St. Simons Island, Ga.: The Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church congratulated Sen. Barack Obama today on his election as the 44th President of the United States—and applauded his willingness to articulate a vision of change for the nation “that is based on hope for all the people, especially those who are disinherited and disenfranchised.”
The congratulatory letter was signed by the Council’s president, Bishop Gregory V. Palmer, and sent on behalf of the entire council, which includes bishops from the U.S., Africa, Europe and the Philippines.
“The United Methodist Church has a long history of publicly-expressed concern for social justice based on Christian principles. Our desire for justice extends to the natural world, the nurturing community, the social community, the economic community, the political community and the world community,” the letter stated. “We are praying that God will grant you wisdom, courage and protection in your Presidential leadership. We are also praying for all the leaders of the world’s nations who will collaborate with you in the arena of common concerns that impact the global community.”
Gathered at a United Methodist retreat center in St. Simons, Georgia for their semi-annual meeting, many bishops from around the world acknowledged the international impact of the outcome of the U.S. election and expressed hope that Obama’s election would prove to be a choice that provides compassion for the rest of the world.
Bishop Palmer, who leads the Illinois Episcopal area, encouraged United Methodists—and, indeed, all persons—to unite behind President-Elect Obama as he assumes the Presidency during this time of economic crisis. “This is a time for all Americans to put aside divisiveness and come together in support of our new President-elect for the good of our country’s future. We ask that everyone pray for a sense of unity that will help to create a smooth transition and get the new administration off to a good start,” said Palmer.
“As a church that is committed to inclusivity, we celebrate the fact that a person of color has been elected to the highest office in the U.S. and the progress that has been made towards overcoming racial divisions,” Palmer added.
In a tradition that dates back to 1789 when Methodist Bishop Francis Asbury presented President George Washington with a Bible, the letter expressed a desire for bishops to meet with Obama, and to give him and Mrs. Obama Bibles signed by the bishops of the church. The Council plans to meet in Washington, D.C. next May.
The Council of Bishops, made up of 69 active bishops and 91 retired bishops, provides leadership and helps set the direction of the 11.5-million member denomination and its mission around the globe. The bishops are the top clergy leaders of The United Methodist Church, the second largest Protestant denomination in the U.S.