Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

Bishops returning to OKC after 36 years


Bishop Brown will present the annual presidential address to the Council viewers can watch the speech online while it is happening at : View here


Three quarters would buy you a gallon of gasoline, and a first-class stamp cost 13 cents when the denomination’s Council of Bishops previously met in Oklahoma City. That was in Spring 1978.

The world’s first test-tube baby was born that year — and more than 900 members of a religious cult died in Jonestown, Guyana.

The TV drama "Dallas" made its debut, and "Grease" reigned in movie popularity.

The United Methodist Council of Bishops returns to downtown OKC on Nov. 2-7.

• The public is welcome to opening worship with the bishops at 4 p.m. that Sunday, in the sanctuary of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church.

• During an invitation-only event Thursday, also at St. Luke’s, the bishops will connect with members of Oklahoma’s Native American community. This Act of Repentance seeks to move the global Church toward reconciliation and healing relationships with indigenous people.

• Business sessions downtown are closed.

When this issue of Contact went to press, the bishops’ meeting agenda was not yet available. But some subjects they weighed 36 years ago surely remain relevant today.

In 1978, Oklahoma’s Bishop Paul Milhouse also served as the Council’s president.

In Oklahoma City, the bishops spent two days studying "The Family and Morality."

They heard Gov. David Boren express concern about a growing divisiveness among people who didn’t agree on issues.

"We have increased our technical ability, but have not come to grips with understanding one another," said the future president of the University of Oklahoma.

Family life. Technology. Polarization.

Those subjects dominate today, too.

But the bishops’ 1978 agenda — on file with the General Commission on Archives & History — and 1978 stories in Contact reveal nuances in the topics as well as issues specific to that time.

The seminar on family addressed divorce. "An accelerated rate of clergy family break-up" was of great concern, Bishop Dale White of New Jersey explained in a Contact interview.

"Until recent years many ministers were forced to hand in their credentials when the divorce took place," he noted. "Congregations are much more tolerant."

• The Council also reaffirmed the General Conference’s support of the proposed Equal Rights Amendment in the United States. A call was issued to all levels of the Church for "a more adequate ministry with and for the aged."

• Reports of human rights violations in Turkey and South Africa had spurred letters expressing concern to government officials. News of evangelistic zeal in Latin America encouraged the Council.

• An unprecedented consultation with representatives of the African Methodist Episcopal, African Methodist Episcopal Zion, and Christian Methodist Episcopal denominations prompted celebration.

• Restoration was almost complete for Wesley’s Chapel in London, dedicated in 1778 by the founder of Methodism. It was to be rededicated exactly 200 years later.

Opening worship in 1978 was in the Bishop Angie Smith Chapel at Oklahoma City University. The city’s Chamber of Commerce hosted a luncheon forum. At least one Council session was at the Myriad (now the Cox Convention Center).

A total of 58 bishops’ wives and widows also had traveled to Oklahoma City. They participated in the seminar about family life. (The first female bishop was elected in 1980.)

Contact reported on this special group of women. One always did the unexpected. If proceedings bored her, she exercised at the back of the room. She once climbed a tree to better view a parade.


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