Dear Members and Friends of the Desert Southwest Conference,

May God’s grace and peace be with you!

This morning, January 3, 2020, many of us read news of a new development in our United Methodist Church’s future.  It was announced that a very diverse group of United Methodists has collaborated and arrived at unanimous support for a proposal for our church’s future.

The news report, which contains the full letter from the Council of Bishops and some FAQs can be found here.

While there are still many questions and details to be addressed, the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation offers a ray of hope.  I want to share with you that I am encouraged by this development for several reasons:

 

  • Among those who participated in a process that I understand was both contentious and gracious, are persons that I genuinely trust and whose hopes for our United Methodist Church I know and appreciate.

 

  • As I understand, the mediated process was one that was fair and respectful. The mediator himself is one who came from a neutral place and offered his services to The United Methodist Church pro bono.  I also know that no one got everything she or he wanted, and that the result is truly a compromise.

 

  • All those who participated have signed the agreement committing themselves to working diligently for the successful passage of this proposed protocol at General Conference 2020, thereby giving hope that we will not engage in painfully fighting with each other as we have in the past.

 

  • I am encouraged and heartily support the inclusion of serious conversation about the resolution to dismantle institutional racism in The United Methodist Church.

 

  • The elimination of the harmful language that promotes misunderstanding and discriminatory harm against LGBTQIA+ siblings will finally be a hopeful affirmation that God loves all persons and so should we.

 

  • The Protocol holds in abeyance, complaints and possible trials against LGBTQ clergy and clergy who conduct same gender weddings.

 

  • The terms of the Protocol allow for a more peaceful resolution of our differences about human sexuality. While some may feel a need to seek the opportunity to form a new Methodist denomination apart from the current United Methodist Church, both those who disaffiliate and those who remain will be given an opportunity to start anew with an eye toward vitality and growth in mission and ministry.

Comments and questions may be directed to the signatories by email. A livestream event will take place on Monday, January 13, to provide further clarity and explanations of the plan by members of the Mediation Team.

While there are many questions remaining about specifics, I want you to hear again my sense that this is encouraging news. More will become clearer as we move into the future toward General Conference.  But as these specifics are being fine-tuned, I ask you, the faithful Christ followers to continue to support the work and ministry of your local United Methodist Church, to engage in respectful conversations about the Proposal, and to keep praying without ceasing that God’s grace and Christ’s love will be made known in our ministries.  All of this we hold in prayer asking for the Holy Spirit to continue to guide us forward with hope.

Stay tuned and keep praying,

Bishop Bob

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