At the end of the month, The United Methodist Church will gather in St. Louis for the Special Session of the General Conference to discern a “way forward” beyond our division related to human sexuality, interpretation of scripture and the unity of the church. This global gathering will bring together 864 delegates, thousands of guests, dozens of general agency staff, over 100 active and retired bishops, and hundreds of volunteers from Missouri and Illinois Great Rivers Conferences.
Part of our United Methodist tradition is the public way in which we do our organizational and legislative work. The General Conference is the legislative branch of our UMC. Our theological task is both individual and communal. Sometimes, this communal dialogue gets noisy. As our global body prepares to meet in St. Louis, you will likely hear about it on the news and online. In my experience, information reported in media outlets related to our work is not always accurate. We have a complicated system and process. Please trust me when I tell you that our Missouri leadership teams will spend time in the coming weeks and months helping our local churches process what has taken place legislatively and what that means for your local church and the Missouri Conference. I urge you to pray daily for our leadership in this process.
To say that our understanding of human sexuality and inclusion in the Church is a complicated issue for our global denomination is an understatement.
While we don’t all agree, I do invite you to continue to respect one another in this time following the special session. I have always been proud to be a Missourian because we seem to take seriously Christ’s command to love one another (even when we don’t always see eye-to-eye). Let us demonstrate for the world our care and respect for one another even when we may disagree.
As I have previously stated, I am committed to leading the Missouri Conference through this season of complexity with my eye fixed on the mission of Jesus Christ and the vision of the Missouri Annual Conference where we will relentlessly lead our churches to be outwardly focused and spiritually centered Christ followers. We may look different, but I have confidence in the people of Missouri to go forward together in a spirit of hope and commitment to helping bring about God’s kingdom here on earth.
The Sundays following General Conference will come and there will be songs to be sung, prayers to be said and scripture to be read. Throughout the week, our buildings will be filled with after-school programs, knitting circles and potluck dinners.
Our people will move throughout their communities bringing Holy Communion to the homebound and making sure people on the street have food in their stomachs and warm clothes.
Thank you for the encouragement you have given me and the prayers you offer up on behalf of myself and the Church. My goal, from the very beginning of this process has been and will be to remain in spiritual community despite our theological differences as we have done for generations in the Missouri Conference. I am honored to serve as your bishop and look forward to our annual conference this June.