A Pastoral Response on General Conference from Bishop Carter
March 3, 2022
We learned today of the postponement of the General Conference of the United Methodist Church until 2024. The decision was made with deliberation by the Commission on the General Conference, which is a global body composed of laity and clergy. I note here that bishops do not serve as voting members of the commission.
This postponement, a response to the global pandemic and consequent complexities related to global health and the supply chain of visas allowing for travel, was particularly shaped by the presence of delegates to the General Conference who live in forty nations. For this reason, it is not comparable to a large cultural or sporting event that might happen in the United States. We are a global church.
There are understandable disappointments related to the postponement of the General Conference. While some will choose to blame or disparage others for this decision, I urge us to take a higher ground. I write pastorally, with genuine respect and love for all of our people, and with a focus on a particular question:
How will we live and serve together in the interim?
I can minister in a church that is divided with a spirit of grace and reconciliation. I can minimize the caustic tone of the conversation. I refer you to the Protocol, which is a destination, but also a resource for the journey.
I lift up the Narrative for the Continuing United Methodist Church, overwhelmingly endorsed by the Council of Bishops, and the invitation to #BeUMC. I affirm the foundational statement of the #BeUMC initiative:
“The United Methodist Church is founded on a Wesleyan theology of grace, anchored in Scripture, and based in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ and the continuing movement of the Holy Spirit.”
The recent Judicial Council decisions have reaffirmed paragraph 2553 of the Book of Discipline as a clear and fair process for churches who wish to depart from the denomination. Paragraph 2553 is rooted in the deep value of our connectionalism. My calling and hope is that you will remain. In the two conferences I serve, a small number of churches will disaffiliate this year. I lament this. We are better together.
I reaffirm the abeyance that I signed with the Protocol, to cease the legal complaint processes related to LGBTQ persons in our church. For me, this is a fulfillment of our General Rule to do no harm.
And in our local churches, I am committed to resourcing pastors and laity in emerging from a two-year pandemic, finding new energies and new ways to share the gospel, to make disciples, and to love our neighbors, as a people on a journey to personal and social holiness.
I am serving in my tenth year in Florida, and in my first year in Western North Carolina. I feel called to this work, and to a church that does extraordinary mission on behalf of God’s kingdom across this planet.
I plan to meet with both delegations to the General Conference over the next few days. I lift all of the people of our church in prayer today and ask that you pray for me. Through it all, God is with us, and God is using us in an extraordinary way, “to serve the present age, our callings to fulfill.”
Resident Bishop, Florida and Western North Carolina Conferences
The United Methodist Church