Today's post is by UM & Global blogmaster Dr. David W. Scott, Assistant Professor of Religion and Pieper Chair of Servant Leadership at Ripon College.
As previously reported on this blog, last September, 11 of the 12 active African UMC bishops and one retired African UMC bishop put forward a statement on global terrorism, marriage and sexuality, and the unity of the church. The statement gained widespread attention in the United States in November and engendered a lot of commentary from a variety of theopolitical standpoints, especially regarding the bishops' remarks on marriage and sexuality. Links to several such responses are included in our previous post about the statement.
Just last week, however, a UMNS news story highlighted one particular response, an open letter to the African bishops released in early January by the Love Your Neighbor Coalition (LYNC), a consortium of several official and affiliated United Methodist organizations, including Black Methodists for Church Renewal; Fossil Free UMC; Love Prevails; Metodistas Asociados Representando la Causa de los Hispano-Americanos (MARCHA); Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA); Methodists In New Directions (MIND); National Federation of Asian American United Methodists (NFAAUM); Native American International Caucus of United Methodists (NAIC); Pacific Islanders Caucus of United Methodists (PINCUM); Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN); United Methodist Association of Ministers with Disabilities; United Methodists for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Concerns; and Western Methodist Justice Movement (WMJM).
There are two things that make this statement newsworthy and different from many of the previous writings in response to the African bishops' statement. First, the statement is phrased as a letter directly to the African bishops, not a comment on the African bishops' statement directed at a third-party (predominantly American) audience. LYNC certainly had a wider audience in mind by issuing their response as an open letter, but the bishops themselves seem to be the primary audience.
Second, LYNC includes a mix of unofficial but United Methodist-affiliated organizations and the officially recognized UMC racial and ethnic caucuses. While previous responses included those from unofficial but United Methodist-affiliated organizations such as Good News and Reconciling Ministries Network, the LYNC response is, as far as I know, the first response to include the voices of official parts of the UMC organizational infrastructure.
It is too soon to know how or if the African bishops will respond to this open letter by LYNC and what the effects of either the African bishops' statement or the LYNC open letter will be in other parts of the denomination. Both statements obviously have implications for the upcoming General Conference in May. Observers will have to wait to see what (if any) effects these two documents have at that gathering.