United Methodist bishop accused of violating church teaching

AP, Jan. 16, 2003

CHICAGO (AP) A group of United Methodist clergy and lay people have accused Chicago Bishop Joseph Sprague of violating church teaching on salvation and the virgin birth of Jesus.

The complaint, filed Jan. 7 with Bishop Bruce Ough, head of the College of Bishops for the North Central Jurisdiction, starts a complex church discipline process that carries a range of punishments and could force Sprague from ministry.

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Sprague declined to comment, saying the complaint process is supposed to be confidential.

The Rev. Thomas Lambrecht of Greenville, Wis., spokesman for the 28 people who signed the complaint, said Sprague denied the virgin birth of Jesus and rejected church teaching that Christ is the only way to salvation. The statements allegedly came in a speech last year and in his writings.

The group says Sprague’s comments violated the Methodist’s Book of Discipline prohibition against disseminating teaching contrary to church doctrine.

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