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June 5, 2012

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Scandal rocked the final moments of one of the most politically powerful U.S. annual conferences June 5 when its bishop rescinded his announced early retirement by implying that racism played a role in forcing his  departure.

After playing major roles a month earlier at the 2012 United Methodist General Conference, North Texas Annual Conference leaders were thrown into chaos June 5 when first-term Bishop W. Earl Bledsoe told a stunned gathering that he had decided against early retirement. Five days earlier, Bishop Bledsoe had shocked the Dallas-based conference by announcing via videotape his intention to retire after only one episcopal term.

As his wife Leslie stood wiping away tears behind him, Bishop Bledsoe broke the confidentiality of the United Methodist personnel process to reveal the reasons behind his retirement. His remarks came at the behest of North Texas black church leaders, who had submitted a resolution the previous day asking him to stay.

"Two weeks ago I was called before the [South Central] Jurisdictional Episcopacy Committee and told that North Texas didn't want me back," the bishop said. "Not only that, the jurisdictional committee told me that because of the North Texas report of my ineffectiveness, none of the other regions wanted me, either.

"I asked what my options were, and the committee told me I could take voluntary early retirement, or they would retire me involuntarily."

Bishop Bledsoe then said that despite both his performance report and his previously announced retirement, he had decided to remain an active bishop. He cited 16 new church starts, increased worship attendance over the past two years and "having treated you fairly" as evidence of his effectiveness as an episcopal leader.

As he prepared to dismiss the gathering with a benediction, the bishop dropped a further bombshell, "because it hurts," he said.

"I was told that someone had asked when North Texas would get a white bishop," said Bishop Bledsoe, who is black.

"I don't know who poisoned the well, but I'm not going out like that," the bishop declared to whoops and applause from black clergy and lay members, while the rest of the conference stood in shocked silence.

As soon as the meeting adjourned, a knot of clergy and laypeople gathered around  Richard Hearne of Dallas, the outgoing conference lay leader known for his outspoken challenges to North Texas laity.

"I'm telling you something as a member of the press," Hearne told this reporter. "I'm the one who told the bishop that someone had asked me when North Texas would get a white bishop again. And I told the bishop that I responded to that person that he [Bledsoe] was my bishop and I supported him, and that I wouldn't get into that kind of talk."

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June 5, 2012

Comments (20)

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Diversion

I find it hard to believe that more than 80% of the Jurisdiction is Racist. It would be rare not to be able to find at least one person (perhaps several) capable of making a remark about wanting a white bishop. And what Bishop has not encountered criticism about appointments? If the problem is really about incompetance, there are people of the white race caaple of the same incompeance. So what is the real reason behind this move?

Roy Gamblin more than 1 years ago

Racism

As a lifelong United Methodist, I have no doubt that racism has played a part in MANY decisions made in the UMC. I have seen blatant racism and sexism motivate a Bishop, District Superintendent and Regional Guide to harass a wonderfully effective black female pastor to the point of illness and another to the point of death.

It is saddening that in 2012, an organization which was founded on Holiness and Justice shows so little of either.

Erin Pope more than 1 years ago

Racism in the Church

I have read numerous articles, blogs and comments about the Bishop Bledsoe issue. What is common in each is that there is a clear misunderstaning of racism. Racism is not the same as being prejudice. It clear to me that both are at word in the NTC as well as the conectional church called United Methodist. Racism, simply put is, "white priviledge" or prejudice plus power. That is, the overt and covert actions of individuals and institutions which directly disenfranchise a person of color because the group "in power" have the money, influence, and institutional support do what ever they desire.The moment any person or institution claims it is not racist, the reality is that the denial itslef is an admission of quilt. The SCJ needs to consider the impact not only on the SCJ but on the entire UMC Connection. This case will have far reaching implications and will be used. for good or ill, to challenge, defend and otherwise determain the effectiveness/noneffectiveness of Episcopal leaders across the Church. This will, as history has taught us, have a more negative impact on Bishops of Color than any other racial ethnic demographic in the Church.

Rev. Dr. H. Ward Greer more than 1 years ago

Speaking of racism

The Anti-Racism Team was established in 2002 by the North Texas Conference with Bishop Rhymes Moncure presiding. I joined the Team in 2005 and have continued to meet with members of the Team. This group, through the power of the Holy Spirit, has been at work to slowly and surely for dismantle racism in the North Texas Conference so that "individuals, congregations, communities and society are transformed toward God's design for creation,” according to the mission statement. I've learned that racism is not only prejudice but also the abuse of power. Such power is built into the systems in which we operate and into which we are socialized.

I confess that I felt betrayed by the Bishop’s words - it seemed at 6:00 on Tuesday evening that all of the work that’s been done to build bridges of understanding and hope through the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit was undone in an instant. I resented being painted with the same brush as the person who asked when we’d have a white bishop simply because I’m white.

Then I had to pause and ask myself where and how we are all living out of internalized racial oppression and superiority? And who am I to bemoan feelings of betrayal when my sisters and brothers of color have been walking in those shoes for centuries, and still do? In humility, I pray for God’s wisdom and light so that I might be forgiven and become a bit wiser and more aware.

So what's next? How will God bring about the healing that I need and that so many others need and want? What will God do to bring about the wholeness that this body of Christ called the North Texas Conference needs and wants? I don't know, but I know and trust my Lord. We serve a risen Savior who has conquered death and all evil, who lives that we can live to serve him, to make disciples, to be transformed and to work for the transformation of the world. Our Great Physician is able to do what we cannot do for ourselves. With more questions than answers, I still say, Thanks be to God for what is and what will be.

Alice G. Coder more than 1 years ago

Racism

I have no doubt that there is racism in our conference, as our conference consists of humans who are flawed. But this is the third African American bishop I have served under. Bishop Moncure was so beloved by our conference and we lost him far too soon. Oh how I wish he was here today! And Bishop Norris so graciously came out of retirement to finish Bishop Moncure's term, and he was hailed for his wonderful leadership during such a difficult time. I really find it hard to believe this was about race. I personally have not had major issues with Bishop Bledsoe, but then I have never worked directly with him. I just pray that God will bring healing and reconciliation to all of us. God's will be done in our conference!

despiano more than 1 years ago

Racism in Texas and UMC

I just returned to Texas after 8 years in China where I taught at a very large University. In 1975, I left Dallas to teach in Colorado and have lived there since 1975 and the time I spent while traveling to and from China.
Each time I return to Texas, I continue to be appalled by the abject racism that lies like a pall of smog over the city and the state.I would guess that the charges here are legitimate. Your reaction is tinged by the arrogance of racism, deeply embedded in the Texas culture.

Daniel Templeton more than 1 years ago

Not the whole story

Several quick thoughts:

1) If Bishop Bledsoe was not ineffective before, he must surely be ruled so now. Consider the following points. In the span of three weeks he has:
a) put out a video acknowledging widespread problems with his leadership,
b) put out another video voluntarily retiring, and
c) defiantly stated he will *not* retire, acting as if there are few problems at all.

I you want to understand what people believe the problems in NTC are...THAT is the crux...THAT kind of confusing leadership, capricious decision-making, and making himself the center of it all. (Despite the claims that he doesn't want it to be about him.

I heard one person describe it this way "He steers the cruise ship of the annual conference as if it was a jet ski."

2) In his follow up Q&A with the NTC website, published this week, Bishop Bledsoe acts as if he was specially summoned to the Jurisdictional Committee....when in fact their meetings were a part of the ongoing evaluation of bishops. Bishop Bledsoe was evaluated by many of the key/core leaders of North Texas. Those evaluations were received by that committee. One must assume their decision was based, in part, on low evaluations.

3) Bishop Bledsoe claims no charges or complaints have been filed against him. I have it on good authority this is only so because many people who were considering filing a charge/complaint were asked *not* to by conference leadership, so as to allow the regular processes to proceed...and, to potentially allow the bishop to retire without the humiliation of being under charge. My understanding is that the Bishop has previously been informed that churches and clergy were considering filing complaints against him.

To act as if he is unaware of that potential, to proudly proclaim that he is not under charge, is completely disingenuous.

4) The charge of racism might carry some weight except for the ministry of Bishop Moncure. Moncure was widely loved by the NTC. Moncure was seen as a man who understood his strengths and weaknesses, and who surrounded himself with competent leadership to assist him. He *listened* to people.

While there is surely racism in NT, as there is everywhere in society, the insinuation of institutional racism by the Bishop Bledsoe is deeply undercut by the memory of Bishop Moncure.

FaithfulNTC more than 1 years ago

God, Help Us All

This all is ultra saddening. This is a super salient show of the titular pious ones really revealing their "Lucifer" driven thoughts. Please God, send your healing power to all of us. We need it speedily!!

Titi more than 1 years ago

Fair Process

Based on what I have gleaned from the news reports, it appears Bishop Bledsoe was called into a meeting without prior notice that a complaint was to be discussed. It appears that he was given no copy of a written complaint which backed up the demand for early retirement. He was simply told he was "unappointable."

That sounds awfully familiar. That is what too many pastors have faced over the years.

I suggest that if there is a complaint that it be sent immediately to Bishop Bledsoe in writing, that he have twenty days to review it with an advocate, and then participate in a supervisory hearing under Fair Process.

If, however, Bishop Bledsoe was given a written complaint, had the twenty days to prepare for a supervisory response, and then was accompanied to the hearing by an Elder with the right of voice, then Bishop Bledsoe already has the grounds for facing a hearing where involuntary retirement could be possible. Then the jurisdiction needs to hold the proper hearings and allow for appeal.

One of the weaknesses of our system is that the conference episcopacy committee has no role in dealing with complaints prior to them being taken up on the jurisdictional level. That lack is attested by Bishop Bledsoe's call for a "bishop's advisory team."

Let us hope that Fair Process is afforded.

Jerry Eckert more than 1 years ago

Racism In The UMC

Let's be real folks. We all know that Racism is alive and thriving in the UMC. What strikes is that a bishop decided to speak about it, rather than cover it up. Until we admit we have a problem, from the pews of our churches to the halls of our administrative offices, we cannot be healed. As an elder, who is black, I know for a fact there are churches which would not want a black senior pastor. We like the appointive system as long as it works how we want it to. Be bold and step forward. Cross-racial appointments can work and it goes both ways.

Dr. Joe Connelly more than 1 years ago

racism

As a member of the now defunct Anti-Racism Team of the NTCUMC, let me say that this is the obvious proof of intitutional, systemic racism we have been seeking to dismantle for years. Bishop Bledsoe, stay the course. It's time we find a way to seek mediation and conflict resolution. Let's not let the larger church do what so many sprc's have done to clergy for years....ambush and run! Can we not find a scriptural, spiritual solution to this problem as a conference? Can we not find a way to communicate? The fact that we have were all shocked to hear the announcement of the retirement simply indicates that only a very few, very powerful people held sway over the whole. It all just feels wrong! I pray for God's strength and the power of the Holy Spirit to lead us through these next months.

Rev. Reid FAde more than 1 years ago

Bishop

The writer of this artice must not have looked around or been in the conference hall because it was not just "Black clergy and Lay who applauded the statement by the Bishop, but many other non-blacks also. I came to conference sad that the Bishop was leaving. Why? would such a young man who tried to reached out to everyone be departing so suddenly. I could feel something was wrong, but what I didn't know. What I saw and heard during times of debate was rude and hurtful, there was no holy conferencing going on. The tension grew as we prepared to close on Tuesday, there were looks of self-satisfaction by some sitting in my district and fear by others until the announcement was made by the Bishop. Then I began to read statements like "we sought a black bishop", when many didn't want him or those who look like him in our UM churches. Relationships were not broken on Tuesday night, by what was said by the Bishop, actually the light was shone on how shattered we are in NTC. Healing true healing cannot take place when lines were drawn along race lines by the majority who threw the word "race" out there, and continue to use it in every article and statement being written. I know that I need to repent and acknowledge that "works" will not save me. God's grace to you.

1lostsheep more than 1 years ago

Bishop Bledsoe

I love Bishop Bledsoe. He is a wonderful man who has blessed this conference. Who makes those kinds of comments these days? This man has accomplished a lot in his short tenure. I don't care who you are or how powerful you are, playing a race card is just tacky, thoughtless and just plain despicable. There is no room for that kind of thought in this day and age. God forgive you and God bless our conference.

Cindy Langford more than 1 years ago

Bishop Left Out Some Details

What Bishop Bledsoe failed to mention in his remarks were his egregious acts of abusing power and going outside of the Methodist system to accomplish things for his own political gain, etc... If he wants to victimize himself, he should also be overtly transparent about EVERY aspect of the request for his resignation. There were several legitimate reasons that he was asked to resign, but it is not my place to tell you what they are. Hopefully, the Bishop's conscience will cause him to disclose ALL of the facts about his episcopacy.

Insider more than 1 years ago

Eye Witness

Cynthia,

As another eye-witness to the scene, I believe you are incorrect about something. More than just the black churches let out "whoops and applause" when the bishop declared his decision to remain. And by saying that, your article certainly makes it seem like the response was divided along racial lines.

Don,

What is still in question is whether or not his retirement really was "in the best interest of the conference." It certainly seems like it was in the best interest of certain other individuals in the conference. There are many churches/pastors/leaders on all sides of the racial lines who do NOT think his leadership was "ineffective" at all.

So from my seat, the end of annual conference was not "sour" in the least.

EM more than 1 years ago

bishop should stay

I think he should stay and bring the methodist people to reality....I have supsect this has been going in churches...so I hope he can stay and bring this all to a stop..and let us all stop and think what would God do in this situation..lets turn this over to him and let him bring this to a end..and we all can worship him ...

connie marsh more than 1 years ago

Alleging Racism...

A person in this article commented that Bishop Bledsoe "just divided the conference along racial lines." I wonder how many of the comments from this article came from Black and other ethnic minority people of the North Texas Conference. I am a Black member of the North Texas Conference. This conference has been divided along racial lines before Bishop Bledsoe arrived here.

JEBO more than 1 years ago

bishop

"I wouldn't get into that kind of talk". You actually did when you repeated something "someone" said that really did not warrant that kind of attention. You did well to admonish "someone", but you dropped the ball when you carried it forward.

Michael more than 1 years ago

Bishop Bledsoe's Actions

It is a sad day for the United Methodist Church when an episcopal leader chooses to put his personal desires for vengeance/justification ahead of what is clearly in the best interest of the conference entrusted to his servant leadership. He was told he was an ineffective leader by the leaders of his conference and the Judicial Council struck down his signature issue/plan of 'reorganization': now he has clearly lit the tinderbox issue of race . That's not just ineffective; that's irresponsible. This is not about any one of us; I pray he comes to realize that and chooses to put the good of the North Texas conference ahead of his hurt feelings.

People should know and remember that, in 2004, most of these same NTCUMC leaders Bishop Bledsoe is vilifying actively S-O-U-G-H-T NT's first and second African American bishops. It has been a leader in appointing men and women of color to churches regardless of culture.

This is, I believe, the kind of struggle which, on the heels of General Conference 2012, will continue to make the connection weak, outdated and irrelevant - the connectional church has become more concerned with itself than those to whom it is called to serve.

Don Wiley more than 1 years ago

Bishop Stay or leave?


After reading this informative article I think that Bishop Bledsoe should either retire or stay.

Stan Fennig more than 1 years ago

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