Q and A with Bishop Jones
The potential division of the church over issues of same-sex marriage and LGBTQ clergy has raised a number of questions in the Conference, inspiring both concern and hope. We caught up with Bishop Scott Jones this week to learn more.
Q. You issued a statement online about the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation, stating that it is a “significant contribution to the ongoing discussions about human sexuality in the United Methodist Church.” What is your reaction to the Protocol?
A. I welcome the Protocol and am grateful to those who worked on it. It is a step in the right direction and embodies much of what Bishop Bard and I proposed last May. It is a compromise and is regrettable. But it is the least bad option available to us right now.
Q. In your statement, you remind us that we don't really know the outcome of this issue and won't know for a while. What is the timeline for this – and why is it important to keep that in mind?
A. There are lots of conversations going on and only the General Conference can make the final decision. It is a sovereign body that can accept, reject or amend any of the proposals before it. Further, there are lots of aspects about the Protocol that need further detail. Depending on how they are proposed, support may increase or decrease.
Q. How do you feel this proposal could affect the local church – and our Conference in general?
A. We know that the questions about full inclusion of LGBTQ persons is a church dividing issue. I hope the Texas Annual Conference can stay together as much as possible and that each local church will stay together. The best way of doing that is to focus on our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Nevertheless, change is coming, and we should go through it with as much grace and love as possible.
Q. What about clergy? How could they be affected by a split?
A. If there is a separation, clergy will have to decide where and how they can best remain true to their callings. Each one will have to answer the question, “How can I best serve Christ at this time in the Church?”
Q. What should we do in the meantime? What’s the best way to stay updated?
A. I encourage patience, mutual respect and careful listening. Finding good conversation partners to understand these complicated issues is helpful. We should avoid paying too much attention to shallow, reactive statements on social media and instead seek out the deepest wisdom we can find. We as Conference leaders will try to share information as it becomes available.
Q. In your online statement, you mentioned starting a deeper conversation to avoid this type of bitter debate. What can we do to help accomplish this goal?
A. It is useful to engage in face-to-face conversation with diverse groups of people in order to understand other perspectives. We need to pray for each other and respect each other, always believing the best about each other’s motivations and intentions.
Q. What would you want people to remember in this time?
A. One of our liturgies puts it well: The Church is of God and will endure to the end of time for the maintenance of worship, the edification of believers and the conversion of the world. More recently we have said that our mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. These are all words we should live by.
Q. What will be your own next steps?
A. We need to clarify what the Protocol really means and then determine how the Texas Annual Conference can best serve Christ with as much unity as possible.