April 29, 2017
To the South Georgia Conference:
The Judicial Council, the highest judicial body or “court” of The United Methodist Church, has ruled that the consecration of an openly gay bishop in the Western Jurisdiction, Bishop Karen Oliveto, violated church law. Specifically, the Council said:
“…no individual member or entity may violate, ignore or negate church law,” the council ruled. “It is not lawful for the College of Bishops of any jurisdictional or central conference to consecrate a self-avowed practicing homosexual bishop.”
What does this decision mean?
It means that the Judicial Council has ruled that the consecration of Bishop Oliveto violates church law. The Council concluded that the bishop’s ministerial office is now subject to review, which will begin with the filing of complaints against her and possibly against those who participated in her consecration. The Judicial Council has, in essence, referred the case back to the Western Jurisdiction for judicial action.
I know that there are faithful United Methodists on all sides of this issue. What we can all appreciate is the way our denominational system has given a fair and impartial hearing to the positions presented and that the Judicial Council decision is based on adherence to the Book of Discipline as the covenant that binds us together.
What is next?
Now that the Judicial Council has made this ruling and the Western Jurisdiction moves forward to study the ruling and consider their response, we turn our attention to the special session of General Conference to be held February 23-26, 2019, in St. Louis, Missouri. The purpose of this special session is to act upon recommendations given to the Council of Bishops by the Commission on a Way Forward.
The Council of Bishops is committed to the unity of the church and the flourishing of its mission. I urge us all to stay focused on the Commission’s work as our best opportunity to determine God’s leading for the church. We believe the God who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it (Philippians 1:6).
What can I do as a South Georgia United Methodist?
The laity and clergy of the South Georgia Conference can be involved in this process in these important ways:
Pray daily for the Holy Spirit to guide the Commission on a Way Forward. Pray for the Holy Spirit to fill us with new possibilities, new hope, new life. God has honored such prayers in the past because room is created for the Spirit to instruct and guide. I believe God can and will do it again!
Share your own thoughts, ideas, and suggestions with the Commission on a Way Forward. I will compile all responses and convey them to the Commission. Your voice is important and needs to be heard. Share your responses here.
Continue to focus on our mission: to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world as we remain Alive Together in Christ.
God of resurrection and new life, we pray to you as Easter people:
When we were dead you made us Alive Together in Christ.
Now we journey toward Pentecost, remembering your promise to pour out your Spirit upon all people. Come, Holy Spirit!
We pray especially for the Commission on a Way Forward. May each member of the Commission be filled with the spirit of wisdom and discernment in all their deliberations. Use their experience and devotion for your glory. And as we prepare for General Conference 2019, give us grace now to hear the Easter message directly from Jesus: “Do not be afraid.” Give us such clarity of purpose that nothing can deter us from the mission to which you have called us.
How we thank you, Lord, for the legacy of faithfulness you have given us through the United Methodist Church. Renew within each of us the passionate spirit of John Wesley and the Methodist movement. Enable us to be a non-anxious presence so that the peace of Christ may guide our words and our actions.
Come, Holy Spirit, and fill us with new possibilities, new hope, new life.
We pray in the name of the One who can do far more than we can ask or imagine, Jesus Christ our Risen Lord. Amen.
Alive Together in Christ,