Bishop Leeland reflects on the "Commission on a Way Forward"

June 1, 2017

Dear Colleagues of our Western North Carolina Conference: Corrie ten Boom reminded us, “The question on Pentecost is not whether God is blessing our own plans and programs but whether we are open to the great opportunities to which his Spirit calls us.”  As we celebrate Pentecost we are reminded of our dependence on the Holy Spirit as counselor, consoler, guide, and teacher.  We anticipate the fullness of the prophecy of Joel, “And it shall come to pass that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh” (Joel 2:28).  Herein lies our hope for the difficult work associated with the Commission for a Way Forward – not our plans, but God’s plan; not our programs, but God’s Presence; not our limitations, but God’s power to impact all with which we are engaged. The moderators for the Commission on a Way Forward have noted, “At a time when we, as a denomination, are looking for ways of redefining our life together, as a worldwide Church in a troubled world, we need to keep Jesus Christ in our lives as the Lord of lords.  It is through Christ and in Christ that the church is a body, having many and diverse members which exercise a variety of functions.” The Council of Bishops has asked each Annual Conference to update our church leadership on the work of the Commission on a Way Forward during the conference session.  In addition, each Bishop has agreed to pray faithfully for the work of God to be done within the church.  Our hope is captured by the reflections of President Elect Bishop Ken Carter, and I would encourage you to listen to his video, “Why I believe The United Methodist Church will remain United.”  VIEW VIDEO The Commission on a Way Forward named by the Council of Bishops following the 2016 General Conference offers a means of identifying a way forward for The United Methodist Church as it relates to human sexuality.  The General Conference approved this work by noting:

  • The Commission will bring together persons deeply committed to the future of The United Methodist Church
  • With an openness to developing new relationships with each other and exploring the potential future of our denomination
  • We have a profound hope and confidence in the Triune God
  • We are a connection, and we admit that our communion is strained
  • Much transformative mission across our world is the fruit of our collaboration.
  • Matters of human sexuality and unity are the presenting issues for a deeper conversation that surfaces different ways of interpreting Scripture and theological tradition.
  • The work is meant to inform deliberation across the whole church and to help the Council of Bishops in their service to the next General Conference in finding a way forward.
The work of the Commission on a Way Forward has been unceasing.  The latest update, distributed this week, describes and summarizes their work.  READ ARTICLE Beyond the work of our 2017 Annual Conference, I have asked the leaders of our General Conference Delegation, Ms. Jennifer Davis and Rev. Kim Ingram, to be in collaboration with the delegation and begin identifying the ways in which we might gather throughout our Western North Carolina Conference this Fall and early Spring to reflect, listen, and pray for a way forward  in anticipation of the special called session of General Conference.  Personally, I am mindful of the words of John R. W. Stott who said, “Before Christ sent the church into the world, he sent the Spirit into the church.  The same order must be observed today.”  My prayer for our conference and for the entire Church is “Come Holy Spirit, Come!” Pentecost Blessings, Paul L. Leeland