Bishop Carter offers insight to 2020 General Conference delegates

Council of Bishops photo

Council of Bishops President Ken Carter addresses the Pre-General Conference briefing in Nashville on Thursday January 23, 2020.

NASHVILLE - Council of Bishops President Ken Carter today challenged delegates to the 2020 General Conference to use prayer in grappling with the tough questions that The United Methodist Church.

This was at the end of the first day of the Pre-General Conference Briefing at the Omni Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee, organized by the United Methodist Communications agency.

“You sit in these chairs because people respect you and they trust you. When the church is in the in midst of a difficult conversation—which we are; and when the church is called to make a courageous decision—which we are:  others have lifted your names to be at these tables—and you are,” Bishop Carter told the delegates.

Here are the questions Bishop Carter posed to the delegates.

1.      How much separation and space do we need, and how will we allow that for each other? 

I think the need for separation and space is derived from a flawed understanding of holiness and righteousness.  Holiness and righteousness are not separation from each other to achieve some kind of purity.  Holiness, for Wesleyans, is love of God and love of neighbor (Matthew 22), and, I would add, love of enemy (Matthew 5).

2.  How much adaptation and contextualization can we craft into our missional strategy and yes, our Book of Discipline?

It is very difficult to have one book of law that serves the missional needs of Monrovia, Liberia, Monterrey, California and Montgomery, Alabama.  Uniformity is not unity, and adaptation is a deeply rooted value in missiology.  And we are about the mission of God.

3.  How can we design a sustainable church? 

This is about finances, about human resources, about our climate.  We are interested in sustainability because we want to design a church that will allow our children and grandchildren to serve, that will allow next generations to serve and lead, as many of us have been given these opportunities.

4.  How can we see the witness of next generations in our churches and hear the voices of those who are not yet in our churches, who have not yet come to know Jesus Christ and Lord and Savior?

This is about the public mission, the stakeholders who are outside the walls of our church and even our membership, and it goes beyond the concerns of those already on the inside.   How will you craft legislation and design a church that speaks to and for those in whom the prevenient grace of God is already at work?

5. How do we see each other:  With a heart of war or with a heart of peace? 

 The Commission on a Way Forward and I want to honor the thirty-two persons of that global body and the other two moderators, not only brought three plans to the special session; they modeled a way of being, and taught a way to see each other.

A heart of peace is not being nice to each other.  It is refusing to dehumanize each other, refusing to harm each other, refusing stereotype each other or exaggerate our differences. 

When the mediated protocol asks us to hold LGBTQ related trials in abeyance, it is asking us to lay down the weapon of a trial and to seek accountability in a different way, in this season.


6.  How can we be both aware of our past and open to a new future?

We have united and divided in the past.  We look back on some of that and we see our human sin, our racism, our will to power.  We need to be aware of our past.

And we need to know that God can work through us to do a new thing (Isaiah 43).  Even now it springs forth.  Something in our church is dying.  And something is being born.  In my own language, I hope to define and grow a large, gracious, inclusive, evangelical center that keeps as many people as possible at the table of the Lord, who feeds us, so that we might feed others.

7.  Lastly, how can we remember who we are?  And this leads us into prayer.

This is not work avoidance.  This is the work.  Thank you for doing the work.