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Bishop Speaks to the Work of Annual Conference

Beloved in Christ Jesus:

It is with the greatest of ease that I say 'Thank You' for a wonderful Annual Conference. The days we spent by the lake were rich and meaningful. It feels like we got a lot done for the mission. Your thoughtfulness and kindness to me and Cynthia was and is heartwarming. Thank you for your generosity and love.

As we move forward into the next conference year, I want to invite your attention to a few things:

  • When I think back on the most recent Annual Conference session, one word that comes to mind is space. We created space for the fresh winds of the spirit through worship. Our work on “There is Enough for the Stranger” created space for congregations to respond with sensitivity and compassion to our neighbors. The “Fear Less” talks and the conversations that we had with one another about the church and human sexuality created space for knowing our stories. While time at conference is limited by design, the template or pattern can be used throughout the year in our local contexts. I heartily encourage this. Your conference staff team stands ready, willing and able to assist you with resources and training as you feel the need.
  • The progress that we are making together on the Light the Way campaign is inspiring. We are almost half way to our $5,000,000 goal. Already we are hearing encouraging reports of real-time progress on new church plants and revitalization efforts. To be sure, money isn’t everything in this arena, but it contributes substantively to the enterprise. Your creativity and the extraordinary leadership pool we have, along with your gifts, are creating a new future where more people come to “know Jesus Christ and choose to follow him.” Thank you for making this possible every day in your current contexts and in new settings.
  • Disciplined Care is another take away for me from our 49th session. This phrase especially comes to mind when I think about our shared work on the budget and support for clergy (i.e. Vacation Policy and Equitable Comp). All of this work will need clear, consistent interpretation so that implementation will be missional (about the mission).
  • You should have every expectation that we will have more opportunities to visit about The Way Forward. In my Episcopal Address I shared with you my gratitude for the privilege of playing any part in these conversations over the last 18 months and your support in giving me space to do this work, which of course meant some other things went undone for a season. You are generous. I support the work of the Commission and what the Council of Bishops has recommended concerning the One Church Plan. Let me reiterate that our work is also about strengthening relationships and building capacity to be together. Maybe this is our real work. Some will want to rattle sabers. I have heard the phrase from some in the WOC that “we are preparing for war.” I plead with all of us to find an alternative narrative. Let us move from saber rattling to waging peace. As we head to a Special Session of the General Conference in February 2019, don’t forget the invitation to weekly fasting and daily prayer from 2:23-2:26 (AM or PM).
  • Finally, don’t forget my upcoming I Believe In the Church tour this Fall. These evenings will be filled with teaching, testimony and worship. Dates and more information about these events will be available soon.

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things…and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)

Your servant in Christ Jesus,

†Gregory V. Palmer