UPDATE 7-19 4:56 PM: After an agonizing hour of questions and remarks, South Central Jurisdiction delegates voted 208 to 45 to affirm the involuntary retirement of Bishop W. Earl Bledsoe as voted by the jurisdictional Episcopacy Committee. A full report will follow later tonight.
"Questions of integrity and trustworthiness" ultimately led the South Central Jurisdiction Episcopacy Committee to vote overwhelmingly to retire Dallas Area Bishop W. Earl Bledsoe involuntarily, according to the committee report delivered to a somber gathering July 19.
In an unusually frank and emotional report from a church personnel committee, chairman Don House outlined a lengthy nine-months' long evaluation process that led up to the committee's ultimate decision to remove Bishop Bledsoe from office. The committee came to its final ruling after a closed-door hearing and deliberations July 16 and 17 at St. Luke's United Methodist Church in Oklahoma City.
The Episcopacy Committee's report was delivered on July 19, the first morning of business for the South Central Jurisdiction. The report is scheduled to come back before the conference in the afternoon, at which time the delegates will be asked to affirm the committee's report. United Methodist Insight will update this report at that time.
The large meeting hall at Cox Convention Center, where nearly 500 jurisdictional delegates assembled, was completely silent as a clearly emotionally distraught House read the Episcopacy Committee's report. Highlighting the extraordinary nature of the action, House began by commending the members of the Jurisdictional Episcopacy Committee, a diverse group representing all 15 annual conferences in the jurisdiction.
fThe chairman said the committee took as its authorization Paragraph 408.3 of the United Methodist Book of Discipline. This section gives jurisdictional episcopacy committees the authority to place on involuntary retirement any bishop "for the good of the church and of the bishop."
"The committee found that it didn't perceive Bishop Bledsoe could restore trust in his own conference or gain trust in another conference." -- Don House
House also emphasized that he personally held high esteem for Bishop Bledsoe. House was district lay leader in the Texas Annual Conference while Bledsoe was superintendent of the West District.
"This is difficult for lots of reasons, one of which is, I love Bishop Bledsoe," House said, struggling to speak. "I served with Bishop Bledsoe at [General Conference and the General Council on Finance and Administration].' I have great respect for him as a Christian man."
The human background that House cast around the committee's report gave its report even more poignancy as the chairman began to explain its reasons for voting to remove Bishop Bledsoe from office.