My sisters and brothers I greet you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
On Friday, July 15 we concluded three days of the Southeastern Jurisdiction Conference at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina. Across the United States, five jurisdictional conferences meet every four years with the primary task being the election of bishops and the assignment of all bishops to episcopal areas for the next four years. I rejoice that I was reassigned to the Jackson Episcopal Area (The Mississippi Annual Conference) for four more years.
However, after a spiritually blessing and joyous jurisdictional conference concluded, we received word late Friday night that our sisters and brothers serving as delegates of the Western Jurisdictional Conference elected The Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto as a new bishop. Dr. Oliveto is identified as a self-avowed practicing homosexual.
As a result of her election, The South Central Jurisdiction Conference, in seeking clarity around her election, voted to petition the Judicial Council for a Declaratory Decision concerning Dr. Oliveto's election. A Declaratory Decision is a ruling by the Judicial Council on the constitutionality, meaning, application or effect of an action taken. This is now in the hands of the Judicial Council.
I am asking that we prayerfully and patiently allow the prescribed process to take place before we react with statements or actions. We need to remain focused on our primary task, "...that the world may know Jesus Christ." How we in Mississippi respond to this is extremely important for the cause of Christ and the Church.
The College of Bishops of The Southeastern Jurisdiction issued a statement on the eve of the jurisdictional conference and I quote from a portion of that statement:
"We, the Southeastern Jurisdictional College of Bishops, grieve over the deep divisions in our beloved United Methodist Church. We recognize the pain felt both by those advocating for and those opposing change. We also view the acts of nonconformity as a violation of our covenant and as divisive and disruptive."
I ask you, Mississippi Conference not to be ‘divisive and disruptive' but to be loving even when we disagree. I expect us to have strong convictions and to live with integrity but I caution us to heed the words of Proverbs 15:18, "A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel."
I end this letter reminding you of these words attributed to John Wesley—“The best of it is, God is with us."
Mississippi Annual Conference Lay Leader