Bishops issue post-General Conference letter to the church

Bishop Bruce R. Ough, Dakotas-Minnesota Episcopal Area, presides over the May 19 afternoon session of the 2016 United Methodist General Church in Portland, OR.

Washington, D.C. — Reviving a tradition that is more than a century old, the United Methodist Council of Bishops sent this letter today to the people of The United Methodist Church following the 2016 General Conference, held in Portland, Oregon, May 10-20. The letter reads as follows:

“To the people of The United Methodist Church:

The Council of Bishops brings you greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who has called us to be servant leaders of the church. In 1812, Bishop Francis Asbury, Bishop William McKendree and General Conference Secretary Daniel Hitt sent the first letter to churches following General Conference. This letter seeks to revive that tradition. Many bishops will also be communicating individually in their own areas.

Hundreds of lay and clergy delegates from around the world gathered in Portland, Oregon, along with bishops and pastors, church members and staff, volunteers and visitors, to engage in Christian conferencing, to make decisions for our church’s future, to affirm our global connection, to worship and to celebrate God’s faithfulness.

We celebrated the success of our Imagine No Malaria initiative, which seeks to raise $75 million in the fight against malaria, a disease that takes the life of a child in Africa every two minutes. We celebrated our ecumenical partnerships as we move into full Communion with the Uniting Church in Sweden and toward full Communion with the Moravian church. We celebrated our heritage: the 250th anniversary of our oldest church, John Street United Methodist Church, the 200th anniversary of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the 150th anniversary of United Methodist Women, the 25th anniversary of Africa University and others.

We continued in our acts of repentance with a presentation from the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes about the Methodist involvement in the 1864 Sand Creek massacre. We shared in the consecration of deaconesses and home missioners and the commissioning of missionaries. We moved toward a global Book of Discipline and global Social Principles. We voted to add five new bishops in Africa after 2020, and approved a churchwide study on our ecclesiology.

The Episcopal address set the tone for the event, focusing on humility and lifting up our accomplishments. We heard from our laity an invitation to members to be more involved in making disciples and getting involved in ministries to bring the love of Christ to others. We heard our young people say they “are engaged in Christ’s journey with energy and love.” We also heard them say clearly that they do not want a divided church and urged us to “be in unity even if we do not have unanimity.” They give us hope for our future.

The body had difficult and challenging work before it as we acknowledged our differences over human sexuality. Amidst those differences, the delegates affirmed they want their bishops to lead and we found ourselves with an opportunity for a holy moment. We spoke candidly about what divides us and what our church might look like in the future if we dared to consider new possibilities. We offered a way forward, postponing decisions about sexuality matters and committing to having a different kind of global conversation that allows all voices to be heard.

Our differences do not keep us from being the body of Christ. They do not keep us from doing good in the world. They do not keep us from making a difference – and so we set forth bold new goals: to make a million new disciples of Jesus Christ; to engage 3 million new people to make a difference in the world; to transform 400 communities for vital abundant living; to reach a million children with lifesaving health interventions; and to double the number of vital congregations.

Most importantly, we affirmed our commitment to stay united. We proved that we are more than debates and divisions, more than rules and resolutions. We stood together as the body of Christ. As we reflect on our time in Portland, our prayer is for unity in the church for the advancement of our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

As John Wesley reminded us, “Best of all, God is with us.”

Signed on behalf of the Council of Bishops,
Bishop Bruce R. Ough, president of the Council”

UMReporter Staff

This story was posted by a staff member of The United Methodist Reporter. For over 160 years The United Methodist Reporter has been helping the people called Methodist to tell their stories. If you have stories that you think need to be told, please let us know at

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
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George Chasse
George Chasse

At what point do we surrender the authority of God’s word as it has been interpreted for 100’s of years for the sake of unity. I agree we have to operate from a place of love and respect for each other. Having said that, we also must subordinate our thoughts and personal feelings to what the Word says.Are we Methodist because we are unified or because we believe the scripture. Is the book of disciplines our only guide.

Bill Snyder
Bill Snyder

This is not a personal matter, or one of prejudice against the gay community. It is a matter of following the word of God, or professing to be wise become fools. I think the Bishops overstepped their position and should have left the vote proceed. If discipline is changed in this regard, I will work toward a split.

John Robbins
John Robbins

The differences are deeper than we want to admit. The question is unity at any cost. Even to the surrender of absolute truth

jimmie shelby
jimmie shelby

This writer wonders at the high sounding words of the hierarchy. The progressive side of the umc most certainly has the ear of the council. One wonders……………


We are just kicking the can down the road.

james ballard

The committee will be made up of equal representation from the two sides of the issues related to human sexuality. That will create the problem right there. Any recommendations from the group will represent that equal representation. It won’t make anyone happy. The LBGTQ community and supporters want full inclusion. There is no other option for them. The conservatives want biblical authority on issues of human sexuality. Any called General Conference will vote conservatively again, but the Methodist Church will be so damaged by then. And I will predict a massive retirement of Bishops and District Superintendents. The group that… Read more »


As I read this open letter I see many missed opportunities by the Conference. Many of us were looking to this Conference to lead our church; but the Bishops opted not to…shame on them

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