President's Report on the November 2019 Meeting of Council of Bishops.

Council of Bishops photo

Council of Bishops President Bishop Ken Carter celebrates Holy Communion during the Memorial Service at the start of the Council meeting held at Lake Junaluska in North Carolina early this month.

 Wednesday, November 13, 2019
 

 The Council of Bishops meets twice each year as a global body, inclusive of residential and retired bishops of the church. 
 
The Council Meeting included the following actions and agenda items: 
 
  • We announced, by a 92% global vote, the ratification of the Women's Equality Amendment.
 
  • We celebrated the election of Cynthia Fierro Harvey as the incoming president of the Council of Bishops (in May), Thomas J. Bickerton as the president-designate, Tracy Smith Malone as the secretary, Bruce Ough as executive secretary, and Sally Dyck as ecumenical officer.  It was also reported that Mande Muyombo will serve as the incoming chair of the Connectional Table.  And bishops were assigned to leadership in boards, agencies and the University Senate.
 
  • We announced gifts of $54 million (toward a $50 million goal) for the endowment of Africa University.
 
  • We were led by Bishops of Germany, Harald Rückert and Rosemarie Wenner (retired), and Eduard Khegay of Eurasia in the remembrance of the fall of the Berlin Wall, thirty years ago.  Bishop William Grove also recalled the impact on this event on the Council of Bishops, which was in session at that time.
   
  • We heard a report on the most recent decisions of the Judicial Council, including questions of disaffiliation and aspects of the traditional plan and its implementation.
 
  • Bishop Ken Carter’s presidential address was entitled “To Redefine  the Connection:  Loving our Neighbor with a Convicted Humility,” and was based on Matthew 22.  The address can be accessed here.
 
  • In our leadership over the next six months leading to the 2020 General Conference, the bishops reclaimed the language in the Book of Discipline of seeking "justice, reconciliation and healing" (¶362) through just resolutions and remind the church that church trials are "an expedient of last resort" (¶2707).  In this season we seek to do work together that achieves accountability while avoiding harm to one another and to our public witness. 
 
The Council of Bishops is a global body, serving twelve million members who live in nations and cultures with vastly different laws and traditions. And so there have been emerging statements of divergence from different bishops--the African College of Bishops, the Ebony Bishops, the Filipino College of Bishops, the European College of Bishops, the Western Jurisdiction Bishops, a group of retired bishops, and a group of traditional bishops. 
 
There is a strong and united voice from almost every bishop outside the United States that the U.S. should become a regional conference, being allowed to adapt the Book of Discipline as their own central conferences are now allowed to do.
 
As the bishops lead toward the General Conference in May, 2020, there is a commitment to accompany conversations across the church and to listen across our differences in order to discover “new ways of embodying unity” (Mission, Vision and Scope of the Way Forward), to continue our leading in making appointments in the context of an open itineracy, to work with our cabinets as missional strategists for the purpose of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, to celebrate the unity and mission that is present in our annual conferences, to strengthen missional partnerships that exist across our world, and to exercise a teaching office that is both priestly and prophetic.  We commend two statements by the Council within the past twelve months: 
 
  • The Council of Bishops Letter to our Global LGBTQ Kin in Christ (December 28, 2018).  Link here.
  • A Common Word from the Council of Bishops (May 9, 2019).  Link here.
 
At the conclusion of the Council meeting, the residential bishops (those who serve annual conferences) went into a learning retreat, led by the General Commission on Religion and Race.  The focus was on “Racism, Colonialism and Tribalism”, which is relevant to our history as a denomination, our experience as a global church, our struggles with migration, our integrity in the mission of offering Jesus Christ to the world, and our witness as individual disciples of Jesus Christ and as local churches.  The learning retreat concluded on Friday, November, 8.
 
Throughout these meetings there was a renewed commitment to relationships, which are at the heart of Jesus’ prayer for unity with his disciples (John 17). In the language of Bishop John Yambasu of Sierra Leone, we are called in this season “to move from making stands toward sitting with one another in dialogue”.  This will be the work of our church, and the Council of Bishops, in the coming months.
 
The Peace of the Lord,

Kenneth H. Carter, Jr.
President, Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church