From the desk of Bishop Mark J. Webb: Judicial Council
April 25, 2017 / By Bishop Mark J. Webb
Editor’s Note: On the morning of April 25, Bishop Mark J. Webb sent the following letter to the members of the Upper New York Conference about the coming Judicial Council meeting that will address some matters around human sexuality and the called Special Session of General Conference in 2019 that will address the work of the Council of Bishops and the Commission on a Way Forward.
April 25, 2017
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Today, the Judicial Council of The United Methodist Church gathers in Newark, New Jersey to begin the work of their spring docket. That docket is composed of several matters, including cases involved in our continued conversation as a denomination about human sexuality. One of these matters before the Judicial Council is the status of Bishop Karen Oliveto, a married lesbian who was elected, consecrated, and assigned this past July by the Western Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church.
The Judicial Council in many ways mirrors the Supreme Court of the United States. Its role within our Church is to determine the constitutionality and legality of actions in light of The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church. The Judicial Council does not have the authority to change the Book of Discipline and none of their decisions does so.
I am urging you to pray for our sisters and brothers who have assumed the leadership and responsibility of serving as members of the Judicial Council. May God provide them wisdom and understanding. Pray for each individual, congregation, and Annual Conference represented in the cases that are being considered by the Judicial Council this week. Pray for Bishop Oliveto, her family and the people and congregations she serves.
No one can predict the outcomes of this session of the Judicial Council, but I implore us to trust that God is in the midst of it. While the work of the Judicial Council is significant and has impact upon our common life, I urge us to see this week as simply one part of the whole work that is before us as a denomination. The Commission on a Way Forward, commissioned by the Council of Bishops and authorized by the General Conference, is working diligently to help us find God’s way forward for The United Methodist Church, specifically in our fractures around homosexuality.
While you may be tempted to allow the decisions made this week to guide your sense of the future, I beg you not to do so. Whatever the Judicial Council decides, it is the work of the Commission on a Way Forward, acted upon by a special session of the General Conference, which will be the most important decision point for these critical matters.
Just last evening, the President of the Council of Bishops issued a call for a special session of General Conference. That session, which will be limited to receiving and acting upon a report from the Council of Bishops based on the recommendations of the Commission on a Way Forward, will be held February 23-26, 2019 in St. Louis, Missouri.
So my friends, pray and pray some more! Continue to love one another, especially in the midst of disagreement and diversity. Seek ways to find the Christ in every one. Stay focused on the mission that is before us – the opportunity to walk beside others and assist God in showing them the amazing love and life offered in Jesus Christ!
I am not naïve; these are days of uncertainty and anxiety. But more assuredly, they are also days of faith! Days for us to continue to trust God, trust one another, and move into the future that God has promised God’s Church. A future that not even the gates of hell will prevail against - a future that finds God already present!
Thank you for being the Church of Jesus Christ. As always, you remain in my prayers.
Mark J. Webb