’t show bishops respect any more,” complained one American bishop.
“I have never felt distrust before as much as I did at this General Conference,” said a bishop from another part of the world.
“Why don’t they trust us?” another American bishop asked.
Well, let me count the ways.
One, the Council of Bishops projects the attitude that everyone else is to blame for the problems of the American Church.
Two, it has been estimated that two thirds of what the General Conference had before it in plenary came from the Council of Bishops or from bishops heading boards and agencies.
Three, many bishops and their cabinets tend to listen to the churches’ complainers and not to the pastors when there is trouble. Pastors feel that Cabinets look upon clergy as expendable.
Four, many bishops are too busy to take time to deal respectfully with most pastors and churches. They often don’t respond to requests for help or information.
Five, no matter how long and distinguished an elder's or local pastor’s career, Cabinets show no cognizance of those records when a complaint comes up that sounds serious or when the Cabinet wants to make a move.
Six, many bishops tend to make appointments without consultation, contrary to the Book of Discipline, and the Council of Bishops does not have a will or a way to hold this errant bishops accountable.
Seven, at least one bishop put his picture up on the right side of the cross in the conference center’s chapel. Jesus’ picture is on the left side.
Eight, complaints brought against bishops about administrative violations of the Discipline are dealt with by their colleagues on the College of Bishops and are never held accountable.
Nine, bishops tend to take authority over areas of church life that have not been assigned to them by the Discipline.
Ten, as stated in another posting on this blog site, “we have not challenged our leaders about their focus on the world as their parish. They can so easily fall into the temptation of not minding their parish here!”
So, enough American bishops show little or no respect to the pastors and churches under their charge that they have lost the respect of their annual conferences. Whatever reservoir of respect the bishops have drawn upon for generations is mostly empty.
Bishops face having to earn respect. They can no longer presume upon it.
Maybe that’s why some of the most respected bishops in the worldwide connection are the ones who are term-limited by their Central Conferences.
The Rev. Jerry Eckert is a retired clergy member of the Wisconsin Annual Conference and a member of Associates in Advocacy, an organization that provides volunteer counsel and support for clergy facing the United Methodist "fair process" personnel procedure.