Yesterday, together with many others around the Methodist connection, I watched the ballots and live feed of the South Central Jurisdiction. I actually tuned in 3 times.
The first time, the body was calling forward the wife of Bishop Earl Bledsoe to receive prayer together with her husband. Prayer is usually a good thing, but in this instance, Bishop Bledsoe had just been voted off the island.
You might wonder why he was voted off. According to the media, Bishop Bledsoe was asked to retire early by folks who wanted to graciously spare him the embarrassment and humiliation of a church trial. By stating that he was being spared these indignities, however, and explaining why the body should vote to retire him, they embarrassed and humiliated him without a trial.
The contradictions didn't stop there. According to the UM Reporter, the committee found that Bishop Bledsoe is a "treasure" and a "fine Christian man and dedicated spiritual leader," but that he "lacks integrity and trustworthiness." Which one is it?
When Bishop Bledsoe changed his mind about being coerced into retirement by threat of public humiliation, the chairperson then publicly shared disparaging aspects of the complaints against Bledsoe, while assuring the media and public that the committee had decided to keep such information strictly confidential.
Bishop Bledsoe certainly had been hurt by these precedings, and hurt people need prayer, along with their families. So who better to pray for him that the people responsible for humiliating him?
Healing from what, you ask? Bishop Bledsoe needed healing from his desire to defend his dignity as an episcopal leader and human being.
I have seen this modus operandi time and time again within the UMC. The methodology of antagonism in cases of bullying is simple:
- A person is subjected to defamation, abuse, or placed in an unmanageable situation that is doomed to failure.
- Self-interested powers that be passively stand by as the damage is done
- The person has a negative emotional response and may make mistakes while anxious
- The anxiety, reactions, and mistakes are used to discredit the person and justify the antagonism
- The disenfranchisement of the person is formalized with religious ritual, establishing the new power structure and reducing the victim to the status of client.
Watching this human being, regardless of his shortcomings of which I have no knowledge, be smothered in prayer-love by the same people who want him to disappear made me a little dizzy.
I decided to watch YouTube videos of gerbils eating their young to calm my nerves.
Returning to the "live feed," I watched the vote to unite the Rio Grande and Southwest Texas Conferences. The vote was unanimous, followed by rousing applause, then "Next item?"