WASHINGTON — The full council of 112 active and retired United Methodist bishops visited Capitol Hill for the first time in UMC history. The visit to the Dirksen Senate Office Building highlighted the council’s semi-annual meeting, Nov. 2-7, where the bishops discussed the need and means to effect change outside the church.
"You have stature, you have moral authority, and you can use it to so many good causes," said retired U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton, a Democrat from Indiana. The bishops can energize resources and play a role in addressing "the most important problem in the world: how to get people to stop killing one another," Hamilton continued.
The Nov. 7 visit was consistent to the theme of the conference, entitled, "God’s World, Our Parish."
Bishop Sharon Brown Christopher, leader of the church’s Illinois Area, gave the Senate’s opening prayer, sponsored by Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.
"We had a wonderful conversation," Christopher reported. "One of her first questions to me was, ‘What’s happening with (United Methodist-related) Africa University?’ "
Clinton, a Methodist, said she was pleased by the presence of the bishops on Capitol Hill.
"In these very challenging times, our church has an important message for lawmakers about the human family and the challenges that we face, particularly as Americans," she said.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., also a practicing Methodist, encouraged the bishops to play a “prophetic role” in the current day.
"I want you to be a prophetic voice in the world, and I want us to be a prophetic voice in the world," said Sessions.
Following the meeting with the Senators, the bishops attended a dinner with diplomats and ecumenical leaders.
"I am deeply grateful … that in this country, there are people in political office and responsibility who are ready to talk with the church and who are open to conversation about God’s reign," said Bishop Ruediger Minor, leader of the Eurasia Area and president of the council. "Though we are not probably always agreeing on all the details … there is openness."