A Word from the Bishop: the Upcoming Judicial Council Ruling

April 20, 2017

To the People of the Alabama-West Florida Conference:

Greetings! As we live in the glow of Easter, the Gospel of Matthew concludes with Jesus reminding us, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” The Great Commission-Matthew 28:18-20

Let us all keep these words as our focus next week when the United Methodist Judicial Council will make the long-awaited decision on the July 2016 election, consecration, and assignment of Bishop Karen Oliveto in the Western Jurisdiction. The Judicial Council meets April 25-28.

Much has been written around Bishop Oliveto’s election. People across our denomination and the Alabama-West Florida Conference have various opinions on this issue because Bishop Oliveto is in a same-sex marriage. Our nation and the general church are divided on the issues of same-sex marriage and human sexuality. Therefore, when the Judicial Council reaches and shares its decision at the end of next week, there will be strong reactions to follow.

Let me remind you that regardless of the Judicial Council ruling, the United Methodist Church has not changed. Only the General Conference of the United Methodist Church can bring change to our denomination. The Judicial Council ruling is simply a ruling on one particular issue. The Bishops’ Commission on the Way Forward is doing its work and there is to be a called General Conference in February or March of 2019 for the specific purpose of dealing with human sexuality legislation.

Over the last four months I have addressed questions around this matter and many others in town hall meetings in each district, I have spoken to our clergy, and shared in video presentations so that you would have an opportunity to process this information. I have also provided you with the Southeastern Jurisdiction Bishops’ question and answer document.

I would remind you, the wonderful people of the Alabama-West Florida Conference, the Church will not change next week. We will live in our covenant to follow the Book of Discipline which only General Conference can change. Most importantly, I urge you to keep focused as Easter people on the mission and ministry to win people to Jesus, see the unseen, transform lives and change this corner of the world.

Live in the glow of Easter and stay focused on mission. I thank you in advance for doing so.

Please let us join together in prayer, “Oh God, empty us of all our pre-conceived solutions and preferences so that the Holy Spirit can enfold us and fill us with new possibilities, new hope and new life.”

God hears and honors our prayers. The self-emptying prayers create room for the Spirit to instruct and guide. In Christ, the best is yet to come!

With Gratitude,
David Graves
Resident Bishop, Alabama-West Florida Conference