Sisters and Brothers of the Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church:
Grace and Peace to you in the Name of Jesus Christ, our Living Savior, our Judge and our Hope.
I serve as the bishop of the Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church and in addition for a two-year term, as the president of the Council of Bishops, representing our global denomination. The United Methodist Church will gather in St. Louis for a special session of the General Conference to discern a “way forward” beyond our division related to human sexuality, interpretation of scripture and the unity of the church.
I wanted to provide a number of different resources that are relevant as we move toward the special session. Among these resources, with links, are:
The final report of the Commission on a Way Forward. http://s3.amazonaws.com/Website_Properties/council-of-bishops/news_and_statements/documents/Way_Forward_Report_-_Final_-_ENGLISH.pdf
The Daily Christian Advocate. http://cdnfiles.umc.org/Website_Properties/general-conference/2019/documents/general-conference-2019-adca-english.pdf
The two Judicial Council decisions related to this special session: 1360 and 1366.
The POV process of the Florida Conference. https://www.flumc.org/pov-way-forward
My sermon at the November, 2018 Council of Bishops meeting. http://s3.amazonaws.com/Website_Properties/council-of-bishops/news_and_statements/documents/COB_Presidential_Address_Nov_18.pdf
My statement of welcome to churches hosting the Wesley Covenant Association simulcast. https://www.dropbox.com/sh/ahsammaakfgddxz/AAD3HpEm3_7_tZWltGnmTCU6a?dl=0&preview=WCA+Address.mp4
The One Church Plan website of the Council of Bishops. https://onechurchplan.org/
The commendation of the Connectional Conference Plan by Bishop Gary Mueller of Arkansas. https://docs.arumc.org/CCP%20Info/Connectional%20Conference%20Plan%20010719.pdf
The statement of the Filipino College of Bishops. http://s3.amazonaws.com/Website_Properties/council-of-bishops/news_and_statements/documents/Philippines-Bishops-Statement-Nov9.pdf
The statement of the African College of Bishops. http://s3.amazonaws.com/Website_Properties/news-media/press-center/documents/Africa_College_of_Bishops_Learning_Retreat_2018_statement.pdf
The pastoral letter of the Council of Bishops to the global LGBTQ community. http://www.umc.org/who-we-are/council-of-bishops-letter-to-the-global-lgbtq-community
My book, Embracing The Wideness of God’s Mercy
, which includes material shared over the last seven years with the Florida Conference. https://www.abingdonpress.com/product/9781501871566/
Way Forward videos from the Commission https://www.flumc.org/way-forward-videos-to-prepare-for-2019-general-conference
A video of the June, 2018 Florida Conference conversation about a way forward. https://www.flumc.org/ac18-videodetail/alice-williams-jorge-acevedo-a-conversation-11474447
A video calling us to prayer in the coming weeks, which can be shared in worship. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1nGP93tPzU6psQYjKlbD0wXsY0eHtZJyb/view
The Role of Bishop
Social media includes a robust conversation that includes strong opinions about bishops in our church (smile). This is of course nothing new. In my first month as a minister (July,1983) I received a mailing from one of these groups having a similar message. The bishops I know do sincerely seek the good of the churches they lead. Some of what they do is public, and some is private—the latter is generally to protect someone’s dignity or rights, particularly a victim. Some is specific to their contexts.
I see the role of bishop less as hierarchy and more as collaboration with a number of stakeholders. As we approach the called General Conference, that includes the delegations, who are authorized to make the decisions; the Commission on the General Conference, who plans the gathering; the Judicial Council, who acts on the legal implications of the plans, and voices from across the global church.
The Florida Conference delegation is led by Molly McEntire, laity, and Alex Shanks, clergy. The delegation has hosted multiple listening sessions, most recently in November 2018 at First UMC in Lakeland. You can write the delegation at firstname.lastname@example.org
As a bishop, I remain in an extended season of prayer with you. I am always aware that the office of bishop, entrusted by you to me, is a gift and a sacred privilege. I seek to fulfill this role with humility and faithfulness. I do it imperfectly. Hopefully, I am learning along the way. The role of prayer has been the focus of Praying our Way Forward, which can be accessed at the following website www.umcprays.org
. We encourage you to pray each day for our delegation from 2:23-2:26 pm, which corresponds to the dates (February 23-26) of the special session.
The Mission of the Church
I want to speak briefly of Florida and then the larger church. Some recent God sightings in Florida:
+We anticipate ordaining 17 persons, 12 elders and 5 deacons, at annual conference in June. This is the largest number in my seven years as a bishop.
+Our apportionment/connectional and missional giving was at 89% this year, a slight increase from 2017 and our highest in four years. This was in the midst of hurricane recovery in some parts of our state and a decline in the stock market in the last quarter. Florida has the third largest apportionment in the UMC, after North Georgia and Texas.
+You contributed $1.5 million to the churches of the Alabama/West Florida Conference in the panhandle following Hurricane Michael. This was possible due to a $500K matching gift from First UMC in Ormond Beach.
+The launch of Nueva Vida Central in Ocala last Sunday included 150 in worship. This is a second campus of a Hispanic church and a model for our future growth.
+We anticipate our Annual Conference offering in June going to two great missional causes—a new church in Lowell Women’s Prison in Reddick, Florida, and the restart of the FAMU Wesley Foundation.
+With the naming of Rev. Dionne Hammond as the incoming superintendent of the Atlantic Central District, we will be led by four women and four men as district superintendents.
For all of this, all glory to God!
Approaching the Special Session
In the larger church, we are 20 days from the Special Session of the General Conference. A few clarifications about the role of bishop, as there are misunderstandings.
Bishops did not propose legislation for this assembly. Consistent with the Judicial Council’s action in Decision 1360, the legislation was proposed by the Commission on a Way Forward, and found to be in order.
Bishops do engage in the teaching office (BOD, 403) during this season. In matters of church unity, doctrine and mission, bishops have a teaching role (BOD, 403.e). This clear understanding led the 2016 General Conference to ask the bishops to lead in finding a way forward beyond our divisions (BOD, 414.1). I have taught in Town Hall meetings, in the POV process and in writing. I’ve also lifted up other and different voices. Florida has hosted both WCA and Uniting Church gatherings, and I have welcomed them to our area.
When the church is in conference, bishops preside (BOD, 403.f); they order the deliberation, in accordance with the rules of the General Conference but do not vote on the composition of delegations or the substance of the petitions. Very soon the COB will release the covenant we have adopted for bishops who will be presiding.
After the Special Session
On the Friday following the General Conference (March 1 at 11 a.m.), we will offer a webinar that I will lead with Molly McEntire and Alex Shanks, lay and clergy leaders of our delegation.
Our district superintendents will lead sessions related to the special session and its implications for local churches at their pre-conference sessions in May.
A report will be given by the delegation to interested members of the Annual Conference in June.
Most importantly, on the Sundays following the special session, our local churches will gather for worship. They will offer praise to God, some with choirs and others with praise bands. They will pray in Spanish and Korean, Creole and English. The word of God will be preached. The Peace of Christ will be shared. Some churches will offer Holy Communion and others will celebrate baptisms. And these very same churches will reach out to the hungry and the addicted, the poor and the unemployed, the outcast and the immigrant. They will share bread, and they will share the bread of life. This will happen in several hundred local churches, campus ministries and fresh expressions of all shapes and sizes.
In his book Deep Change
, Robert Quinn speaks of the difference between our public mission and our private mission. The public mission is what we say we are called to do. The private mission is about satisfying the strongest voices among us. Our challenge is to reclaim our public mission – to be the body of Christ for the world.
Because God is not finished with us. God continues to call us. God continues to provide for us. And, so we do not lose hope. We remain in connection, for the sake of the mission. Together, we commit ourselves daily to the command of the apostle Paul, to “make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4. 3).
I invite you to explore the resources above. And I invite you to write me with any question or comment. My mailing address is
Bishop Ken Carter
Florida Conference, UMC
450 Martin Luther King Jr Ave
Lakeland FL 33815
and my email address is email@example.com
Please identify your local church in the Florida Conference when you write, and I will seek to respond to you.
I also invite you to recommit yourself to your local church and to its mission and purpose: to make disciples of Jesus Christ, for the transformation of the world.
If you are laity, pray for your pastor and encourage him or her. And if you are clergy, commit yourself anew to the promises you made when you were ordained. I promise to join you in this act of rededication.
Thank you for your prayers. I depend on them!
Resident Bishop, Florida Conference
President, Council of Bishops
United Methodist Church