Beloved in Christ Jesus:
I hope you are off to a good start in Lent. Lent for many is a time of reflection and preparation. We are invited to deepen our life in Jesus Christ and prepare for the feast of Easter.
This year Lent came in on us on the heels of our Special General Conference. I think that is great timing for United Methodists individually and collectively. Since the General Conference adjourned, its effects are consuming lots of air, energy and even headlines in the religious and secular press. Mail is up by post and electronically. So a few reflections and observations seem in order. This may be more for my good, but you may find them to be grist for your spiritual mill.
The communications I have received have run the gamut. Many notes are simply kind and prayerful. Some declare that a great victory was won at the General Conference; others decry that the decisions made in St. Louis have inflicted great pain. Opining about the future of The United Methodist Church has become a cottage industry. In the mix of the correspondence are churches and people that simply and thoughtfully make note of how they are in persistent and steady pursuit of the mission of “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world“ in dozens of tangible ways on a daily and weekly basis. It occurs to me over and over again that nothing gives us a pass on the relentless pursuit of the mission. That is not to say that the church should not spend time, thought and energy focusing on specific ways we live out the Gospel. The point is that every specific place we are seeking clarity as Church must ultimately be in service to the mission.
Some churches and persons are expressing their discontent with the recent work of the General Conference by withholding connectional giving (apportionments) or disrupting public worship. For those who believe that this is a faithful response to St. Louis, I plead and pray that you ask questions that go deep. Dissent and protest are not strange to us in church and society. Whenever we engage in protesting a specific action, it is incumbent upon the individual or group to do so with the primary mission in mind, to be clear about hoped for outcomes, to humbly weigh the unintended consequences and to take moral responsibility for actions and words. There are no consequences, intended or unintended, that do not affect people in real time and in the future.
All ecclesiastical skirmishes notwithstanding, it is still my great honor and high privilege to serve among you as a brother beloved in Christ Jesus and as your bishop. I will never cease to thank God that one day I heard and heeded the glad words of Jesus found in John’s Gospel: “You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last…” and so I remain,
Your servant in Christ Jesus,
+Bishop Gregory V. Palmer