April 30, 2020
I want to thank the members of the New Mexico and Northwest Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church on the way in which you have responded to the Coronavirus Pandemic in our area. Your commitment to the mission of the church is exemplary. It speaks volumes to the leadership of both clergy and laity in our midst. I am also appreciative for the work of our front-line workers, i.e. the healthcare workers, first responders and those who continue to make our communities and our world function. In this extraordinary time, many of you have found creative ways for worship, bible study, prayer and missional outreach. We continue to pray for comfort for those affected by the pandemic. Some among us have lost loved ones and could not gather in great numbers for a homegoing celebration. We also pray for the farmers, ranchers, oil producers and small business owners whose livelihoods have been devastated by the effect of COVID-19.
I am asking each of our congregations to practice safe distancing and to remain in our homes following the recommendations of the state and local emergency declarations, as well as the guidelines provided by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and our doctors and scientists. Some areas will reopen faster than others, however I am suggesting that each church go through a discernment period of asking the critical questions needed to keep our congregations and communities safe before returning and how best to live into a “new normal”. The process of re-opening will, undoubtedly, be gradual and different in each locale. I suggest we seek answers to the following questions: How can we keep our congregation and communities safe? Even as we re-open, will our congregation feel safe? What must we do to be safe and help our people feel safe? What new skills or means of connection have we learned or implemented that we should continue even as we re-open? What blessings have we experienced during this time, and how can we turn those blessings into ministries? What new ways will we do mission and outreach? What specific ways can we bring hope to those affected by the shutdown?
The Conference and district offices will continue to work remotely and stand ready to assist with any needs during this period of transition. The cabinet continues to meet with me. Appointments for this year will continue as announced effective July 1, 2020. We ask for a period of grace on the move date. The superintendents will work together to provide a smooth transition of leadership.
All United Methodist Church conferences have been postponed or rescheduled for this year:
- The 2020 General Conference scheduled will be moved to the end of August 2021. The new prospective dates are August 31-September 10, 2021.
- The South Central Jurisdictional scheduled for July has been moved to November 2021. The new dates are currently being negotiated.
- The June 2020 Joint New Mexico and Northwest Texas annual conference scheduled for Lubbock, Texas has been postponed. NWTX will meet Saturday August 15, 2020 in Lubbock, Texas. The New Mexico Conference will meet Friday evening and Saturday, August 28-29 in Roswell, NM. We will only deal with the essentials needed to carry on the work of each conference. A detailed schedule will be shared by the New Mexico Conference Provost and the Northwest Texas Conference Director of Mission and Administration.
Leslie and I are postponing our retirement until a new bishop can be assigned by the SCJ Episcopacy Committee. We will continue to go where invited, eat what you eat and sleep where you sleep, journeying in ministry with you. Let us continue to pray for one another and for our church in the world. May God continue to bless and keep each of you.
Bishop W. Earl & Leslie J. Bledsoe