From the Desk of Bishop Mark J. Webb: Moving forward following Jurisdictional Conferences
Editor’s note: On July 18, Bishop Mark J. Webb released the following statement about his reassignment to the Upper New York Conference and the South Central Jurisdictional Conference’s request for a declaratory decision from the Judicial Council following the election of the Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto, a self-avowed practicing homosexual, as a new bishop in the Western Jurisdiction.
July 18, 2016
Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Upper New York Conference,
Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ!
I am humbled and trusting God as I received my assignment to remain with you and live our mission: “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” God is moving among the people called United Methodist in Upper New York. I am committed to partner with you in the following ways:
- to increase the capacity of Christ-following leaders
- to multiply the number of vital congregations that offer relevant and authentic worship, pathways for discipleship, mission, and outreach opportunities
- to continue to create new places for new people
- to address the racism that exists in our society and church
- to call us to the discipline of prayer in new and bold ways
- to increase the worship attendance in our churches
- to increase our ministry with the poor and marginalized
- to increase our ministry with youth and young adults
- to increase the capacity of our stewardship
- to trust that God is leading us and to be obedient to the movement of God’s spirit
I believe we have much consensus and excitement about engaging in this work together. I am also aware we are not of one mind in every way, particularly in the area of human sexuality. I am committed to continue to provide ways for us to engage in healthy conversations that honor our differences while finding the essentials we hold in common for the sake of offering Jesus to the world.
These conversations have never been easy, but now must take place against a backdrop of heightened anxiety and uncertainty. Last week, the Western Jurisdictional Conference of the United Methodist Church elected the Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto as a new bishop. Dr. Oliveto is a self-avowed practicing homosexual. In response to her election, the South Central Jurisdictional Conference requested a declaratory decision from the Judicial Council regarding the constitutionality, meaning, application, or effect of her election. The Judicial Council now has this matter properly before them.
Faithful United Methodists believe our discipline must change in relation to human sexuality and are working in appropriate ways to bring about that change. Other faithful United Methodists believe our discipline must remain the same and are also working in appropriate ways toward that end. I join my colleagues in the Southeastern College of Bishops in viewing the acts of nonconformity as a violation of our covenant and as divisive and disruptive. Nothing in recent days has changed our Book of Discipline – only General Conference has that ability. I grieve over the deep divisions we face.
We are in unchartered waters; how we navigate this time in our life together matters greatly. As you know, the Council of Bishops was directed by the General Conference to form a commission to prepare recommendations for a way forward for the denomination. This is difficult, delicate, and holy work. I urge us to allow the systems and processes of the Church to work, doing nothing that might cause disruption or further division. Let us do all we can to allow this work to move forward, praying for the future of The United Methodist Church and those who will lead in these days.
Though the actions of these past days present many challenges, I am convinced that God is with us and will lead us into the fullness of the future God has for us. I remain committed to the vows I undertook when I was consecrated a bishop in The United Methodist Church and will continue to strive to live by the covenant that binds and upholds us.
With prayers and love,
Bishop Mark J. Webb