Bishop Richard Wilke: A Plea to the United Methodist Church



Comments (44)

Comment Feed

An excellent rebuttal

I appreciate why Bishop Wilke did this. I wish there was some way to keep this mess together, However, we are absolutely nowhere close to being on the same page about what it means to be a Christian of the Methodist persuasion; we are no longer in agreement about anything. Our current structure is our own worst enemy: It allowed leadership to become its own free-wheeling local seats of power without any accountability back to General Conference.

When it comes to understanding the Bible:
"Sift human experience by the Word of God. (Never allow the Word of God to be sifted by human experience)."

betsy more than 2 years ago

I'm With You, Bishop!

Bishop Wilke, … Perhaps you will remember the name of Harold "Pete" Posey from your Wichita past. I was Urban Minister there and part of District Gang 1971+ . Thank your for insightful Biblical defense of love for and inclusiveness of for our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters. Just wanted to share with you that Joan and my family history is similar to yours. Our very active United Methodist daughter has been married (in a beautiful) ceremony of Christian marriage last year. Christia Ann Posey and her partner Teresa have been very active, loyal and faithful members of Grace United Methodist Church in Olatha, Kansas. Thank your for your word, your lament for our Church. In the tradition of "biblical laments," you did well. Joan and I join your cry, your call for true understanding of our Lord of Love and his words of acceptance and compassion. Many of us have been preaching that for decades. Love to you and Julia, …. Peace. Pete Posey

Harold Posey ("Pete") more than 2 years ago

So what you are saying

Is that every generation has to start from scratch in trying to understand God. I do not agree. We are not the first nor the last to embark on the journey of living how God wants us to live. I do not agree. God never changes; He is ever constant; He is the same God throughout history. Therefore, we have 2000+ years of understanding at our disposal from the communion of saints--that is exactly what John Wesley did when he borrowed what he saw as the best of Christianity across time. Wesley knew he did not have to reinvent Christianity, he knew he only had to reclaim it for his time and place. Our problem is that instead of relying on the communion of saints for understanding, the American UMC started dealing in increasingly vague generalities. That is why we probably could not agree on the best way to get out of a paper bag much less what it mean to be a church in a broken and hurting world. Maybe the way forward is to shuck the vague generalities and start dealing in the specifics of Methodism. Just maybe we need to reclaim the good news that God is capable of giving us the life that makes us capable of not only loving God but also loving what he loves:

betsy more than 2 years ago

Rabbinic Explanation

I studied in an Orthodox Jewish yeshiva for many years.

The OT proscribes male/male homosexual acts but not female/female acts. This is because we are taught to "be fruitful and multiply". If a man has sex with another man, he will not go home and impregnate his wife; in the Jewish world, this is a problem. On the other hand, if a woman has sex with another woman, she can go home, be intimate with her husband, and conceive; thus, no issue. Even today, in the Orthodox Jewish faith, lesbianism is not forbidden for this very reason.

Obviously, then, the OT verses regarding male/male intimacy have virtually nothing to do with modern-day loving homosexual relationships. It is wrong to conflate the two paradigms.

Regarding those in the Christian faith who teach about homosexuality supposedly being the sin exposed by the story of Sodom and Gemorrah, they misinterpret this text. The great sin of Sodom was their perversely violent nature, especially towards strangers. The Midrash, for example, gives the story of a Sodom girl who was caught acting kindly towards a stranger; the people of Sodom responded by lashing her limbs together, coating her body with honey, and leaving her to be picked to death by birds.

These are the stories and interpretations Jesus would have been taught as a child and young man. The Gospels give us no reason to believe he rejected these interpretations.

Ben more than 2 years ago

New testament text

With all due respect, while the old testament references regarding homosexuality are important, Christians rely on new testament text regarding homosexuality as a sin (1 Corinthians Chapter 6, verses 9-10, Romans Chapter 1 verses 21-32 and Jude Chapter 1 verse 7 as well. In Genesis Chapter 2 verse 24, God states "for this reason, a man shall leave his mother and father and cleave to his wife and the two shall become one". Jesus reaffirms this in the new testament in Matthew Chapter 19 beginning at verse 4. There is absolutely nothing in the old or new testaments of the bible that affirm loving, committed homosexual relationships. God created a female for Adam, not a male. However, most will acknowledge that the gulf is wide and deep in the United Methodist Church regarding this issue, which is why an amicable separation is the only solution.

Teresa Dawson more than 2 years ago

I believe you misinterpret the New Testament

First of all, Jude 7, according to most interpreters, means that Sodom pursued *angels.* The Greek states that they pursued "sarkos eteras" which means a *different* kind of flesh, which would mean angels. Verse 6 alludes to 1 Enoch, which faults the angels in Genesis 6:1-4 for crossing the line between humans and angels, when they sired children with human women. Indeed, the word heterosexual has "eteras" as a root. So, it really has nothing to do with homosexuality, but rather that angels and humans should be separate. Ephesians 5:31-32 states the more important meaning of Genesis 2:24 is NOT heterosexual marriage, but rather "into Christ and into the Church." The "Body of Christ" in which we are one with both genders is MORE important than Heterosexual Marriage is to the Christian. Jesus also did NOT teach that Heterosexual Marriage was THE most important value to Christians, for he stated that at times Christians must "hate" their Heterosexual families, including heterosexual spouses in Luke 14:26. And, we must also state that the New Testament doesn't place as much importance on reproduction as much of the Old Testament does.

Daniel Wagle more than 2 years ago


...your claim is that the church has been misinterpreting its own texts since they were written? The whole thing has been a conspiracy since the start?

I agree that you, as a person, have the right to interpret however you want. But the church and its clergy and representatives and doctrine is not free to do so.

td more than 2 years ago


God bless Bishop Richard Wilke! His little talk is truly in the spirit of the Gospel.

Ben more than 2 years ago

Context is key

Bible content is what it is. We cannot change those words. We can change how we interpret those words and this is the key to the current UMC conundrum. Interpretation is the business of theology. It is the subject of theological studies and philosophical argument. As such there is no God defined answer; only our pitiful attempts to put our words and our personal understandings into the mouth of God. We will fail, as we must, because we cannot even imagine the mind of God. If we take only one word from Jesus’ ministry: LOVE. We cannot define it fully in the mind of God. Instead we concoct man made descriptions that reflect our own personal limitations and biases. For the church to fulfill its mission on earth and become a cradle for the birthing of true disciples of the Lord we need to reimagine and broaden our definitions of love to be closer to that of the King. Let’s accept the mystery that do not know why God creates each person to be unique and, at the same time, in His image. Accept. Not limit or judge; because we are not really qualified to do that despite academic degrees and years of study. Simply accept and be into the business of making disciples to God.

Dick Dedic more than 2 years ago

"Accept. Not limit or judge;"

Then we are left to "simply accept" behavior we see in people like John Wayne Gacy or Jeffrey Dahmer, for instance? The approach you suggest is appealing, but obviously irrational. Though our ability to discern the will of God is profoundly limited, our circumstances in this world demand that we make our best effort to do so, nonetheless.

James more than 2 years ago

Not so.

I do not agree that the church is entirely free to change its interpretation. Our interpretation must be consistent with the canon of the bible and must be in line with over 2000 years of understanding.

Just to be clear on this specific issue: jesus was here during ancient times when homosexuality was widely practiced in pagan society. We have no record, written or as part of the apostolic tradition, that he welcomed homosexual acts as holy. The early church was adamant about sexual immorality with homosexual acts considered immoral.

Obviously, you are not claiming that people did not have same sex desires in the ancient world. If same sex desires are holy and people who have them can not be fully human without engaging in homosexual sex, then why didn't Jesus clear this up when he spoke to us and his disciples? Was God unjust, bigoted, homophobic, and promoting oppression? If he didn't speak out about the inherent justice, he must have been very unloving indeed.

td more than 2 years ago

Show Them Jesus

Dr. Timothy Tennent, President Of Asbury Theological Seminary in his response to Asbury students, alums, etc., wrote that he had yet to read a Biblical response from those who opposed the Traditional Plan. Thus he disagreed with those related to Asbury who opposed the Plan and those who supported the plan.

Bishop Richard Wilke, in his “A Plea To The United Methodist Church” provides a response to Dr. Tennent, even if he has not seen Dr Tennent’s letter. I have listened to the video posted on United Methodist Insight.

Two powerful sharings of Bishop Wilke touched me deeply:

First, his sharing the moment that his daughter told him and his wife that she was homosexual, and in a committed relationship with another woman, and

Second, his reminding us that “Jesus is Lord. Even of the Bible.”

Bishop Ernest Lyght, Rev. Dr. Zan Holmes, and I, and others, had Fathers who were Preachers in the racially segregated Central Jurisdiction. I don’t know about their Fathers, but my Father had these words on the pulpits from which he preached: “Let Them See Jesus!”

There are many of us who do not see Jesus in the Traditional Plan.

Gil Caldwell

Gil Caldwell more than 2 years ago

And there are many of us who

do not see Jesus in the progressive viewpoint. Obviously we have different understandings of Jesus.

Bishops are in a tough spot right now, They are having to confront the reality generations of them have been avoiding: A single faith tradition can do all sorts of good deeds, but it cannot survive without having some core theological convictions everybody agrees on.

betsy more than 2 years ago

Happy vs. Holy

Look, no loving parent is going to cut off a child because the child experiences same sex attraction. There are a myriad of sins that we humans commit because of our total depravity. The question is whether God wants us to be happy or be holy. Christians are not given a pass on suffering. To think that we cannot live a fulfilled Christian life unless we can have sexual relations with the object of our desire is to sell God short.

With all due respect to the bishop, the Holy Bible never refers to homosexual relations in a positive light. And before anyone says that Jesus never condemned homosexual relations, one can also say that Jesus never condemned pornography or drug abuse either. I was most disappointed in the worn out shellfish canard. Does this bishop not understand the difference between dietary laws and moral law? I'm afraid that the only solution that is going to work here is to cut the baby in half. I sincerely doubt that the centrist/progressive wing is suddenly going to say "we love you and feel that if you have to go you should go with your church property." Likewise for the traditionalists offering an equitable division of assets to leaving centrists/progressives. Maybe all the UMC property should be sold and put in a trust fund to pay reparations to Native Americans and African Americans.

Dan more than 2 years ago


the equally worn-out polyester-cotton blends canard, or the absurd "Jesus never said," as if Jesus uttered not a word until the age of twelve and then clammed up again until he turned thirty. Funny how that one requires a highly literal reading of John 21:25 to distinguish between actions and words.

John more than 2 years ago

Shellfish is called loathsome and an abomination in the OT

Shellfish and Pork ARE highly analogous to the particular male homosexual act mentioned in Leviticus 20:13. Shellfish and Pork are "toevah" of abominations in Deuteronomy 14:3. Toevah is the same word used in Leviticus 20:13. Shellfish and Pork are also called "sheqets" or loathsome repeatedly in Leviticus 11- the chapter which lists clean and unclean foods. So, Biblically, there is no difference between shellfish and that particular male to male act.

Daniel Wagle more than 2 years ago

And in the NT

we read (Acts 10) that God told Peter that (1) the dietary restrictions were not in force for Gentile believers and (2) no person or thing created by God is to be called "unclean," regardless of its appropriateness. There was no sheet containing temple prostitutes, young boys, old men, sisters, aunts, or any other persons that God said, go ahead and lie with them. The point is that though the sexual acts may be unclean, the persons who engage in those acts are just as clean or unclean as those who refrain.

John more than 2 years ago

Having sex with a woman during her menstrual cycle is also analogous

Most Rabbis say that the particular kind of male to male (anal) act is a ritual purity law, because ritual purity involved the defilement of bodily secretions, both from men and from women, which are elaborated upon in Leviticus 15. Similarly, having sex with a woman during her menstrual cycle was forbidden in the same Holiness code in Leviticus 20:18 and 18:19. Obviously this was forbidden because it involved bodily discharges from both the man and the woman. If not engaging in that particular male to male sex act was a "moral" rather than a ritual purity law, then why does it not forbid female to female sex, like it specifically forbids women from having sex with animals, such as in 18:23 and 20:16? I would surmise is that what females could do with other females doesn't involve the exchange of bodily fluids like that particular male to male form of sex would involve. Of course incest and temple prostitution are forbidden. However, it was the idol worship that was opposed in temple prostitution, not the sex acts per se. And there is evidence that temple prostitutes didn't really engage in sex acts, but only perhaps sex acts were considered symbolic of idol worship. And Romans 1:26-27 is probably talking about male and female cult prostitution, rather than homosexuality per se. It is possible they really weren't engaging in sex acts, but rather it symbolized their idol worship by sex acts.

Daniel Wagle more than 2 years ago

30 Years Too Late

With all due respect, the time for Bishop Wilke to deal with his cognitive dissonance was 30+ years ago when he realized that the institution he was charged to lead was at odds with his personal convictions regarding his daughter.
Would he have encouraged a congregant to suffer through a lifetime of internal discord just to remain in an institution which they believed was persecuting a loved one? God forbid!

Dave more than 2 years ago

too late

you cannot justify to keep umc together; it has been dead for years and the only and I mean only hope is to separate in peace. To think anything else will work is folly. Have you not observed the last 4 decades? Each year us worse than the previous. Tired of those who only are in it financially think the rest of us will continue to pay and stay.

Lyn more than 2 years ago


Would that he had had a Modicum of such concern for the Pastors Under his Charge that he has for his daughter.

CD Womack more than 2 years ago


Very grateful to Bishop Wilke for his honest and loving sharing out of his extensive Biblical knowledge and his own personal story. That kind of integrity invites us to places of respect and deep listening.

Lori Leopold more than 2 years ago

I listened to him and I respect him

and everything he has done for the UMC. But I am still not convinced.

betsy more than 2 years ago

That's fair.

I appreciate that you listened to his point of view.

JR more than 2 years ago

Wilke is making an idol of his beliefs above Scripture.

Bishop Wilke says Genesis is significant Scripture, but he ignores that God designed man and woman to be complimentary, not the same. Misuse of God's design is sin, in whatever form it takes. (The LGBTQ agenda is the main one in which sins are promoted from evil to good.) He ignores a lot of the Bible in order to support his daughter's sin. He is guilty of idolatry by holding his own view of homosexual activity as not sinful as being above Scripture.

ilke has had this view for a long time and wrote about it in 2008 in his book: The Tie That Binds: Connecting with God, the Church, and the World. To say that he never really gave a thought about sepeartion in the 30 years since his daughter came out to him is disingenuous.

However, the practice of homosexuality in the United Methodist Church is only the presenting issue. The view of Scripture, the acceptance of the Affirmations of Faith, different views pf who Jesus is, and theological differences form a wide chasm that results in more than one faith being active within the UMC denomination. There is a good portion of the denomination who hold to the orthodox faith of John Wesley as passed down from the apostolic church. Another part of today's UNC has a faith that is more in line with pluralism, universalism and unitarianism and holds that Jesus was not fully man and fully God.

The unity Wilkes claims to seek has not been there since the UMC was founded over 50 years ago. The only thing United is the name and that was a nod to the Evangelical United Brethren Church due to the 1968 merger. There is no unity in a denomination which does not have unity in faith, no matter what Bishop Wilke may claim.

J. Burk more than 2 years ago

Caving In

Let's say Christian parents discover their child is robbing banks. They tell the child “we love you right or wrong,” but this is wrong and leads you in the wrong direction. Today we hear of parents who find their child in an immoral relationship. You would think the same principles apply - “we love you right or wrong,” but this is leading you in the wrong direction. But often instead they say “Well that's all right – we can read the scriptures in a different way and make it acceptable.” These two sides of the debate cannot get along. Some refuse to cave in and want to tow the line for God, even though that's not as easy for the parents.

Skipper more than 2 years ago

I agree with you, Scott

If I found that my adult daughter was having a relationship with a married man, I'd tell her that I love her, but this is wrong.
If she was robbing a bank, I'd tell her I love her, but this is wrong.
If she came out to me as gay, I'd tell her I love her. Full stop.

Because God made her that way.

JR more than 2 years ago

Question for JR

Who created the adulterers and bank robbers?

Dave more than 2 years ago

God above all

Everyone is a child of God.

Everything is made by Gods hand.

Even penguins.

JR more than 2 years ago

Everybody is a child of God because he created us

Question is whether or not we are automatically born into a right relationship with God or we are born inherently sinful and in need of redemption--a redemption that is found in the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus.

betsy more than 2 years ago


If you cannot condemn the lesbian because God created her, how can you condemn the adulterer that God created?

Dave more than 2 years ago

Because they are so different

One is a moral problem which intrinsically harms others, and is forbidden in the 10 Commandments.

Matthew more than 2 years ago

Given that

It must be then possible to love the person and hate their actions. Traditionalists proclaim to do that for LGBT persons but Progressives proclaim it is not possible. Which is it?

Dave more than 2 years ago


This was just sad. He minimizes the conflict to just a disagreement over a few passages and then makes a plea not to divide over that. Same tired old arguments we have been hearing for years. Might have been nice if he acknowledged the failures of the bishops in leading The UMC. He bears some responsibility for bringing us to this point. Just add this to another pathetic plea by another bishop to keep the institution together. I think that ship has sailed. Now we need leadership that takes us into the future.

Kevin more than 2 years ago

Not a terribly convincing statement.

This is a very nice statement from the bishop. But I think it supports our current stance on the issue for the most part. Being a lesbian worked out well for his daughter, likely because he and his wife did great jobs as parents. However, that doesn't prove out that the UMC should necessarily make a blanket endorsement of homosexuality. He really didn't touch the idea of whether we should endorse, but kind of danced around the issue. The UMC opposes rejecting homosexuals in the BoD today. We've worked hard to be as accepting as possible, supporting homosexuals having the same rights as those one would receive in a traditional marriage (prior to the gay marriage ruling). Could we soften up the wording on "incompatibility"? Yes, I think that's a good idea, but neither fringe in the church supports that idea for different reasons.

He didn't specify whether he believed in staying united if we didn't change our policies.

Anonymous more than 2 years ago

It's sad...

That you think this is true.

"We've worked hard to be as accepting as possible, supporting homosexuals having the same rights as those one would receive in a traditional marriage (prior to the gay marriage ruling)."

We won't conduct a gay marriage in our church. Full stop.

Interpretation: we think allowing them to get married, like 'real' Christians, is okay - as long as they do it somewhere else.

Sometimes I don't think Traditionalists even hear themselves.

JR more than 2 years ago

We have been reluctant to endorse the act of homosexuality.

The bishop was reluctant to make an argument for endorsing the act of homosexuality.

"Fixating on those words also misses the larger point that Paul was simply trying to list every sin he could think of. He wanted to show that all of us have fallen short, that we are all sinners in need of the atoning grace of God. As I reflect on the list of sins, I know not a day goes by that I’m not in need of grace.....And yet, make no mistake, I am not condoning sin. As I’ve said, I’ve spent a lot of ministry doing pastoral counseling, dealing with people with various sexual issues. I believe sex, like fire, can do a lot of harm and a lot of good. There are many sexual sins that are foreign to faith, among them prostitution, pedophilia, rape, promiscuity and exploitation. But I also believe from my own knowledge and personal experience that Christ Jesus can capture the heart of anyone — gay or straight — and lead them into faithful, stable and loving relationships."

He didn't have to say this. He could have made a positive endorsement of homosexuality and he didn't. Full stop. If you want the UMC to endorse, then you have to make the argument that its not a sin. The argument he made is supportive of our current position.

Our current position is that sexual relations are affirmed in monogamous, heterosexual marriage. We affirm that this is a universal "good thing." We are reluctant to affirm premarital sex and homosexuality, however, we seek to not reject those individuals, we support their equal rights, etc.

If one wants a different policy, then you have to make a different argument. Bishop Wilke did not, IMO, make an argument for affirmation. That's the ask from the progressives in our church. Full stop.

Anonymous more than 2 years ago

More Than A Few

I believe it's more than just “a few misunderstood passages” from the Bible. There's no way around what Romans says on the subject. Now to change the subject, I really enjoyed the Disciple Bible Study long-term group study. I am a slow reader and could not keep up with the assignments. I took the class completely over and enjoyed it even more the second time! I did the same thing on Christian Believer and highly recommend both.

Skipper more than 2 years ago

I think its 6 passages.

And the Bishop addressed several of them in his video.

JR more than 2 years ago


With all due respect to Bishop Wilke, I believe he has taught himself to accept these scriptures in light of how he wants to believe them. Further, I don't buy for a minute that his lesbian daughter was never subjected to any kind of abuse or neglect or perverse influences during her formative years. Many are in denial of the effects such things can have on one's emotional and spiritual formation. Like so many people of our time, Wilke's whole argument is predicated on the "way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death" (Proverbs 14:12). In other words, his perspective is totally eisegetic.

David Harstin more than 2 years ago

Greek and Hebrew

If you're fluent with the Greek and Hebrew of the Bible, I may listen to you, however, if your source is a good old English translation: conversation over

Jim Sprouse more than 2 years ago


Arguing only those fluent in Greek and Hebrew are worthy of belief and respect s a rather gnostic attitude to take, like they have some special insight into God. I thought being Protestant meant having access to Scripture in one’s vernacular language and being able to read and understand Scripture on one’s own. Or do you prefer we rely completely on Priests and the ordained to do all our thinking for us. No thanks.

John more than 2 years ago

Jesus is watching.

"Further, I don't buy for a minute that his lesbian daughter was never subjected to any kind of abuse or neglect or perverse influences during her formative years. Many are in denial of the effects such things can have on one's emotional and spiritual formation."

How dare you.

You need to reach out to Bishop Wilke and beg his forgiveness. And likewise, pray to Jesus. Maybe you find a way back to being a Christian.

I'll pray for you.

[One can disagree without accusing. Unless you know the Bishop personally, or know his daughter, you have NO RIGHT to say such things.]

JR more than 2 years ago

Won't change minds

I have taken and taught Disciple Courses at my congregation. It's a great program and I would urge all to participate, especially in a Disciple One Course. Nonetheless, I don't see how this Bishop having a gay daughter and desiring the UMC not divide at this point is going to change any minds. Too much water has flowed over the dam at this point. The acrimony and distrust is now too deep. If GC 2020 does not legislate some plan similar to the lines of the Indianapolis Plan, too many Traditionalists and Progressives are going to leave in utter disgust at the inability of this denomination to stand for anything but its own self-preservation.

John more than 2 years ago