Sisters and Brothers of the Florida Conference,
Grace and Peace to you in these days of Lent, as we journey with Jesus toward Jerusalem and Holy Week.
The Council of Bishops gathered on February 25-28 in a special called meeting focusing on the progress of the Commission on a Way Forward. The General Conference in Portland, Oregon (May 2016), had asked the bishops to lead the church in a “pause for prayer"—to step back from legislative attempts to resolve our impasse around unity and human sexuality and “to intentionally seek God’s will for the future.” This has been at the center of our work since then. I am convinced that it is not a disruption from our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, but one of the significant ways God is calling us to this mission with many within and many more beyond our local churches.
I hope we will see this time as a gift from God. God has given us the gift of an extraordinary movement of thirteen million people across the world, under the cross and flame, who seek a more faithful way to follow Jesus and a stronger connection as his body on this earth. I see this faithfulness and connection in Florida. There is much anxiety, especially in media and social media, but alongside there is another story, even a better and more accurate story—we are sharing the gospel, we are seeking justice, we are being formed in the scriptures, we are saving the lives of vulnerable children, we are starting new forms of church, and we are surrounding the sick, the addicted and the grieving in prayer.
Attached is the communication of our recent meeting (click here). The Council of Bishops includes 66 active, residential bishops from four continents. The residential bishops are leading conversations in their areas, teaching and listening. In Florida, we have held town hall meetings over the past two years, and next week will begin POV (Point of View) gatherings in churches across our conference (click here for POV information).Three phases are important in the “Mission, Vision and Scope” of the Commission on a Way Forward:
- the presence of a United Methodist witness in as many places in the world as possible,
- as much contextual differentiation as possible, [and]
- as much unity as possible.
We are a people called to the mission of Jesus (Luke 4. 18-19). We honor the vastly different contexts of Florida, from the Keys to Jacksonville and Tallahassee, and across our world, from Kinshasha and Monrovia to Berlin, and from Manilla to all parts of the U.S. And we are connectional people, united for the sake of the mission.
I thank God for you. And I thank God for your prayers. May God bless you.
The Peace of The Lord,
Resident Bishop, Florida Area
The United Methodist Church