From the desk of Bishop Héctor- Council of Bishops Fall 2023 meeting
Dear United Methodists in Upper New York,
Grace and peace of our Savior, Jesus Christ, be with you. Over the past three weeks, I had the opportunity to experience our United Methodist connection in varied ways.
Trip to Cambodia and Manila
First, in mid-October, I traveled to Cambodia and Manila in the Philippines, alongside other new bishops, to learn more about the mission work The United Methodist Church is doing in these Asian countries. I was inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit of Cambodia's core leadership team as they share the good news of Jesus Christ with words and mighty deeds of compassion and justice. Since the beginning of this mission, over 140 faith communities have been formed alongside dozens of indigenous health, education, advocacy, and leadership development initiatives that are making a positive difference in the country.
Then, in Manila, I experienced the resilience of people who are moving forward in faith after an extended season of divisions and disaffiliations around the issue of human sexuality. The Philippines has a strong United Methodist presence that is well-known for its health ministries (hospital and dental clinics) and ministries to the migrant community and young people. This global reach and impact are possible, in significant part, thanks to the sacrificial generosity of United Methodists in Upper New York through our shared ministries giving. Together, we are contributing to making the love of Christ visible around the globe.
Council of Bishops (COB)
Last week, I participated in the fall meeting of the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church at Lake Junaluska in North Carolina. Over 100 bishops from around our global connection gathered to worship, celebrate the lives of the bishops who passed away since our last gathering, and experience covenant groups where we checked in, studied the Bible, and prayed for each other and the Church.
During our plenary sessions, the council dealt with important topics, including the vision for the future of the emerging renewed expression of United Methodism, regionalization of the UMC, the 2024 General Conference, our ecumenical partnerships, the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on the Church, and engaged in meaningful conversations around racism, healing, and reconciliation.
During our time in NC, the council released a new statement on the Hamas/Israel war, calling for a stop to the killing and unrestricted access to humanitarian help. You can read the complete statement here. I encourage pastors to circulate the statement among their congregations.
The council also received the 2022 State of the Church Report from The Connectional Table of The United Methodist Church. You can see a video and read the full report here. I also encourage pastors to share the video with their congregations.
Election of new Officers for the COB
On Friday, the council elected its new officers for two years. Bishop Tracey S. Malone, the area bishop of the East Ohio Conference, was elected president of the COB. She becomes the first Black woman elected to lead our global denomination's more than 110 bishops.
Also elected were,
President Designate: Bishop Ruben Saenz
Secretary: Bishop L. Jonathan Holston
Executive Secretary: Bishop Gregory V. Palmer
Co-Ecumenical Officers: Bishop Hope Morgan Ward and Bishop Rosemarie Wenner
Past President: Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton
Also, the council received an update from the General Council on Finance and Administration and Wespath on church disaffiliations. As of mid-October, 5,691 churches, representing about 19% of United Methodist churches, have disaffiliated. Most disaffiliating churches are becoming independent congregations. Approximately 1,000 churches are finalizing their paperwork and settling their financial commitments before the Dec 31st due date. You can read more about the final disaffiliation tally in UNY here.
As I return to New York, I am encouraged and hopeful about the mission and ministry of The United Methodist Church. I sense a genuine desire to reclaim who we are as people of faith in the Wesleyan tradition, a revival brewing throughout our connection and the Holy Spirit renewing us for God’s healing purposes in the world.
As we approach Thanksgiving, I encourage all local congregations in UNY to stay focused on living the gospel, being God’s love with our neighbors, and celebrating the goodness of God in our lives and ministries.
Thanks for all you do to share the love, hope, mercy, and justice of Christ in your communities and beyond.
Together in mission,
Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez
The United Methodist Church
Serving United Methodist of Upper New York