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Public Response to Dismissal of Sessions Complaint
Earlier this summer, a group of over 600 United Methodists brought a formal complaint against fellow United Methodist Jeff Sessions, the Attorney General of the United States, for violations of the 2016 Discipline of the United Methodist Church including child abuse, discrimination, and other doctrinal issues. In the past week, those complaints have been dismissed by Rev. Dr. Debora Bishop, the District Superintendent of the Mobile District, citing the full support of Bishop Graves and the Cabinet of the Alabama/West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church (AWFUMC). We also acknowledge, with deep appreciation, that Mr. Sessions’ pastor in Virginia did speak with him, and has preached on these issues. Their actions provide a strong and inspiring model of faithful ministry.

The Discipline of the United Methodist Church (2016) directs that the initial steps a complaint resolution would have entailed focus on pastoral conversation with Mr. Sessions by his pastor in Alabama, in the Church where he is a professing member, to engage him with the deep concerns raised by many of us across the denomination. Such a movement towards just resolution would have ensured that Mr. Sessions engage these concerns within his professed faith community.

Instead, the leadership of the AWFUMC, our siblings in Christ, chose to dismiss the complaints, saying that Mr. Sessions “Was carrying out the official policy of the President and/or the United States Department of Justice. It was not an individual act. I believe this type of conduct is not covered by The Book of Discipline.”

This decision avoids the most basic level of accountability – a pastoral conversation – and fails both Mr. Sessions and denomination. As a tradition that has persistently challenged United Methodists to live our faith in all aspects of life and society, this abdication of both pastoral and social responsibility is deeply disappointing. In their dismissal, the leadership of the AWFUMC have told our denomination and our world that we as United Methodists have no personal or corporate responsibility for a member of our church whose direct and personal creation and implementation of a national policy rooted in racism causes tremendous physical, spiritual, and emotional harm to our fellow human beings.

With this failure of our denominational system to address the pastoral and social justice implications of Mr. Sessions’ actions, we call on United Methodists of all backgrounds and roles to be clear in our condemnation of the actions, policies, and leadership through which our brother Jefferson Sessions causes significant harm to others. We invite our siblings across the denomination – and beyond – to speak up with prayer, voice, and action in our many ministries and communities to stand against the discrimination, the child abuse, and the wounding ways the bible is used too often to prop up bigotry in our world. These are things that Mr. Sessions personally imposes on the United States in his role as Attorney General, but given that he has invoked his faith as a defense for these policies and practices they cannot be held apart from his faith as a United Methodist. If his Conference leadership chooses to remain silent or ignore his actions, many other United Methodists will not.

Rev. Dave Wright, Tacoma, Washington
Rev. Richenda Fairhurst, Ashland, Oregon
Rev. Dr. Monica Corsaro, Galesburg, Illinois
Three of the original complainants

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