Dear friends in Christ Jesus:

Grace to you and Peace from Jesus Christ.

I want to begin by thanking you one and all for a meaningful Annual Conference. We got a lot done and covered a lot of territory. I am thinking about not only our online sessions, but also the dispersed worship services that enabled us to connect with several local churches and communities in the Annual Conference. Kudos to all of the volunteers and staff of the conference as well as the local church staff and volunteers that went above and beyond.

Our theme of Becoming helped give shape to our time together. I pray it will continue to be a touchstone as we continue to answer the question I raised in my Episcopal Address: Who Do We Choose to Be? We get to answer that question every minute of every day that we draw breath. I believe and will continue lead to help us all respond missionally to that question.

I rejoice that in the midst of what for many is uncertainty, chaos and anxiety in the institution called the West Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church we continue to keep serving in obvious and unlikely places. We continue to plant, water, and watch the Triune God “give the increase.” I could not be more grateful to all of you who for example have literally reshaped your congregational life to be in ministry with returning citizens. Who would have “thunk it” that over the last six years West Ohio United Methodists would have given $7,447,729.00 through the Light the Way Campaign to support congregational redevelopment, new church planting and the start of an endowment for new church development. But the real story is never the money. It is the people reached and the lives changed. That is happening every day here in West Ohio because of your belief in the Gospel and your generosity.

We have a lot of balls in the air missionally and institutionally. Among the latter is the work that must necessarily go on around disaffiliation of local congregations and clergy who no longer want to remain in the covenant community of United Methodist clergy. It is my hope and prayer that no United Methodist would leave our church. But for those who choose that path, our Conference Trustees diligently developed and reported to the Annual Conference their work around disaffiliation. The following link will take you to their report Book of Reports.

The District Superintendents are prepared to fulfill their role both with local congregations and clergy. The Offices of the Bishop, Ministry and Finance and Administration also have key responsibilities in this area. All of these offices (staff and governance) are working collaboratively to help implement these new and necessary processes run smoothly. In the next 7-10 days there will be clear, concise information to help you in these matters posted on the conference website. Any posted material will be updated, as necessary.

I expect to call a Special Session of the Annual Conference for November 19, 2022, 10:00 AM – Noon to deal with requests for disaffiliation. Consider this a “hold the date” notification. My expectation is that we will convene online.

That said, let me say again what I have said a number of times that no local church need vote on anything with regard to leaving the UMC. In all of the kerfuffle around these matters, it is astounding to me that a few local congregations who are spending time considering disaffiliation when it is clear to me that they have not discerned their mission in their Zip Code. Again, this is not the case for all but is surely the case for more that I wish it were. It is noteworthy how much misinformation floats around, mostly on social media, that people take at face value to be true when it is patently untrue.

To be abundantly clear I desire no congregation or pastor leave our Zion. I plead with you to seek your information from the most credible sources that have the greatest responsibility to help you get to where you believe you want or need to be. To put it succinctly that would be your bishop, your district superintendent, your conference staff and boards. My most important plea is for you to keep your eye on the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Every minute any of us chooses or are required to work on disaffiliation is time not spent on the core mission.

Disaffiliation is NOT our mission. Partnering with the Triune God in participating in the new creation unleashed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is worthy of all of our time and attention.

Your servant in Christ Jesus,

† Bishop Gregory V. Palmer