Grace and peace to you in the name of the One through whom we live and move and have our being, Jesus the Christ.
The Council of Bishops convened our spring meeting in Rosemont, Ill., from Sunday, May 5, through Thursday, May 9, 2019. In the days preceding the official opening, committees met to continue work in their areas of leadership and ministry.
Our primary task was to continue reflecting upon the outcome of the Special Session of General Conference in February, and the Judicial Council rulings that followed in April. In many ways, the rulings compounded the pain of our LGBTQIA+ brothers and sisters and their allies, and prompted as many questions as they sought to answer.
As a Council, the following questions guided our discernment:
- How can we place hope at the center of our life and work?
- What models, plans, and conversations are taking place and how can we accompany them?
- How can we be honest and transparent about our participation in these conversations?
- Where do we see leadership in our annual conferences, and how are we leading?
- Where is the pain in our residential areas?
- What is the core of the gospel that we share?
- How can the Mission, Vision and Scope of the Way Forward continue to serve as a prophetic challenge for us?
We engaged in deep discussion around these questions, and labored to both speak and listen to one another with patience and love. That is harder to do at some times than others, and yet we believe we have the responsibility to do so.
The prevailing understanding is that we must find new ways of relating to one another that promote faithfulness in our mission, prevent harm, and respect our diversity. We also agreed that there is no-one-size-fits-all, quick transition into this new reality. There are some beyond the Council who argue that moving thoughtfully is a tactic to delay the inevitable. I disagree with that position. To act hastily and make decisions without being fully informed, rarely produces a sound outcome. Further, the journey matters as much as the destination. Immediately following an intense conversation the comment was made, “Well, we are going to arrive at a new place eventually,” to which I replied, “But will we have any love left in us when we get there?” How we listen and respond to one another, speak of and about one another, criticize and critique one another matters greatly. When this new model is birthed, it must have been created, gestated, and born of love, or it will not be of God.
As we committedly and earnestly walk through this season of United Methodism, I pray that we remember who and whose we are. Even in our deep and legitimate pain we are disciples of Jesus Christ. As disciples, we are yet called to make disciples, and to model the One who called us into this transforming relationship. The question and corresponding response of Micah 6:8 applies to all — lay and clergy — in season and out of season: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
As you will hear in the coming days during our Pre-Conference Sessions and at the Annual Conference Session, we are creating safe and bold spaces, teams and resources to listen to one another and guide our journey. We are committed to creating a diverse and inclusive church; one that values everyone as a child of God. I pray you will invest yourselves deeply in the work so that you may contribute to godly, sound, and faithful decisions in the days to come.
Blessings and peace,
Bishop LaTrelle Miller Easterling