I was, like many others, saddened to hear of the death of New York Annual Conference’s Bishop Martin McLee on September 6. I had heard that he was on leave for an illness but I had no idea it was this serious. I now wish I had reached out to him to share my prayers and appreciation for his ministry. In lieu of that regret, I will do so here.
I met Bishop McLee because of the Ogletree Just Resolution. I had first heard about this through media outlets – some praising, others criticizing. Later, I was surprised to receive an invitation to participate in the forum resulting from the Just Resolution. The video of that event is here.
What strikes me as I think back over that event was Bishop McLee’s character and charisma. This is clearly a man who loved, and was loved by, his church(es). He took a stand on something that was meaningful to him and was willing to face the critics and the consequences, knowing many would disagree. Whether one approves of the Ogletree resolution or not, we should all respect someone who takes a stand for their convictions.
Bishop McLee was a generous soul. He was kind and hospitable to me, an outsider and guest in his Conference. It is a rare combination, and one that all of us would do well to emulate, to see someone who so convinced of their own course and yet so gracious to their critics and interlocutors.
His parting words to me at the conclusion of the event were of the via media. “We’re a middle way Conference here in New York,” he said. “We have all kinds.”
Indeed, I respect Bishop McLee for seeking a via media through a difficult path; an advocate for justice and full inclusion of LGBT persons in the UMC, but a Bishop charged with upholding the Discipline. He sought to honor both of these roles rather than choose one or the other. For that, I am grateful.
But Bishop McLee’s life and ministry are much more than this, his most famous action as a Bishop. He was a servant of God, a pastor’s pastor and a courageous leader. May he rest in peace, and may God continue to raise up men and women like Bishop Martin McLee among the people called United Methodists.
And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who from now on die in the Lord.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them.” (Rev. 14:13, NRSV)