An Open Letter from the Bishop and Cabinet

July 26, 2016

An Open Letter From the Bishop and the Cabinet To the people of the Western North Carolina Conference

Bishop&CabinertLike many others we, the Bishop and the Superintendents of the Western North Carolina Conference, recognize the crossroads at which we stand in The United Methodist Church.  Many across our Conference are deeply concerned and have expressed frustration and regret about the meetings and decisions of some Annual Conferences and Jurisdictional Conferences over the past two months not to follow provisions of the Book of Discipline regarding marriage and ordination standards which they believe are discriminatory.  Most recently in the Western Jurisdiction, the election to the office of bishop of Rev. Karen Oliveto who has been described as “an openly lesbian clergyperson,” has ignited concerns for our denomination as well as questions about our polity and our unity.  Others across our area, however, believe these actions are signs of a new day and a different future for The United Methodist Church. Concurring with the pastoral letter from the College of Bishops of the Southeastern Jurisdiction, we “view the acts of nonconformity as a violation of our covenant….”  We remain hopeful that the collaborative efforts of the commission that was approved at General Conference will provide a way forward.  While that work continues, we are committed to maintaining our covenant to uphold The Book of Discipline. How shall we move forward in the light of these actions in other parts of our connection?  First, we urge the clergy and laity across the conference to be patient.  Bishop Bruce Ough, President of the Council of Bishops, wrote: “Our Book of Discipline has clearly delineated processes in place for resolving issues even as complex and unprecedented as this election (of Rev. Oliveto).”  Those processes take time and require us to be patient as they work their way through the system. Second, we urge everyone to join us in fervent prayer for our church and for our witness in the world in the name of Jesus.  We believe that there is no substitute for the on-going prayers of God’s people, humbly asking and seeking God’s Spirit to intervene and reveal a way forward.  To that end, we have committed to a weekly time of fasting for the sake of the unity of our church.  As has been true in every age and for every situation which the church has confronted since the Day of Pentecost, we must be open and responsive to the leading of God’s Spirit and not our own.  As the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome: “rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer” (Romans 12:12). Finally, we urge all of our churches to stay the course and to remain focused on the mission.  We rejoice in the many ways that God is working through the churches of the Western North Carolina Conference and the manner in which you are all remaining committed to the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of lives, communities, and the world.  We will continue to lead and to live faithfully into the covenant we have made with God through our baptism, with The United Methodist Church through our ordination, and with each other through our faith in Christ Jesus. In response to the invitation from Bishop Ough to all United Methodists, we will daily offer our fervent prayers for the witness of The United Methodist Church, “making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).  We earnestly invite all of you to join us in these offerings of prayer, fasting, and sacrifice.