“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, this about these things.” (Phillipians 4:8)
Dear Members and friends of the New Mexico and Northwest Texas Conference Churches,
Greetings in the Name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
This letter is in follow up to my video just after the Special Called Session of the 2019 General Conference. In the video, I shared the outcome of the General Conference as well as my hopes of continuing to uphold our Book of Discipline, acknowledging the human pain that the struggle continues to cause many.
I want to encourage all our church pastors and laity to live out our calling with compassion and love as United Methodists in the various mission fields we are each called to serve. As in the days of Christ, the cultural context varies from place to place and from region to region. We must continue to serve Christ and share the love of Christ with all persons. Although the 2019 General Conference retained the current language prohibiting the ordination and conducting of same sex marriages by clergy, the action does not preclude churches from serving and ministering to LGBTQI+ communities and families in their local context. The church of Jesus Christ is open to all persons, and no church is free to discriminate or exclude others from the love of God through Jesus Christ.
As your bishop, I have learned a valuable lesson while serving the churches of the New Mexico and Northwest Texas Conferences. New Mexico and Northwest Texas are two very different conferences, theologically and politically. However, you have demonstrated a love for one another through Jesus Christ without denigrating or humiliating the other for their differences. Thanks to Bishop Max Whitfield, I inherited a cabinet that meets and works together in the assigning of pastors to local churches. I witnessed firsthand the respect and love they both have for their various mission fields and the pastors and churches that serve them. My prayer is that the general church would learn this lesson of how to get along despite our differences as fellow followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.
What are the next steps? There are several petitions that require a judicial council decision on the Traditional Plan. This should be decided by April of this year. The actions of the 2019 GC will not become effective until January 1, 2020. We will have a report of the delegations at this year’s annual conference session and will provide an opportunity for each conference member to ask questions and voice concerns going forward. I plan to itinerate again this Fall across all the areas of each conference to hear any concerns as well as share an update on our ministry together as a conference. As promised, I will “go where invited, eat what you eat and sleep where you sleep.” I also promised, I will walk with you through this journey after the special session and will continue to pray and seek the unity of the Church through the power of the Holy Spirit. I thank God for your Christian witness!!
In Christ’s Name,
Bishop W. Earl Bledsoe