I have just returned from Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center in Lake Junaluska, N.C., where I joined resident bishops of The United Methodist Church in a learning retreat. We heard presentations from L. Gregory Jones, former dean and now senior strategist for leadership education at Duke Divinity School in Durham, N.C., and Marty Linsky, who, with Ronald Heifetz, has written extensively on the topic of “adaptive leadership.”
The retreat was meaningful. One of the byproducts of our time together was deepened conversation about what it means to be spiritual leaders before, during and after General Conference, the top policy-making body of The United Methodist Church which meets once every four years.
A small group of us met daily for breakfast and prayer around this idea and were offered space on the agenda to have a larger conversation with our colleagues about what that spiritual leadership might look like. I’m hopeful that all United Methodist Church bishops will offer prayerful, spiritual leadership in the days leading up to, during and after 2016 General Conference, May 10-20 in Portland, Oregon.
I am asking of United Methodists in the Nashville Episcopal Area these three things:
- Pray and fast each Friday beginning in Advent and continuing through General Conference.
- Have a Day of Prayer on April 1, the Friday after Easter, to pray for all who will be leading and serving during General Conference. This could take the form of a prayer vigil where the church is open 24 hours and persons agree to spend an hour in prayer.
- Pray for the delegations of the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences by name each day:
Memphis Conference Delegation: Click here.
Tennessee Conference Delegation: Click here.
There are a number of groups offering preparation leading up to General Conference and resources are being produced for local congregations to access. Click here for more information.
The United Methodist Publishing House is producing a small guide for the Church which is a re-release of a little guide Francis Asbury published in 1792. The title is: The Causes, Evils, and Cures of Heart and Church Divisions. It will be available in the spring and promises to be a good resource.
There will be other resources forthcoming. One in particular that you will want to watch for is written by Western Pennsylvania Conference Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton: What Are We Fighting For? Coming Together Around What Matters Most.
Your appointive cabinet has covenanted together to be spiritual leaders by Leading, Learning and Loving. I will be sharing more about this in coming days.
In the meantime, I invite you to join me in stepping deeper into a life of prayer as we lean into the season of preparation for Advent, Epiphany, Lent and Easter. As my colleague, Virginia Conference Bishop Jung Jin Cho, prays, “Your Will, Lord, nothing more, nothing less, nothing else.” May this be our deepest prayer in the days to come.
Your Servant for Christ’s Sake,
Over the last several days the United Methodist Council of Bishops has been in session at Lake Junaluska, NC. Of the many topics on the agenda this week, none was more significant or more engaging than the discussion that resulted in this statement (posted below).
This statement from the Council of Bishops is a result of discernment, prayer, and deep reflection. It arises out of the recent actions of retired Bishop Melvin Talbert in the residential area of Bishop Debra Wallace-Padget.
Retired and resident bishops of The United Methodist Church throughout the world came to the Council of Bishops with widely different contexts, culturally and theologically, to craft the following points:
1. An acknowledgement of our dependence on God and our need for prayer
2. A recognition that United Methodists are not of one mind on the subject of human sexuality, and that there are deep divisions among Christians who read scripture in different ways and whose consciences move them to opposing convictions.
3. A direct response to the action of Bishop Talbert, which was in violation of the 2012 Book of Discipline by undermining the ministry of another.
4. A commitment to lead honest and respectful conversations around human sexuality, race, and gender in light of our theological convictions for the sake of our mission.
I ask you to note three facets of this development:
1. The General Conference, not the Council of Bishops, speaks for The United Methodist Church.
2. The Council of Bishops does not hold an individual bishop accountable; this practice is given by the General Conference to the (jurisdictional) College of Bishops.
3. The response of the bishops is a reflection on two subjects: a) the violation of the Discipline by a member of the clergy, b) the ongoing struggle of the church with our ministry with gay and lesbian persons.
As the resident bishop of the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences, I take seriously the calling to be a shepherd to the clergy and laity of the Nashville Area. I am aware that there are deep divisions among us on this subject. We are in a difficult time as we navigate the changing cultural landscape. We are also an incredibly diverse Church. I covet your prayers for all who are harmed by this action.
Peace and Deep Prayer,
– Bishop William T. “Bill” McAlilly
*For those who follow a number of bishops on these matters, Bishop Ken Carter was the chief architect of the above statement with slight variations for the Nashville Area. I am indebted to Bishop Carter for sharing his willingness to be collaborative. A small group of bishop colleagues collaborate on a number of issues of this nature from time to time.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | Council of Bishops
Contact: Diane Degnan (email)
LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C.: Following the action of a retired bishop to conduct a same-gender ceremony in violation of church law, the United Methodist Council of Bishops took a series of actions to address the issue during their annual meeting this week in Lake Junaluska, N.C.
The Council requested that Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, president of the Council, and Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett of the North Alabama Conference file a complaint regarding Bishop Melvin Talbert’s action, for “undermining the ministry of a colleague and conducting a ceremony to celebrate the marriage of a same gender couple.”
“When there are violations of the Book of Discipline, a response is required,” the bishops said in a statement.
The Council also voted to initiate a task force to lead conversations about human sexuality, race and gender in a global perspective. The goal of this effort is to come to a shared theological understanding amid diverse opinions in the church about these issues.
These actions followed days of prayerful discernment and conversation about the action it would take after retired Bishop Melvin Talbert conducted a ceremony on Oct. 26 celebrating the marriage of a same-gender couple in Center Point, Ala. – a chargeable offense for United Methodist clergy.
Church law says that, “Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.”
Both the presiding bishop of the North Alabama area where the ceremony took place, Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett, and the Executive Committee of the Council had requested that Bishop Talbert not perform the ceremony.
Under church law, the College of Bishops – which is constituted of the bishops in a jurisdictional or central conference – has authority and accountability for processing complaints against a bishop who serves (or served) in that area, which would be the Western Jurisdiction in this instance.
Earlier this week in the President’s Address, Bishop Wenner acknowledged there is diversity of opinion about many issues in the church. “We have to lead together although we are not one minded. We do not need to hide that we are diverse,” she said. In the address, she also noted, “Serious conflicts have to be brought to the tables where leaders are present,” an acknowledgment that supports the plan for further discussion of the issue through a task force.
In a statement, the Council said that when followers of Christ and people of conscience hold conflicting views, honest and respectful conversation and prayer are needed throughout the church. The Council expressed pastoral care and concern for all people. (Read the full statement online.)
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Notice: Below is an image of letter head and a letter from the desk of Bishop McAlilly. If you can not see the image/read text, please CLICK HERE.
CLICK HERE to read “Bishops urge Bishop Talbert not to officiate same-sex union” by United Methodist Communications
SAN DIEGO, Calif.: The second day of the learning forum for bishops serving annual conferences around the world focused on the strengths of The United Methodist Church and how to leverage these attributes as the church moves into the future.
The day began with worship, prayer, and singing, “Lord you are able to make all things new . . .” Preaching on the text, “If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation,” (II Cor. 5:17) Bishop Debra Wallace Padgett, of the Birmingham (Ala.) area, invited the bishops to reflect on how they as individuals and as a community can grow as new creations in Christ.
“’All things new’ begins with you and me,” she affirmed. “We are becoming new . . . it sweeps across communities, organizations, churches, councils, even denominations.”
Following worship, Brian McLaren, noted author and leader of the emerging church movement, addressed the bishops and engaged in dialogue concerning promising signs in The United Methodist Church. In the spirit of the Wesley Covenant Prayer, he suggested the church is in a time of “letting go” and “letting come” what God wills. In many places, there are creative leaders emerging and prototypes developing that reflect new ways of being church.
“As pressures increase,” he noted, “so do creativity, courage, and determination.” In such a time, things can, in the words of author and educator, Parker Palmer, “break apart” or “break open.” McLaren believes this can be an opportunity for the church and its leadership to “break open” with new possibilities.
In the afternoon, bishops shared “best practices” in appointment making, accountability systems, and ministry with younger generations. Small accountability groups met to enable the bishops to work with one another in the light of their commitments in the Four Areas of Focus and the adaptive challenge of developing more vital congregations. The day ended with learning groups discussing how each bishop can best lead in the unique contexts of the particular annual conference(s) she or he is serving.
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United Methodist Bishops Begin First Forum Meeting
SAN DIEGO, Calif. // May 6, 2013: Active bishops of The United Methodist Church began the first meeting of the Forum of Residential Bishops on May 5 in San Diego with inspiring worship led by Rev. Jorge Lockward, Director of Global Praise for the General Board of Global Ministries. The bishops and spouses spent time in prayer, singing, praying for one another, anointing each other, and remembering their baptisms.
“The emerging church is a movement of the Holy Spirit,” said Bishop Robert Hayes of the Oklahoma Episcopal Area, who preached at the first night’s event. Bishop Hayes encouraged colleagues to reconnect spiritually with one another and with the church and to expect great things from God. “Change begins with us. We have to learn to engage with each other and even to disagree without being disagreeable. We have to model how to put new wine in new wineskins.”
“The purpose of the forum is to learn how to become a learning community,” said Bishop Grant Hagiya of the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area and leader of the planning team. The Forum of Residential Bishops is a continuing education platform for the global community of United Methodist bishops with residential responsibilities.
In the first learning session, several bishops shared thoughts about how to engage with their colleagues in order to lead the church in times of rapid change. In addition, the bishops began meeting together in small groups in order to commit themselves to an intensive exchange about how to lead toward more vitality in their areas. The meeting will continue through May 9.
United Methodist Bishops work in partnership toward common goals
“Exploring leadership for an emerging church” will be the theme of the first meeting of the Forum of Residential Bishops, scheduled on May 5-9, 2013 in San Diego.
The purpose of the five-day meeting is to create a learning environment where the residential bishops will share best practices, experiments and innovations that are working/not working in order to learn from one another. Each day’s discussion and learning will focus on a different theme, with addresses from selected keynote speakers.
“This will be an intensive time of learning, listening and renewing our commitment to our call,” said Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, president of the Council of Bishops. “By removing ourselves for a few days from the day-to-day urgency of leading annual conferences, we have an opportunity to jointly gain a wider perspective of the church as a whole and to help one another as leaders from around the globe.”
The bishops have previously committed to hold each other accountable through a covenant to work side-by-side to lead the denomination forward despite existing challenges in order to increase the number of vital congregations and engage congregations in mission and ministry in the Four Areas of Focus.
During the forum, the bishops will develop small accountability groups, and group members will follow up with each other afterwards related to their annual conference, jurisdictional and general leadership roles and responsibilities.
The bishops have identified some specific goals they are collectively working toward, which include:
- Double the number of vital congregations in the U.S. by the end of 2017
- Increase the number of vital congregations in the Central Conferences
- Raise $75 million in the fight against malaria
- Engage congregations in ministries to end poverty
- Start 1,000 new congregations by then end of 2016
- Enlist, support and mentor an additional 2,000 young candidates for ministry
On May 7, the Episcopal leaders will take a field trip to visit the U.S. – Mexico border.
The bishops will share information about their learning experiences through a series of daily updates which will be available on the Council’s website, and will conclude the meeting with a press conference (via web or phone — details to follow soon).
Last year, the Council of Bishops – which is comprised of both residential and retired bishops – decided to create a Forum of Residential Bishops for the purpose of building a learning community among peers. The meetings will be attended exclusively by active bishops; however, the forum will have no authority to make decisions or take actions on behalf of the Council. Such actions would be handled only when the full Council is assembled.
The full Council of Bishops has traditionally met twice a year, though they are not required to do so under church law. In order to make the forum meetings possible without creating additional cost, the Council decided to meet only once a year. Their next meeting will be November 10-15, 2013 in Lake Junalaska, N.C.
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