The Big Tent Has Collapsed

The Big Tent Has Collapsed

Bishop Berlin is infamous for his speech on the floor of the 2019 General Conference where he referred to the Traditional Plan (the legislation adopted upholding accountability for a traditionalist understanding of marriage and ordination) as a “virus” that would infect the denomination. The logical extrapolation was that people who supported the traditional plan (i.e., theological conservatives) were also a virus. Moreover, the Southeastern Jurisdiction’s opening worship featured four giant dream catchers and liturgy that some felt had pagan overtones. The dream catchers were present for the entire meeting while, at times, there was no cross.

For months (years, really) bishops in The United Methodist Church, along with other progressive leaders, have pushed hard on two ideas:

  1. The United Methodist Church is a big tent.
  2. There is room for everyone, including theological conservatives, in The United Methodist Church.

From November 2-5, 2022, the five U.S. jurisdictions held their conferences and elected new bishops. The results are clear: the big tent has collapsed. The United Methodist Church now has the most liberal Council of Bishops in its history. Not one single traditionalist bishop was elected. Not one. Forget about these elections telegraphing the future of The United Methodist Church. They declare the denomination’s present state.

It should now be crystal clear that the two points above in reality are the following:

  1. The big tent has collapsed.
  2. It’s time for traditionalist churches to go…if they still can.

There’s Room for Everyone

If there’s truly room for everyone, wouldn’t you think delegates at jurisdictional conference would want to throw theological conservatives a proverbial bone and elect at least one traditionalist-leaning bishop? Yet they didn’t. Instead, here’s a sample of who they elected and the resolutions they adopted:

  1. The North Central Jurisdiction elected Kennetha Bigham-Tsai. Bishop Bigham-Tsai will begin leading the Iowa Conference on January 1. Before her election, she served as Chief Connectional Ministries Officer at the Connectional Table. During an interview with a delegation as she was campaigning, she said, “No, it is not important that we agree on who Christ is.” She went on to further cast doubt on where she stands on the incarnation of Jesus when she said during the same interview “God became flesh, but not particular flesh. There’s no particularity around that. God became incarnate in a culture, but not one culture.” To read the article about this, including a recording of the aforementioned interview, click here.
  2. The Western Jurisdiction elected Dottie Escobedo-Frank. Bishop Escobedo-Frank will begin leading the Cal-Pac Conference on January 1. Before her election, she was senior pastor at Paradise Valley United Methodist Church Arizona. On her biography on Paradise Valley UMC’s websiteshe is described in the following way:

Dottie believes we are living in a time of epochal change, which requires the church find sacred ways to die in order to be reborn. She calls for heretics and edge-dwellers to lead the church forward. Now is the time, she says, to push these new leaders to the forefront of church restarts. (Emphasis added)

  1. The Western Jurisdiction elected Cedrick Bridgeforth. Bishop Bridgeforth will begin leading the Pacific Northwest, Oregon-Idaho, and Alaska Conferences on January 1. Before his election, he was the director of communications and innovation for the Cal-Pac Conference. Bishop Bridgeforth is a married, gay man. His husband is Christopher Hucks-Ortiz. The Western Jurisdiction now has two married, gay/lesbian bishops: Cedrick Bridgeforth and Karen Oliveto. You can read more about Bishop Bridgeforth in this article from the Western Jurisdiction.

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