A letter to women clergy in the Alabama-West Florida Conference from Bishop David Graves

May 07, 2018

Dear Women Clergy of the Alabama-West Florida Conference,

I write to you today saddened and disappointed that the two constitutional amendments related to the rights of girls, women, and vulnerable groups did not receive the necessary 2/3 aggregate vote of all the annual conferences in the United Methodist Church. What hurts my heart even deeper is that the Alabama-West Florida Conference is one of three, and the only annual conference in the Southeastern Jurisdiction, to vote Amendment #1 down. At 66.5% of the votes it was defeated and needed 66.7% to pass. As your Bishop, this is deeply hurtful and embarrassing to me. At the Council of Bishop’s meeting last week I had to sit and witness the pain of female bishops and know our conference was a part of this pain.

Yet, I cannot even begin to know what hurt this brings to you and to all women of our conference. I want to simply say that I am sorry and apologize to you. Like you, I am tired of having to apologize for these injustices. I want to affirm to you that I am strongly committed to the equality of women and their full inclusion in our Church. Furthermore, I stand beside the active and retired women bishops’ statement released alongside the announcement that was released this morning.

This news, as it begins to be known throughout the conference and the general church, is a disappointment to our cabinet and conference leadership. I hope you know my heart and spirit in trying to change our story narrative around gender equality and racism in this region. I am most committed to this challenge. I need your help in holding me accountable to this important purpose.

But today, I wanted you to know that my prayers and concern are for you as you hear the news and process the information. I hope we can gather soon to share more and seek to move to a better place. I am thankful for each of you and your leadership. You make your Bishop proud. Let’s stay together so that we make it better for all that come behind us.

Join me in taking a deep breath, Jesus is in control!

In Christ,