Earl Bledsoe, bishop of the North Texas Annual Conference made an unexpected announcement about a week ago. Bishop Bledsoe shocked many by his resignation. Bishop Bledsoe cited personal reasons for his decision. In January he lost his 9-year-old grand-daughter in a car accident. His term as bishop has not been without controversy. He implemented a plan of restructuring that was deemed unconstitutional, Bishop Bledsoe has also had to deal with the sexual scandal that involved the largest African-American congregation in United Methodism and its pastor Tyrone Gordon. Reports are, that both laity and clergy felt Bledsoe’s ability to manage the day-to-day operations of the annual conference to be lacking.
Bledsoe, presided over the North Texas Annual Conference and before sending everyone home, made some startling revelations. Bledsoe revealed to his Annual Conference that he was being forced to retire by the Episcopacy Committee. He stated, that he had been told that the North Texas Conference did not want him to return nor did any other Annual Conference in The South Central Jurisdiction want him as their bishop. He went on to say that he was told that he could voluntarily retire or that the he would be placed on involuntarily retirement. However, it was the accusation that he then made that caused the uproar. Bledsoe stated that he was being forced to retire because of racism. He then went on to say that after much prayer he had decided to “fight like the devil” to remain bishop of the North Texas Annual Conference.
Bledsoe, who is African-American, I am sure knows racism well. In this day and age to be publicly accused of racism is a serious charge. It is one that has led to the downfall of well-known personalities. What is racism? My trusty Merriam-Webster defines racism as, “racial prejudice or discrimination.” This is a serious charge to make against a committee that determines the effectiveness of a bishop. Let’s be honest racism is ugly and it exists everywhere, even in The United Methodist Church.
The question has been raised: Can Bishop Bledsoe lead the North Texas Annual Conference after announcing his retirement and then deciding to “fight like the devil” to keep his position? What if his allegation are true? What if he is being forced to retire because of racism? I can only say, that it is a poor witness for the kingdom of God. However, what if Bishop Bledsoe’s allegations are not true? Then as a bishop he has done immeasurable harm to the North Texas Conference. He has divided a conference over race.
Somebody is lying, or should I say there is some serious miscommunication. Perhaps, the parties rather than talking to each other, are talking over one another. Can Bishop Bledsoe lead effectively if the allegations are proven to be true? Absolutely! Can he lead if they are proven to be false? Absolutely not! If the allegations are not true then Bishop Bledsoe, should be stripped of his credentials and forced to publicly apologize to the North Texas Annual Conference, United Methodism, and to Christendom as a whole. This is one time that I hope the charges of racism are true, not merely for Bledsoe’s sake, but for the cause of Christ as expressed thru United Methodism. God have mercy upon us all.