Grace and Peace to you in the name of the triune God.
We are writing to you to express our commitment to increasing the ethnic diversity of The United Methodist Church in the Southeastern Jurisdiction.
The church of Jesus Christ is called to be the people of God who witness to the reign of God that is already present and that is promised in the future. The people of God consist of persons of all ethnic and national identities. When the crucified and risen Jesus Christ gave the Great Commission to the apostles, he commanded that his church be universal in its identity and mission: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”
We confess that the sin of racism in the Southeastern Jurisdiction has distorted the identity of the church and hindered its mission. We confess that racism is still a sin in the life of the church. We pray for forgiveness and the power to repent of racism in our personal lives, congregations, and institutional structures.
We believe we live in a time in the history of the southeastern United States of America when we have the opportunity to overcome our history of racism and fulfill the call of our Lord to make disciples of all peoples. Our cities and towns and rural communities are populated with diverse peoples of many national and ethnic origins. In order to fulfill the mission of the church, all of us must commit ourselves to inviting all people to discipleship through The United Methodist Church.
In order to fulfill our mission, our existing congregations must be transformed into congregations that evangelize and serve all the people in their communities. Our annual conferences must start new congregations of immigrants and ethnic peoples.
During the election of delegates to General Conference and Jurisdictional Conference, we urge the election of leaders who represent the diversity of our membership and our population. We counsel the Southeastern Jurisdiction to nominate to boards and agencies persons who reflect our diversity. We also encourage all of the delegates who will be electing bishops to talk with one another about how race is a power that affects the way they view candidates for the episcopacy and how it affects the dynamics of the electoral process, so that through more honest and empathetic conversation the role of race may be put in its appropriate place in the work of the Spirit of God in the life of the Jurisdictional Conference.
We commit ourselves to more effective leadership as bishops to strengthen the evangelical zeal and prophetic witness of The United Methodist Church in making disciples of Jesus Christ of all peoples and to include all peoples in the life and leadership of the church.
With prayer for the guidance and empowerment of the Holy Spirit in the church, we are
Yours in Christ,
The College of Bishops of the Southeastern Jurisdiction
The Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church
450 Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue
Lakeland, FL 33815
(863) 688-5563 or toll free (800) 282-8011