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Dear Members and Friends of the Desert Southwest Conference,

Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ our hope in moments of opportunity!

This week I am attending the first Council of Bishops meeting for this quadrennium. We are meeting at Epworth by the Sea on St. Simons Island in Georgia. It is a joy to meet and become acquainted with newly-elected bishops who are now my colleagues in ministry!

As expected, the agenda is packed with many important topics to discuss. High in importance among them is our future, especially regarding the work of the Way Forward Commission constituted in response to the action of General Conference. Yet, before talking about the Commission, Council President, Bruce Ough admonished us in his President’s Address:

“The entire United Methodist Church is holding its breath. And, there is probably some breath-holding happening in this very room. Is there to be found, discovered, discerned a Way Forward? Will the Holy Spirit break through and fill our Church with new breath, expanded breath, resurrection breath? Or will we expire, breathless? Much of this meeting . . . is designed to engage us in exploring how we, as a Council, can lead the Church, in such a time as this, to breathe deeply from the Spirit’s reservoirs of grace and truth, love, and justice, unity, and witness.”

Bishop Ough continued, “We clearly are at a crossroads. And, God is calling us to discover the right route for our souls. Friends, there is more at stake here than the structural and confessional unity of our church or the vitality and health of our mission. I believe we are faced with discovering the right route for our souls.”

Our work as a Council must be framed by our own spiritual “health.” Our ability to lead The United Methodist Church forward depends on our own centeredness in the grace of Jesus Christ. We, the bishops of your church, must work together in concert with one another to be unified but not necessarily uniform. I believe there is room for our differences as long as we keep our eyes on the goal of being in mission in our world today.

Bishop Ough’s words give me hope at a time when we have much to lose if we fail and so much to give to the world if we succeed in helping move our beloved United Methodist family into a future with hope.

I am prayerful and optimistic! And I ask you to hold us in prayer as we journey on the Way Forward in Christ’s abundant grace!

Bob

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