Being a United Methodist bishop brings me many joys and great satisfaction. I am constantly engaged in conversations about vision for the future, unlimited possibilities, and discernment in God’s will for our Church. I serve with so many gifted men and women, in so many levels and capacities of the Church. Most days, I am proud, humbled and honored to be an Episcopal leader.
Then there are days when I feel burdened and sad. When we received the news that the two constitutional amendments concerning gender equality were defeated, I was deeply troubled. What did this mean? Were we saying women are not equal to men? Were we saying there should not be equal treatment and inclusion? Come on! This is not true of the Church I serve! We are rich in our diversity, beginning with gender diversity. Women are created in God’s image. Women are led by God’s Holy Spirit. Women are gifted to lead. I am proud that The United Methodist Church has long championed the rightness of women in ordained ministry, and in every leadership function at every level of the Church. And I feel very confident that the failure of these constitutional amendments to pass has more to do with other factors than respect and acceptance of women as equal in every way to men.
But, my sisters, we still have a long way to go. There is still sexism in our Church; as there is racism, and other forms of division and exclusion. We have come far – and need to celebrate that – but we still must do better. My heart goes out to every female colleague – and indeed to all our women in The United Methodist Church – for ways they feel dishonored, disrespected, and dismissed. The hurt this has caused is tragic.
My commitment is to lead a Church for all God’s people. I am not a bishop who takes sides; I am a bishop who makes space for as many as possible. I am a better pastor, bishop, and man because of the wonderful, gifted women who have nurtured and mentored me along the way. I will continue to do everything in my power to challenge sexism in all its forms, and to bring healing and wholeness to our body of Christ. There can be no unity when one part of the body denies the worth and value of any other part of the body (I Corinthians 12:12-26) and I believe in a body of all, for all. I invite you to be in prayer with me that we may one day become the Church that honors and celebrates every child of God equally and equitably. Thanks be to God!
Grace and Peace,
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung has served as resident bishop of the Wisconsin Annual Conference since September of 2012. Prior to leading the Wisconsin Conference UMC, Bishop Jung served eight years as bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference (Chicago area).