June 17, 2016
Saying that “These are not ordinary times,” Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar did not deliver the Episcopal Address he’d written for the 2016 Annual Conference.
Instead, on Friday afternoon, June 17, he told members that he wanted to talk about some of the joys and pains arising from events at General Conference.
"Some wonderful things happened in Portland," the bishop said, and he named a few:
"We celebrated Imagine No Malaria, the full ordination of women, our new and stronger ecumenical partnerships, which are close to my heart, and new kinds of ministry like the German ministry built around a climbing wall."
He said he was excited by the increase in funding for theological education in Africa and Asia and that the queuing system allowed more international delegates to come to the floor.
"In these moments, we see the best of ourselves as United Methodists," he said.
But when he talked about the pains, he also talked about the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando.
“Our inability to remove the discriminatory language in our Book of Discipline that calls our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and
asexual brothers and sisters ‘incompatible with Christian teaching’ divides us. It is some of our deeper pain,” he said. “How can any child of God be called ‘incompatible with Christian teaching’? We are all made in God's image. After this week’s massacre at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, I am reminded of the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. who said, ‘In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.’
“May we, as a church, not keep silent in addressing all kinds of issues and phobias that tear down the fabric of God’s beautiful creation of all people,” he said.
The bishop told of seeing an article in USA Today about Facebook C.O.O. Sheryl Sandberg’s commencement address at Berkley, where she said:
"The easy days ahead of you will be easy. It is the hard days – the times that challenge you to your very core – that will determine who you are. You will be defined not just by what you achieve, but by how you survive."
“We are deeply divided by how we look at human sexuality. These are hard days, but I need to be the bishop for all people, and I want us to be the church and to be defined as a powerful Christian witness in our Conference and beyond,” he said.
After telling his own story about how he came to the views he holds today, the bishop said “We need to look at each other and listen to one another's stories before we make judgments about each other.”
Bishop Devadhar said when the Council of Bishops spent time together in Portland after General Conference they “talked deeply to one another and tried to understand one another.” Or as their colleague Bishop John K. Yambasu of Sierra Leone preached at General Conference, they tried to see "Christ in one another."
“We need to do this, my friends, because the world is looking for Christ in us,” Bishop Devadhar said. “This hurting and broken world – and especially those on the margins – need us to be the hands and feet and face of Jesus Christ.”
“As we lead the church together, friends, my hope is that we are very serious in offering Christ and what Christ looks like in the gospel to the world,” he said. “That has the power to reach anyone – to reach everyone. That is what should define us. That is how we survive these hard days.”