At a meeting of the North Central Jurisdiction College of Bishops last week, we spent time in prayer for the 2019 General Conference in St. Louis from February 23-26. Knowing that whatever decisions are made will impact United Methodists around the world, we want to offer the attached letter as encouragement and gift to the clergy and laity in our local churches.
Every day United Methodists are changing the world. Every day people hear the gospel for the first time from United Methodists and respond with faith and love. Every day United Methodists offer food to the hungry, shelter to the homeless, and hope to those in despair. Every day United Methodists spread the peace of Christ to the far corners of the globe.
Who is God calling us to be as Iowa United Methodists for such a time as this? How can we make a difference together in our towns and cities, schools and universities, and in our homes? “May grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ forever.” (Ephesians 6:23)
January 24, 2019
Dear Friends in Christ in the North Central Jurisdiction,
We, the bishops of the North Central Jurisdiction, greet you in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit. Together we all stand on the edge of the special called session of General Conference in St. Louis in February. We are grateful that you have been praying with us in the months and days leading up to this significant gathering of the people called United Methodist, and we remain grateful for your continuing prayers.
During the past months, we each have written and shared about this General Conference and the work of the Commission on a Way Forward. We have traveled throughout our areas teaching and listening, responding to your questions, sharing information and perspectives, and standing with you in this time of uncertainty.
As we approach this General Conference we invite you to trust that God’s Spirit will be at work. The God of Jesus Christ is a God at work “making all things new” (Revelation 21:5), and often in surprising ways. “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). Pray that fresh winds of God’s Spirit will be at work and trust that God will answer this prayer.
Know that whatever decisions the General Conference makes, the ministry to which we are called in our churches, making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, will continue. The day after General Conference there will still be hungry people needing food, those mired in poverty needing help, addicted people needing freedom, frayed relationships needing mending, broken lives needing healing, lost lives needing saving, injustices needing to be righted, and this work of God in Jesus Christ will still call to each of us and to our churches. If the decisions of General Conference lead to changing structures for engaging this ministry we commit ourselves to work with you to make grace-filled responses.
Finally, know that the entire Council of Bishops takes seriously the demands of presiding at General Conference. Bishops have undergone additional preparation so that we are better equipped to preside with the grace and acumen needed to help the General Conference do its work well.
As we approach General Conference we find ourselves in Epiphany, a season rooted in the story of magi who follow a star to find Jesus and when they do “they were overwhelmed with joy” (Matthew 2:10). May we each continue to see the light that draws us closer to Jesus and fills us with joy, so that we might share this joy with the world.
Grace and Peace,
Bishop David Alan Bard
President of the North Central Jurisdiction College of Bishop, on behalf of the College