May 26, 2016
Dear United Methodists in the Virginia Conference:
May the grace and peace from our risen Lord be with you.
The 2016 General Conference has adjourned. Although there were ups and downs during the sessions of the General Conference, we worshiped together, conversed with each other and struggled together. Together we recommitted ourselves to the mission which the risen Christ has entrusted to us. Therefore, we will continue to go and make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
I am deeply grateful to all of you for your prayers for our gathering held in Portland Oregon. I believe your prayers made a difference, and we chose a different road in dealing with the most sensitive and divisive issues of human sexuality. Instead of debating and fighting each other, we tried to find a way to move from superficial unity to honest assessment of our reality and a way forward. Our efforts to prayerfully discern God’s will on these matters led us into a different territory. I am also deeply grateful to our Virginia Conference delegates for their prayerful and sincere efforts in carrying out their task. We have many reasons to be proud of them.
As you may have read or heard, the General Conference asked the Bishops to lead in seeking unity in Christ on the issues of human sexuality which have been dividing our churches for many years. The Council of Bishops responded to this call, and the General Conference adopted our proposal. Here I share with you what one of our colleagues, Bishop Scott Jones of the Great Plains Area, summarized:
- We are committed to the unity of The United Methodist Church and will seek to strengthen it.
- We will lead the Church in every part of the world in times of worship, study, discernment, confession and prayer for God’s guidance.
- We are called to work and pray for more Christ-like unity with each other rather than separation from one another.
- The Council of Bishops will form a Commission to study all of the paragraphs in our Book of Discipline regarding human sexuality. The subject has been referred to the Commission, and it will be named sometime between now and November 2.
- The Council of Bishops may choose to call a special session of the General Conference before 2020 to deal with recommendations of the Commission. No decision has been made about whether this is a wise use of the Church’s money and time.
- The Council of Bishops will have conversation about how the Church can best live in grace with one another, including discussion about ways to avoid further complaints, trials and harm.
- The Bishops will uphold the discipline of the Church while these conversations continue.
- All provisions of The Book of Discipline, 2012 on matters of human sexuality will remain in force until a General Conference changes them.
The Council of Bishops also issued a pastoral letter after finishing the General Conference. If you want to read this letter, please visit our website at www.vaumc.org.
We know our pain and struggle in seeking unity is real and challenging, but we also know that crisis can become an opportunity in our risen Lord. I want to make the following requests of you for a new future for our Church, especially for the upcoming two years:
- Please keep on praying for a way forward. The upcoming two years will be a critical time for The United Methodist Church. From the formation of the commission to the completion of its work and a called General Conference, we need to pray that the Holy Spirit will intervene and guide our efforts.
- We also need to pray that the commission’s work will be more than a legislative work. Please pray that the members of the commission will come to the table with their minds and hearts radically open to God and humbly seeking to discern God’s will in making their decisions. If we try to solve our situation through political negotiation, our future will be gloomy.
- I invite all of you to refrain from any act of harming our efforts to seek unity in Christ. I respect each of your convictions based on conscience, but we also need to recognize that no one owns 100% of God’s truth, and all of us need humility, emptying ourselves before God as Jesus did (Philippians 2:7). During my remaining tenure, I will continue to uphold The Book of Discipline as we Bishops committed to do.
The Council of Bishops is fully aware of the importance of this call and takes our task very seriously. We will prayerfully seek the way forward. We need your prayers. I hope and pray that someday history will record that our praying knees made a difference and brought a new future to our beloved United Methodist Church.
Once again, thank you very much for your prayers and support for the General Conference and our ministry. May God continue to bless all of us, our churches and our ministries for the Kingdom of God.
With deep appreciation,
Young Jin Cho