Sisters and brothers in Christ,
There is hurt, here in our Church and around the world, over this decades-long debate about our differing understandings of sexual orientation in the context of the Bible and the inclusion of all God's children at the table. We have a long road to go, but we are not alone, as we have each other to walk with, and Christ is with each of us.
We, as members of the Church, have asked our Council of Bishops to lead us forward with as much honesty, unity, and humility as possible and I can say that I know for sure that it has been at the heart of this work. I invite you to join me in continuing our emphasis on prayer as we await the full report with more details and plans which will be released no later than July 8, 2018*, allowing for the completion of translations and the closing of the Commission on the Way Forward's work.
I also must acknowledge that there was pain and uneasiness during our meeting as we received the results of the constitutional amendments that were set for ratification by our 2017 Annual Conferences. As a husband, father of a daughter (and two sons), soon to be grandfather, ministry colleague to the talented female leaders (bishops, clergy, and laity) across the Connection, and as a bishop of the Church, I join my fellow episcopal leaders in dismay over our failure to pass Amendments I and II.
Late yesterday evening, we learned from the Rev. Gary W. Graves, Secretary of the General Conference, that an error was made in the text of the proposed Constitutional amendment as presented for voting to Annual Conferences. Graves was made aware of the mistake yesterday and has begun to take corrective action for Amendment I to be represented to Annual Conferences this year; however, some Annual Conferences will not meet again until 2019. Revisiting this will allows us the opportunity to continue the much-needed dialogue as a denomination and we should pray for the clarity of all in receiving this new information, as well as extend grace to one another.
However, our work for the inclusion, protection, and justice of women, girls, and persons with disabilities must continue, as they seek opportunities to serve the Church and the world in advancing the mission as they realize their call.
I have seen images and shirts via Facebook and Twitter from colleagues across the Connection with the hashtag #neverthelessshepersisted and #neverthelessshepreached. And I want each of you to know that I have seen you teach, nurture, guide, serve, preach, and most importantly lead as you live out your calling to serve as a lay or clergy member in the Church.
Most importantly, I am committed to continuing our work to advance change, to encourage all genders and persons with disabilities where this is not encouraged or appreciated, as there is value in the proposals that Amendments I and II offered to the Church. Your bishop, Conference Lay Leader Doris Clark, and our Extended Cabinet in Indiana are committed to justice and respect for all. Should you have questions or concerns, please feel free to share them or your experiences with your Conference Superintendent, any member of the Extended Cabinet, or our Conference Lay Leader so that we can continue our work in supporting the ministry of all of our people.
Through all of this, we are uniquely positioned over these next few weeks and beyond to "See All of the People" that God has given us to serve alongside and to love.
*CORRECTION: Please note that the initial posting stated the report would be released on or before July 8, 2019. However, the correct date is on or before July 8, 2018.