A Word from the Bishop: January 13, 2015

January 13, 2015

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
With the conclusion of the Southeastern Jurisdiction College of Bishops this past week, I returned to our Alabama-West Florida Conference with an awareness of two issues that have impacted our Church.
1) This past Tuesday, the state of Florida recognized same gender marriage as a result of 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.
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.
2) The supervisory team working with a complaint, encouraged by the Council of Bishops, against Bishop Mel Talbert released information regarding a just resolution among the parties related to the complaint.   

There will be much speculation and reflection upon the released “just resolution.” Therefore, I want to commend the supervisory team for their continued effort to work toward a resolution, one which shifted the focus from “punishment” to “accountability.”
Whenever a complaint is initiated, those receiving the complaint must 1. Dismiss the complaint; something that would not have served the church well in my opinion. 2. Pass the complaint on to a church trial. Again, this would not serve the church well. 3. Work toward a fair and just resolution, which in this case allowed Bishop Talbert and members of the complaint process to acknowledge harm felt by others and a willingness to live within the Book of Discipline. This is an outcome that I believe can serve the church well.
Further, I want to support the willingness of all involved to publicly share the resolution in its entirety, which lends itself to transparency and openness.
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