I hope that it is clear that my main focus as your Episcopal leader is to fulfill our United Methodist Church mission statement:  “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”  I am trying to be faithful to this mission statement by creating vital congregations that continue to grow in members and purpose, starting new faith communities, and extending our mission throughout the Greater Northwest.  This remains the center of my own mission and purpose, and I try not to be distracted by other urgent concerns.

It is for this reason that it so grieves me when I receive letters from church members who state that they are leaving the United Methodist Church because of their interpretation of my own actions.  Most notably, my appearance in the Referendum 74 commercial upset a number of people.  I cannot take back my actions, nor do I wish to do so.  My action is a result of my own integrity on this issue, and I truly believe that Ref. 74 allows for the religious freedom for each person to decide their own action on same sex unions.  I stand by my faith response to this issue, just as I respect the right of others to take the opposite stance.

However, I believe that no one should leave the church due to another person’s actions.  The church of Jesus Christ is solely in the hands of the Triune God, and no person can dictate what form the church should take.  God alone is in charge of the church.

Recently, Dr. Jan Love, Dean of Candler School of Theology addressed the Council of Bishops.  Her subject was dealing with divisive and difficult issues in the church and her text was I Corinthians chapters 12-13.  In this section the Apostle Paul reminds us that the church is akin to parts of the body that cannot exist without each individual part.  No part of the body is superior or inferior to any other part.  Paul then goes onto to share one of the most beautifully written treatises on love the world has known.  It is this pure form of love that binds the church together and makes us one.

One of her stark conclusions from these passages is that in the church no one can get kicked out of the body, and no one can leave the body either.  Because of this dictum it means that those who disagree with each other have to stay together to work it out.  No matter how bitter the disagreement, because no one can leave nor be kicked out, the only recourse is to confront the differences and stay as one body in Christ.

I believe in this reading of I Corinthians with all my heart.   No one should be removed from the body and no one should leave, especially due to the actions of another part of the body.  In our time, we cannot force people to stay in the body, and I’m sure it was true throughout all of history, but this ideal of staying within the body even with bitter disagreements is true because it is God’s church, not ours.

I humbly ask for forgiveness if my actions so offended any of our members to the point that they feel they have to leave the church.  I cannot take back any such actions, but I can ask for forgiveness, even as I forgive some who condemn me beyond the pale of Christian graciousness.

What I do ask is for our members not to leave the church, but to stay within the body, and work toward the greater Christian love, so that even in our disagreements we will not cease to love one another.  I remain open to dialogue with the purpose not to persuade anyone to my point of view, but to objectively hear his or her point of view, even as I ask for a hearing of my own perspective.

We are all flawed and sinful human beings, and this is precisely why we need the grace and forgiveness of our Lord Jesus Christ to free us and make us whole.  I ask for such forgiveness each and every day!  May God grant us the strength to stay together as one body and work toward a greater understanding of each other…

Be the Hope,


Bishop Grant


Image Credit: ‘Love is’ by Flickr user By duncan


  1. With all due respect, it would not be your actions that caused another person to leave. It is his or her own actions, or reactions that caused him or her to leave. Each person chooses his or her own actions and reactions. Blessings to you.

  2. The big attraction of the United Methodist Church for many of us is the inclusion of many different thoughts, beliefs and choices. While I support your actions wholeheartedly, I try to accept those in the faith who disagree with us and hope they will accept me. The world is changing, but love needs to persevere. Why else be a Christian?

  3. Thank you, Bishop. I support your understanding of Ref. 74 allowing for religious freedom and I also pray that those who were offended by your participation will understand what you mean by forgiveness. I love the image of the church being a body with many different parts. Those other parts are so important!

  4. It sadden me to think that this issue would cause others to leave the Methodist church. We are a church who believe that it is through agreeing to disagree and work together that we can be united in Christ. We need each other’s perspective as we each have a piece of the understanding of the mystery that is God and what it means to be the Body of Christ.

  5. You have my forgiveness. 🙂 The issue that I’ve heard most people have with the commercial is in regards to how they feel and are thus confrontational to the referendum. This is a divisive issue, and you had to realize that it was not going to be taken lightly. It is one thing for someone to stand and take a position on a political issue, but to take a job title that is one in authority and speak from that platform is where the issue is. You spoke for the United Methodist Church, which from what I see your opinion is not supported as the “official” stand of the church. My question is would Jesus have even gotten involved? I have to say that he would’ve probably stayed out of it. While walking this Earth there were much bigger injustices happening to the Jewish people as a whole under Roman occupation, yet he NEVER spoke out against political issues. Rather he spoke out most strongly to religious people and called them to love. Because of that, I will love and respect people with different views. What draws me to this denomination is NOT the inclusiveness, but rather the call that God put on my life to be here. I will stay, or go, only by His leading and not in regards to anything that the denomination says or does. I am a member of the Christ’s body which is never divided. Blessings to you even though I disagree with your stand.

  6. Thank you, Bishop, both for your public stand and for your letter. I understand the life of Jesus to be one of standing in love againt those forces which were unjust. Since I see this current issue to be one of standing for justice, I so appreciate seeing you, representing the church, take a public stand calling for justice.

  7. Each person has the right to take his or her own personal position on political (and religious) controversial issues. However, when an individual uses his or her position of authority for such a stance, that can and often will be interpreted as the official position of their organization. It should be taken with an understanding that there usually will be significant reaction to that position. This is what you did when in full Bishop’s attire you appeared in the commercial. You seem to have forgotten that you represent ALL Methodists when you appear in public. You not only defied the official position in the Methodist Discipline, but you also offended many, many actively participating Methodists. At least four of our good friends took such umbrage with your taking part in the commercial that they have resigned from our congregation. Others are considering such a move. My wife and I pray that we will not lose any more members. While we took considerable offense at your action, we will stay with our congregation unless a similar position comes from the pulpit in our church.

  8. Bishop, your courageous stand on R74 makes me proud to be a PNW United Methodist. Since Jesus’ gospel is one of love and R74 supports freedom of gay and lesbian people to love it is very clear your position was consistent with the spirit of the Gospel.

    I’m disappointed in United Methodists who have not walked with LGBT brothers and sisters and who, as a result, are blind to the justice aspects of this important cause. In their criticism of your stand they miss the heart of the Gospel and choose instead the legalistic way of the Pharisees. you can be proud that your voice, raised in this important moment of decision for our community, put you in line with the Gospel call to proclaim the truth of love.

    The many gay and lesbian couples in my UMC congregation are heartened by your stand, and they recognize you are joined by other UM bishops of the Western Jurisdiction, and by bishops and denominational executives of the UCC, ELCA, and Episcopal denominations. I believe that no apology is necessary for proclaiming the Gospel as you understand it. Thank you for your example of prophetic leadership. You are a blessing to this conference and it’s people.

  9. I’m with Sandy on this. Bishop, thank you for your principled, biblical, and Jesus-like stand on marriage equality.

    I think that you are right to remind us of Paul’s stand for love and inclusion. That’s just how we were made as the church, one body, one faith, indivisible.

    It’s true that we often don’t agree. The church’s holiness isn’t in our agreement, however. It’s in our togetherness, a togetherness that reaches for all people.

    Thank you for pressing us, holding us accountable, to remain faithful to one another, to Jesus, and to our mission especially when we disagree. I think you are offering good leadership – even when we don’t like it.

  10. Bishop H, as the mother of a young, gay Methodist, I cannot even begin to tell you how much your appearing in the Ref. 74 ads meant to our family. After years of persecution in a church that taught our son that he was an abomination, he has found love and acceptance in the United Methodist faith. He recently flew to St. Louis to the “Imagine What’s Next” conference with the Garden Street Methodist group and came back with a possible calling in his heart to serve the Lord. This makes what you did worthwhile in my eyes. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart!

  11. Every pastor and every church faces the reality of divided congregations and communities. None of us take stands on issues of justice and inclusion without understanding that there will be those who do not agree and are willing to vote with their feet. I regret that your words of love declaring, “We are all God’s children” have become the reason people leave our Church.
    As a pastor trying to serve my congregation in a loving, just, and Christlike way, I am thankful for your leadership and prophetic stand on an issue that touches so many lives. I am proud to be a PNW United Methodist! Thank you.

  12. I agree with Ed above… If the bishop was speaking on his own accord he should have removed his UMC gown and made it clear he was speaking for himself… and personally paying for the advertisement himself ! He did not…

    Also: His speaking against the Book of Discipline and the by-laws of the UMC should have gotten him immediately removed from office ! Any executive, in any position of authority, who spoke against their employers polices thusly would have been terminated the next day… probably without any benefits…

    Since that did not happen my wife and I have chosen to leave the UMC body of believers. We have not left the Body of Christ… as his response notes… We have re-aligned ourselves with a place of worship that follows scripture… and thus is connected with The Master and His Word… A place of worship that does not try and sway believers with personal beliefs or voting choices… but with The Word…

    • It is hard to know whether people are ignorant of the facts or deliberately choose to disregard them. Are you suggesting that the Bishop paid for ads with Methodist money? do you have a basis for this accusation or did you just make it up?

      I saw the commercial several times and cannot find the part that is contrary to the Book of Discipline. Since when are UMs against religious freedom? Are you only for freedom when it gives you the right to believe the things you like?

      I do agree with you about the body of Christ. the UMC is not the body of Christ, only a part. Blessing to you in your new church home.

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