An Important Letter From Our Bishop,
Our Global Council on Bishops
and Your Pastor
Last Sunday in worship, I announced the election of Holston Conference’s own, The Reverend David Graves as a newly-elected Bishop of the United Methodist Church. David has been appointed episcopal leader (Bishop) of the Alabama-West Florida Conference and will begin his official duties there on September 1, 2016. The Holston Conference just announced Tuesday, the interim appointment of Bishop Richard Looney to Church Street UMC in Knoxville, Tennessee, David Graves’ previous appointment. We are so proud of David and wish him every blessing in his expanded leadership in our national and global United Methodist Church.
At the same time,I also presented a letter from Holston Conference Bishop, Mary Virginia (Dindy) Taylor about both David’s election and the recent Western Jurisdiction of the UMC election of our first openly practicing homosexual bishop, the Reverend Dr. Karen Oliveto. As I announced on Sunday, it just happens that I know both David and Karen personally, David from Holston Conference collegial relationship and Karen from twice-weekly on-line UMC General Board of Higher Education and Ministry coaching classes in which she and I both participated, January-March of this year.
While many applaud Dr. Oliveto’s election as a breakthrough for the UMC for what they consider decades of institutional exclusion of gay, lesbian and transgender individuals from the full ministry, leadership and fellowship of the church, others point to its direct violation of our current rules of the United Methodist Church as outlined in the UMC Book of Discipline and thus in violation of our covenantal relationship with each other. Given our continued division on this issue, the May 10-20, 2016 General Conference of the UMC voted to form a globally-representative commission to study all issues of sexuality as it concerns the UMC. The hope is to avoid a split in our overall church. In the words of Bishop Ough, president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, “We have a strong bias toward unity, reflected in our consecration vows,” Ough’s statement said of his fellow bishops. “We are open to unity being defined in new, innovative ways.”
This appointed commission will begin meeting early Fall with a special called General Conference slated for early 2018 to consider a way forward on all matters related to sexuality for the UMC. Since that time, several U.S Methodist Conferences have elected to vote their conscience on these matters by proceeding with the ordaination of gay and lesbian pastors and allowing their pastors to perform same-sex unions without penalty of church trial. Prompted by this and the recent election of the Reverend Dr Karen Oliveto in the Western Jurisdiction, the global Council on Bishops have just released a series of statements to which you can find links below.
As your pastor, I am committed to transparency on these matters. This will include apprising you of official correspondence received from the Holston leadership, provision of additional information from recognized United Methodist news sources as well as personal pastoral visits (as requested) in your homes, Sunday School Classes, small groups, in my church office, at Blackbird Bakery or a local restaurant! We may also find that our newly organizing Educational Task Force around these issues may be a helpful for individuals and as a church-wide resource. Listen for more details around our task force in the coming weeks.
To be sure, this issue is complex. It is my prayer that regardless of our opinions on these matters, we will each commit to greater understanding and holy conferencing on how our decisions will affect the global, national, and local UMC as well as individuals both within and outside the church walls. Let us equally commit to the responsibility and privilege to pray for our global episcopal leadership and for the newly forming representative panel tasked to discuss the matters which divide us at present. The work before both will be challenging!
Finally, let us not lose sight of our mission as a United Methodist Church “to make disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” It is our unequivocal spiritual compass.
To access resources that I passed out in worship this Sunday, click on the links below
Profiles on both newly-elected Bishops:
Below is the official Council on Bishops (COB) Statement about the recent Western Jurisdiction election of The Reverend Dr. Karen Oliveto
Below is the latest letter from the Council on Bishops regardiing plans for the newly-elected commission on sexuality
Partners in Present and Future Ministry,