Members and friends of the Illinois Great Rivers Conference (IGRC), I greet you in the wonderful name of Jesus Christ. He is still, "the light that shines in the darkness." I am confident that there is no darkness that can dim or defeat the light of Jesus Christ.
As we enter into the Advent season, a season of light, I remind us as brothers and sisters, that each one of us is encouraged to "let your light shine"! The purpose of allowing our lights to shine is so that others, especially those dwelling in darkness, will see the light of Christ and have hope.
At the Council of Bishop's (COB) meeting held in North Carolina at the United Methodist Conference and Retreat Center at Lake Junaluska, the COB received a request from a group called, "Mainstream." The letter from Mainstream contained a request asking the COB to "call for a moratorium on all complaints, charges, and trials until the 2020 General Conference."
In addition to this request, the COB received a statement from the Western Jurisdiction announcing their intention to set aside complaints against clergy accused of being gay or performing LGBTQ+ weddings, and they urge others to join them in setting aside complaints.
The COB discussed both of these items and while the COB did not endorse or approve any action regarding either request, bishops were reminded that we are called to live and model the three general rules (as modified and articulated by the late Bishop Reuben Job); "Do no harm, Do good, and Stay in love with God."
As your resident Bishop I intend to lead us in the spirit and direction of those general rules. It is my desire to avoid engaging in trials of any kind. My position is always to seek a "just resolution" for all involved in issues of conflict or disruption. I do not want to engage in trials of any kind as they often serve as a negative witness for Christians and are excessive in the cost, both spiritually and financially.
I want to remind us all that bishops do not determine if there will be trials. Trials are based on the reporting work and recommendation of the Committee on Investigation. Allegations and Charges come from clergy and laity and not from bishops.
Clergy and laity that believe a breach has occurred that violates our Book of Discipline are free to submit a signed statement of complaint, noting the type and citing the paragraph of The Book of Discipline that they believe has been violated. Bishops are given the responsibility of receiving and investigating these potential chargeable offenses. While I do not initiate complaints or charges, I am bound by The Book of Discipline to respond to all potential allegations that are submitted in writing. I will, while setting as my first priority, the seeking of a "just resolution", respond to any signed allegations that come across my desk.
I am encouraged by the commitment of the Clergy and the laity of the IGRC to Christ and to one another. I am thankful for an Annual Conference that advocates for peace and justice for all. I encourage us to lead courageously and to trust the legislative process while seeking change within our beloved denomination.
In this season of challenge and uncertainty regarding the future of the United Methodist Church I encourage each of us to be patient and loving with one another as we do our best to allow Jesus Christ to shine in and through us.
I believe God is reshaping and remaking the United Methodist Church. Let us do our part by continuing to pray, remaining open to the fact that we may not have all of the answers yet, and listening to the Holy Spirit for guidance and further direction.
Remember, in all ways and in everything, to lift up Jesus and to allow the light of his love to shine on all.