UPDATED 6-8-2012: The North Texas Annual Conference has posted an interview with Bishop Earl Bledsoe expanding upon his remarks June 5 in which he promised to "fight like the devil" to retain his episcopal office.
Meanwhile, the Rev. Rebekah Miles, who teaches United Methodist polity at Perkins School of Theology, has posted a text transcript of the bishop's remarks on her Facebook page, and an audio of the bishop's remarks on her blog.
In addition, Dr. Miles responded to a Facebook discussion about how the United Methodist Book of Discipline might pertain to Bishop Bledsoe's situation: "The Book of Discipline paragraph 408 lays out the differences between voluntary retirement (408.2), involuntary retirement (408.3), and resignation (408.4). [The late Rev. Ed] Paup resigned (by submitting a letter to the Council of Bishops) and then was no longer a bishop. His conference membership as an itinerant elder returned to the Rocky Mountain Conference. Other relevant paragraphs are in this general section. 406 is about the assignment of bishops. 413 is about the complaint process."
The day after Dallas Area Bishop W. Earl Bledsoe announced he would "fight like the devil" to keep his episcopal office, pundits' analyses and prayer requests from and for the North Texas Annual Conference filled online blogs, Facebook, Twitter and email.
Speaking with the United Methodist Reporter, immediate past conference lay leader Richard Hearne expanded upon the comments that he gave originally to United Methodist Insight at the June 5 adjournment of the North Texas Conference.
Hearne told the Reporter that he thought Bishop Bledsoe had taken his account regarding a racism comment out of context. Hearne cited widespread discontent with the bishop's leadership among North Texas clergy, adding that he thought the bishop had great respect from laypeople. Hearne also emphasized again that with the exception of "one old redneck in his 80s," none of the complaints from clergy or a few laity about Bishop Bledsoe's performance were racial in context.
“This is not a race issue,” Mr. Hearne was quoted by the Reporter. “It’s being made a race issue by some.”
The Reporter article also quotes two key political players in the North Texas Conference:
- The Rev. Jeremiah Booker, senior pastor of Hamilton Park UMC, Dallas, and chair of North Texas Black Methodists for Church Renewal, on black leaders' push to have Bishop Bledsoe disclose the circumstances of his retirement announcement;
- The Rev. Don Underwood, senior pastor of Christ UMC, Plano, and a member of the South Central Jurisdictional Episcopacy Committee, who said he thought the bishop's public disclosure of his negative performance review and the allegation of racism as a motivating factor was "divisive" for the conference.