ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga.: The United Methodist Council of Bishops wrapped up its first meeting of the quadrennium last Friday (Nov. 9, 2012) in St. Simons Island, Georgia. Fourteen new bishops joined the council following this year's episcopal elections.
Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, president of the council, said that a letter would be sent to all United Methodists, sharing information from the meeting in greater detail, but in the meantime offered a snapshot of the activity that took place during the week.
In the retreat setting of Epworth-by-the-Sea, the council set aside time to deepen spiritual formation through Bible study, prayer, Holy Communion, and inspiring preaching. New bishops were welcomed as they sought to begin working together as a team of spiritual leaders who will seek to move the Church forward in creating and strengthening vital congregations. "We are committed to hold one another accountable and to watch over one another in love," said Wenner.
Wenner said the bishops re-committed themselves to stay focused on the mission of making disciples for the transformation of the world in the four Areas of Focus, through vital congregations in our worldwide connection. "We are united in that focus because feeding the hungry, bringing healing to the world – especially in stamping out killer diseases, serving alongside with the poor, and creating a learning community where people are enabled to grow and develop their gifts – are means of grace, as [are] prayer, Bible studies, and the sacraments," said Wenner. With this meeting, the council started a pattern of meetings in which the council will meet in full session once a year. In addition, the bishops serving residential areas also will meet once a year to focus on creating vital congregations.
Time was spent in intensive conversations about leading the Church amidst divisive questions such as human sexuality, racism, and gaps between the rich and poor. The bishops committed to continue the dialogue in the spirit of holy conversation and to continue those conversations with other United Methodists.
First steps were made in installing the Office of Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns in the work and life of the council. "According to the Book of Discipline, the bishops serve as ecumenical officers of The United Methodist Church," Wenner said.
In other actions, the bishops agreed to encourage their Conferences to offer support for those suffering from the impact of Hurricane Sandy. They also determined they will send a letter to President Obama assuring him of continued prayers for him and other national leaders, and that The United Methodist Church is ready to serve the U.S. and all the nations where our congregations are present.
The letter to congregations will be made available through umcpresscenter.org, as well as other avenues. The council will meet next in November in Lake Junaluska, North Carolina. In May 2012, the Forum of Active Bishops will meet for the first time in San Diego, California.
About the Council of Bishops
The Council of Bishops provides leadership and helps set the direction of the 12 million-member Church and its mission throughout the world. The bishops are the top clergy leaders of The United Methodist Church, the second largest Protestant denomination in the U.S.