A Word from the Bishop: February 10, 2015

February 10, 2015
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Yesterday, the state of Alabama began to recognize same gender marriage as a result of a Federal Court order. The polity of our United Methodist Church did not change. Our Book of Discipline, in paragraph 341.7, states ceremonies that celebrate same sex unions “shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.” As a denomination, we have agreed the only body authorized to change the Book of Discipline is the General Conference, which will meet in 2016.  
It may be helpful for you, if asked for a response, to offer the following insights remembering those who may not be familiar with The United Methodist Church:
1. Our Book of Discipline is the agreed organization and commitment by United Methodists to order their lives and churches in the same manner. 
2. As a denomination we have agreed the only body authorized to change the Book of Discipline is the voting delegation representing the global United Methodist Church, which is the General Conference. That body of delegates will meet in the spring of 2016. 
3. We welcome all people into our churches. Our focus remains on ministry to all. 

We recognize how significant change in our civil law can impact our communities as we also live within the polity and discipline of our United Methodist Church.
Such changes, and responses to these changes, are in themselves a “Call to Prayer.” 
Therefore, let us pray together:
Almighty God, Author of Wisdom and Grace, we pray,
Guide our Church to be faithful and obedient to loving You and one another in all things, that all Christians may be one in faith, hope, and love.
For all clergy, church leaders, and our civil authorities who will be capable of sincere and effective dialogue aimed at healing the deepest roots of division among us.
That in the remembrance of our Baptism we may express our sincere desire that all bigotry and prejudice will be expelled from the earth.
Strengthen us, as United Methodist people, to live in unity amid our diversity of opinion on this and other matters.
For the grace this week to be obedient and eager to do Your will on this earth just as it is in Heaven.
Together we journey, together we worship, and together we serve. May we respond with all our heart and soul to You, O Lord. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Bishop Paul L. Leeland