From Bishop Ken Carter
I commend this letter, the corporate work of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, as a statement about the recent General Conference. You will also be hearing from the chairs of our delegation, Molly McEntire and Rev. Sue Haupert-Johnson. One of my growing realizations is that, given the challenges in our church and our world, we are more than our disagreements and divisions (http://www.wearemore.faith). God is indeed transforming the world through disciples of Jesus Christ in our local churches and extension ministries. We have important work to do at every level of our church in the years to come, from the smallest group of accountable disciples and leaders to the very nature of our denomination’s shared purpose. But I claim the promise to the apostle Paul in Ephesians 3: “Now to God who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen."
Resident Bishop, Florida Conference
The United Methodist Church
Council of Bishops follows tradition with letter to the church
Washington, D.C.: Reviving a tradition that is more than a century old, the United Methodist Council of Bishops sent a letter today to the people of The United Methodist Church following the 2016 General Conference, held in Portland, Oregon, May 10-20. The letter reads as follows:
“To the people of The United Methodist Church:
The Council of Bishops brings you greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who has called us to be servant leaders of the church. In 1812, Bishop Francis Asbury, Bishop William McKendree and General Conference Secretary Daniel Hitt sent the first letter to churches following General Conference. This letter seeks to revive that tradition. Many bishops will also be communicating individually in their own areas.
Hundreds of lay and clergy delegates from around the world gathered in Portland, Oregon, along with bishops and pastors, church members and staff, volunteers and visitors, to engage in Christian conferencing, to make decisions for our church’s future, to affirm our global connection, to worship and to celebrate God’s faithfulness.
We celebrated the success of our Imagine No Malaria initiative, which seeks to raise $75 million in the fight against malaria, a disease that takes the life of a child in Africa every two minutes. We celebrated our ecumenical partnerships as we move in to full Communion with the Uniting Church in Sweden and toward full Communion with the Moravian church. We celebrated our heritage: the 250th anniversary of our oldest church, John Street United Methodist Church, the 200thanniversary of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the 150th anniversary of United Methodist Women, the 60th anniversary of the ordination of women, the 25thanniversary of Africa University and the 20th anniversary of the permanent ordination of deacons.
We continued in our acts of repentance with a presentation from the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes about the Methodist involvement in the 1864 Sand Creek massacre. We shared in the consecration of deaconesses and home missioners and the commissioning of missionaries. We moved toward a global Book of Discipline and global Social Principles. We voted to add five new bishops in Africa after 2020, and approved a church wide study on our ecclesiology.
The Episcopal address set the tone for the event, focusing on humility and lifting up our accomplishments. We heard from our laity an invitation to members to be more involved in making disciples and getting involved in ministries to bring the love of Christ to others. We heard our young people say they “are engaged in Christ’s journey with energy and love.” We also heard them say clearly that they do not want a divided church and urged us to "be in unity even if we do not have unanimity." They give us hope for our future.
The body had difficult and challenging work before it as we acknowledged our differences over human sexuality. Amidst those differences, the delegates affirmed they want their bishops to lead and we found ourselves with an opportunity for a holy moment. We spoke candidly about what divides us and what our church might look like in the future if we dared to consider new possibilities. We offered a way forward, postponing decisions about sexuality matters and committing to having a different kind of global conversation that allows all voices to be heard.
Our differences do not keep us from being the body of Christ. They do not keep us from doing good in the world. They do not keep us from making a difference – and so we set forth bold new goals: to make a million new disciples of Jesus Christ; to engage 3 million new people to make a difference in the world; to transform 400 communities for vital abundant living; to reach a million children with lifesaving health interventions; and to double the number of vital congregations.
Most importantly, we affirmed our commitment to stay united. We proved that we are more than debates and divisions, more than rules and resolutions. We stood together as the body of Christ. As we reflect on our time in Portland, our prayer is for unity in the church for the advancement of our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
As John Wesley reminded us, “Best of all, God is with us.”
Signed on behalf of the Council of Bishops,
Bishop Bruce R. Ough, president of the Council
About the Council of Bishops
The Council of Bishops provides leadership and helps set the direction of the 12.3 million-member church and its mission throughout the world. The bishops are the top clergy leaders of The United Methodist Church, the second largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. The Council of Bishops is made up of all active and retired bishops of The United Methodist Church, and comprises 45 active bishops in the United States; 20 active bishops in Europe, Asia and Africa; plus 87 retired bishops worldwide.