James Armstrong, who resigned as a United Methodist bishop seven years ago amid reports he was having an affair with a married woman, has asked his church to restore his ministerial credentials.
The reinstatement application has already been passed by local and regional United Methodist bodies and awaits final approval by the clergy of the South Indiana Annual Conference, who will meet next spring.
"Countless persons who have been helped and strengthened by his ministry will rejoice" at the news of Armstrong's desire to return to the active ministry, said Bishop Leroy C. Hodapp of Indianapolis, president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops.
Armstrong, 66, who was bishop of Indiana at the time of his resignation, requested the reinstatement so that he can be transferred to the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference for possible appointment.
Armstrong lives in Denver, where he has taught preaching and social justice ministry at the United Methodist-affililated Iliff School of Theology for six years.
Ordained ministry at the local level is central to the work of the church, according to Armstrong. "I had not left the ministry, only the covenantal community of the ordained. It is that community I wish to re-enter," he said.
Armstrong said that he believes his application will be accepted. "If it causes any hassle, I will back away."
Armstrong's sudden resignation, the first of its kind in the United Methodist Church, shocked the denomination. The year before Armstrong, who was also the president of the National Council of Churches at the time, had been named one of the most influential people in American religion in a national poll.
One of many prominent church leaders opposed to the Vietnam War, Armstrong became a national figure in 1973 as a peacemaker during the 71-day siege of Native American activists by federal authorities at Wounded Knee, S.D. He was also a proponent of the civil rights movement and critical of apartheid and the nuclear arms race.