A Letter to Bishop Carter
The Evangelical Fellowship of the Virginia Conference 606 Ramblewood Road Forest, Virginia 24551
The Rev. Kenneth L. Carter, Jr. Resident Bishop of the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church 450 Martin L. King Avenue Lakeland, FL 33815
March 13, 2019
Dear Bishop Carter,
Greetings in Christ! We appreciate your desire to serve the United Methodist Church in your capacity as an episcopal leader and President of the Council of Bishops. Your term of office has coincided with a tumultuous time in Methodism. This has been as trying a period for you as for us all.
We have read with interest your Pastoral Letter to the United Methodist Church and comments to the press in the aftermath of General Conference. You were quoted by journalists David Crary and Jim Salter of AP News on February 26, 2019 as saying, ‘I would just simply say that we have work to do. We did not accomplish that in these three days.’ The next day to journalist Steve Inskeep of NPR on February 27 this was said, ‘Really, the problem is how the church can rediscover the grace of God through Jesus and hear his command to love one another.’ Your Pastoral Letter spoke of our “need for healing,” and called us to “mature spiritual leadership,” and to be “a means of grace to one another in these days.”
We agree with you, Bishop. The whole church must reach out in healing mercy to LGBTQIA+ persons and others who feel aggrieved or alienated by the conference’s decisions. However, after two and a half years of thoughtful planning and four days of prayerful deliberation, it is also clear that the General Conference has decided that the way forward must be in harmony with the faith and practices of the world-wide church throughout the ages and overwhelmingly still to this day. Grievous harm comes to the church’s faith and witness to Christ from flirtation with the ideologies and ethics of a post-Christian culture. We greatly need mature, spiritual leadership that will help the whole church reclaim the radical and counter-cultural way of discipleship. Such leadership must begin at the top.
Bishop, permit us to observe, that nearly all petitions that orbited the One Church Plan or the Simple Plan were defeated. Our Bishops are tasked with ‘superintending in The United Methodist Church’ ‘all matters, temporal and spiritual’ in a manner that is ‘faithful to the mandate of the Church.’ Whether or not we have heard you correctly, nevertheless, we have heard no acknowledgement on your part that, while you may disagree with the mind of General Conference, you as its executive officer have vowed to implement its mandate. As lovers of Christ and faithful servants in the UMC, we implore you: get on with doing so. Let us rebuild the well-documented trust deficit of our church leadership. We are weary of episcopal equivocation and compromise. The words and actions of our episcopal leaders will either move us forward to faithfulness or walk us backwards from life together in faith and practice, ministry and mission. With all the energy God supplies you, please fulfill the will of General Conference! Execute the role entrusted to you by the Book of Discipline! The church requires it. We clergy and laity expect no less.
We bear no ill will toward you. We desire our Lord’s best for you. We pray for our Lord’s best for our Church. May our Lord Jesus richly bless you as we walk together in the way forward!
Yours faithfully in Christ,
The Evangelical Fellowship of the Virginia Conference
Cc: The Rev. Sharma D. Lewis Resident Bishop of the Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church P. O. Box 5606 Glen Allen, VA. 23058