From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Cancels Event over Bishop's Stand

Date 28 May 1996 16:20:35

"UNITED METHODIST DAILY NEWS" by SUSAN PEEK on Aug. 11, 1991 at 13:58 Eastern,

Note 2976 modified by UMNS on May 28, 1996 at 16:27 Eastern (5685 characters).

SEARCH: adult, ministries, homosexual, Kelly, Elias, cancelled

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CONTACT: Thomas S. McAnally                    262(10-21-71){2976}
         Nashville, Tenn. (615) 742-5470              May 28, 1996

Little Rock Conference event canceled;
bishop's stand on homosexuality cited as reason

by Jane Dennis*

     LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (UMNS) -- The Little Rock Conference
Committee on Older Adult Ministries has canceled an April 1997
"intergenerational day of celebration" due to the outspokenness of
retired United Methodist Bishop Leontine T.C. Kelly, who was to be
the guest preacher.
     Kelly, who resides in San Mateo, Calif., had accepted the
committee's Feb. 22 invitation to be keynote speaker at the one-
day event.  However, the bishop's position on homosexuality
expressed during the recent General Conference in Denver riled
committee chairperson Carolyn Elias of Hot Springs, Ark., and
others.  During a May 4 conference call, the committee voted to
cancel the event.
     "We were concerned, after Denver, because Bishop Kelly was
one of the signers of the statement by the 15 bishops saying they
were pained by our Discipline" and its stance on homosexuality,
Elias told the Arkansas United Methodist.
     The bishops' statement caused "much polarization ... and
divisiveness" at the General Conference, Elias said.  "It may not
have yet filtered down to the local church, but it will, I'm sure. 
And we felt to make this event a success we had to have everyone
united behind it."
     Kelly was among four retired bishops and 11 active bishops
who released a statement during the General Conference expressing
"pain ... over our personal convictions that are contradicted by
the proscriptions in the (Book of) Discipline against gay and
lesbians within our church and within our ordained and diaconal
     Nevertheless, they affirmed their commitment to uphold the
church's Discipline that says the practice of homosexuality is
"incompatible with Christian teaching" and bars the appointment or
ordination of "self-avowed practicing homosexuals."
     "It is time to break the silence and state where we are on
this issue that is hurting and silencing countless faithful
Christians," the bishops said.  They urged United Methodist
churches to "open the doors in gracious hospitality to all
brothers and sisters in the faith."
     Elias, who attended the General Conference as an observer for
Good News, an unofficial caucus of conservative United Methodists,
said her reaction to the bishops' statement was "that I was
pained, along with many others, that the bishops felt such pain at
a stance that is so biblically based in both the Old and New
Testaments that they have vowed to uphold."
     The committee first considered rescinding Kelly's invitation
while keeping the event on the conference schedule.  Ultimately,
the decision was made to cancel the event altogether.
     Elias said she felt having Kelly at the gathering "would
cause division among our older adults, and ... we would have had a
problem getting people to support the event, plan it and attend
it, and then have to deal with the fall-out."  Canceling the event
was "the less divisive thing to do" and "would cause less
controversy," according to Elias.
     Little Rock Conference Council on Ministries executive
director F. Gladwin Connell and associate director Rob Walker both
expressed their opposition to canceling the event.
     "It's an embarrassment to our conference to cancel a
distinguished bishop of the church, someone who had already been
invited and had accepted our invitation prior to General
Conference," Connell said.
     "She was coming to preach the gospel to older adults," Walker
said, voicing his dismay at the committee's decision.  "It's a sad
day in our church when we can't have people of different opinions
speak out."
     Arkansas Area Bishop Richard B. Wilke had also expressed his
desire not to cancel the event, according to Connell.  Committee
member Dick Pickett of Lockesburg, Ark., said strong differing
opinions among the committee members prompted him to vote to
cancel, "because I felt we could not hold this event and have it
be one to glorify God with that amount of divisiveness in our
     The committee was indeed divided.  Connell said the final
vote was 4-3 to cancel.
     Reached at her home in San Mateo, Kelly expressed regret that
the event was canceled, "but this is a major controversy in the
church and people are free to think what they wish to think."
     As an African American and a woman, Kelly said she knows how
discrimination feels.  "I don't believe we are called to be judges
of people's lives," she said.  "In the words of Jesus, we are not
to judge."
     In studying the Bible, Kelly said she has found "no quote at
all from Jesus" regarding homosexuality.  Rather, Jesus took
stands to "broaden and push back the parameters of his own day,"
she said.
     "I just feel we need to be open to persons, whoever they
are," she said.
     In addition to Kelly, the celebration was to feature actress
Jeanette Clift George, who played the role of Corrie Ten Boom in
"The Hiding Place," plus gospel singing and dinner on the grounds
at Camp Tanako, a conference camp near Hot Springs.
                              #  #  #
     * Dennis is editor of the Arkansas United Methodist


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