This statement was adopted by the Council of Bishops in their meeting on November 7, 2014 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma:
“As bishops of The United Methodist Church, our hearts break because of the divisions that exist within the church. We have been in constant prayer and conversation and affirm our consecration vow “to guard the faith, to seek the unity and to exercise the discipline of the whole church.” We recognize that we are one church in a variety of contexts around the world and that bishops and the church are not of one mind about human sexuality. Despite our differences, we are united in our commitment to be in ministry for and with all people. We are also united in our resolve to lead the church together to fulfill its mandate—to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. As we do so, we call on all United Methodists to pray for us and for one another.”
Ken Carter, resident Bishop of the Florida Conference, offers an additional reflection:
“Many will read this brief statement and seek to parse the words. And so I offer a sentence-by-sentence interpretation.
“The statement begins with the acknowledgement that there are divisions in our church; as men and women who have been called to seek the unity of the Body (1 Corinthians 12-14) which is now strained or even in peril, this is painful for bishops, and we acknowledge our participation in these divisions. The meeting of the Council of Bishops was not in any way an act of avoidance of the work we are called to do; and so we rededicated ourselves to the promises we made in our consecrations as bishops.
“Many United Methodists (appropriately) understand what it means to be a disciple of Jesus in their own geographical settings (neighborhoods, towns, cities); as a Council, we lead churches in Asia, Africa, Europe and the United States. There is remarkable diversity in these settings, and significant differences in the way faithful United Methodists understand human sexuality. This is true within the United States and across the world.
“We do remind the church, as bishops, that our unity is not about culture or even human sexuality; our unity is grounded in mission to all people (Acts 1-2) and in our purpose, to make disciples (Matthew 28) for the transformation of the world (Habakkuk 2).
“As an aside, our work together also focused on vital congregations, Imagine No Malaria, the Ebola virus and the UMC in West Africa, preparation for the 2016 General Conference, the 75th Anniversary of UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) and the implications of being a world-wide church. I gave a report from the Task Force on Online Communion, which I have chaired, and I will post my reflection this week on the Florida Conference website.
“My sense is that the bishops are becoming more honest with each other and more accountable to each other. This is healthy, and is the work of every one of us.
“Finally, we ask for prayers as we lead, and we call the church to a season of prayer. In this way, prayer is not an avoidance of difficult conversations. Prayer is the most powerful conversation, as we place our trust and confidence in God, who is able to keep us from falling (Jude 1) and is continually inviting us to live in his presence and by his grace.”
I want to express again how blessed Pam and I are to be in ministry with the people of the Florida Conference.
The grace and peace of the Lord be with you!
Resident Bishop, Florida Area
The United Methodist Church