Oklahoma City, Okla.: The Council of Bishops issued a statement concerning human sexuality, addressing their diverse perspectives and calling the people of The United Methodist Church to be in prayer, both for their leaders and for one another.

The statement reads:

As bishops of The United Methodist Church, our hearts break because of the divisions that exist within the church. We have been in constant prayer and conversation and affirm our consecration vow “to guard the faith, to seek the unity and to exercise the discipline of the whole church.” We recognize that we are one church in a variety of contexts around the world and that bishops and the church are not of one mind about human sexuality. Despite our differences, we are united in our commitment to be in ministry for and with all people. We are also united in our resolve to lead the church together to fulfill its mandate—to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. As we do so, we call on all United Methodists to pray for us and for one another.

The bishops worked together on the statement during several executive sessions during their weeklong meeting in Oklahoma City.

The statement came near the close of the Council’s meeting, which opened on Monday with the bishops reaffirming the commitments they made when they were consecrated. During the president’s address, Bishop Warner H. Brown, Jr. of the San Francisco Episcopal Area asked the bishops if they would stand with him to reaffirm their vows as he prayed.

Bishop Brown called for unity within the church and encouraged finding “places where we can agree to work together and find common ground.”

“Leading a church, such as ours, with a diversity of perspectives means we must let people know we hear them, and that we are listening both to those voices that are in the majority and those that are in the minority so that all know they’re heard,” said Bishop Brown.

In November 2013, the Council voted to form a task force which would lead conversations about human sexuality, race and gender with the goal of coming to a shared theological understanding amid differing perspectives and cultures. The task force will continue its work.

“The Council of Bishops is charged to lead the church in a time of prayer and discernment. The task force will seek to work for the council as the conversation continues,” said Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, who chairs the task force. “In a worldwide church serving in very diverse contexts and composed of faithful Christians who have different opinions, we, the bishops, are committed to pastoral care for all our people as we continue to find a way forward.”

About the Council of Bishops

The Council of Bishops provides leadership and helps set the direction of the 12 million-member church and its mission throughout the world. The bishops are the top clergy leaders of The United Methodist Church, the second largest Protestant denomination in the U.S.

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