Dear Colleagues in God's Work,
On behalf of the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church, I send you greetings in the name of the Risen Jesus Christ!
I want to share with you some of the dynamic and creative ways God is leading your Council of Bishops as we enter this new and challenging quadrennium seeking to serve Christ and you. Recently, more than 100 bishops, including 14 new bishops, gathered from around the world for a week at the United Methodist retreat center, Epworth-by-the-Sea, in Georgia, USA. It was a retreat time of growing spiritually through inspiring worship and engaging Bible study, deepening relationships through community building and exploring accountability, and reorganizing the Council for more fruitful and strategic leadership.
We met in the context of the rich and growing reality that the United Methodist movement is global. We celebrated the amazing progress in the Four Areas of Focus toward the goals of starting more than 1,000 new congregations worldwide by 2016, raising $75 million to help end malaria related deaths, engaging in innovative, holistic ministries with the poor, and developing principled Christian leaders for a global church including 2,000 new, young candidates for ministry. We also sought Biblical and spiritual guidance as we live and lead in the midst of the divisions and mistrust in the church and world around such matters as regional differences, race, immigration, the treatment of indigenous peoples, human sexuality, and theological diversity. We shared in the need for confession and reconciliation in the church and among ourselves.
Like many of you and your congregations, as we gathered in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the Council prayed, heard reports from the conferences hardest hit, immediately took an offering to go through UMCOR, and began to plan how we could be a part of teams to go and help in those areas. With you, we are seeking to be, as well as lead, the church in prayer, presence, gifts, service, and witness.
Throughout all that we did, we returned again and again to our central adaptive challenge of increasing the number of vital United Methodist congregations around the globe that are making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. We were, and are, continually aware of the leading of the Holy Spirit and that we "have not passed this way before." (Joshua 3:4) Let us pray for each other as we journey together, following Christ into the new future that God is opening before us.
Grace and Peace,
Bishop Rosemarie Wenner
President, The Council of Bishops,
The United Methodist Church