Dear Members and Friends of the Desert Southwest Conference,
I have been mentally and spiritually preparing for the Special Session of the General Conference for nearly 3 years now. Since General Conference met in Portland, Oregon, your Council of Bishops has been working with the Commission on a Way Forward with hopes and dreams that through the work of the Commission, the Council, and the Special Session, God would guide the planting of the future of The United Methodist Church.
Now I am praying fervently that the time in St. Louis will come alive with the spirit of God. I have been praying that our conversations will be respectful, and will center upon all that we have achieved as a global church and all that we can yet achieve to proclaim the Good News of Jesus and truly bring about the betterment of the world in which we live. In order to do so, I pray that the General Conference will reflect the words in Ephesians:
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2)
Will our United Methodist Church decide to follow Jesus? Will we be courageous enough to give ourselves unselfishly to love all of God’s children?
General Conference will take place in a convention center, a former football stadium in St. Louis pictured in this photo. Today, the convention center is a cavernous, hollow shell. Tomorrow it will be teeming with faithful United Methodists who will worship, converse, debate, legislate, and make decisions. I pray that they will fill the hollow tomb-like shell with the vibrant spirit of God.
Words that inspired me today from Council of Bishops President, Bishop Ken Carter: “Each of us has stories of pain; each of us has stories of hope. The Good News is that God has a story, too.” I pray that each of us will hear God’s story and live that story in our lives.
Please keep the persons who are present at General Conference, delegates and observers and visitors alike bathed in prayer.
Bishop Grant Hagiya, who leads the California-Pacific and Desert Southwest conferences, said orientation would include discussions of the denomination’s global nature, an overview of legal matters facing the denomination and guidance for running annual conference meetings. New bishops also will receive training on combatting sexism and racism. Hagiya emphasized that the orientation sessions would include worship and prayer.