Beloved of the Dakotas-Minnesota Episcopal Area:
I greet you in the precious and powerful name of Jesus.
I am so grateful to be among you and look forward to the days, months, and years ahead as we live as disciples, share our faith, and engage God’s invitation to live out kingdom—kindom—on earth as it is in heaven, laboring together for the transformation of the world.
I have appreciated the ministry and mindset of the Appointive Cabinets in both conferences; your conference leaders love God, love The United Methodist Church, and love you—the clergy and laity of the Dakotas-Minnesota Episcopal Area. Since my on-boarding began on Nov. 13, I have sought to listen well to the work and witness of both conferences and the journey you have been on to grow in love of God and neighbor, reach new people, and heal a broken world. While there is still much for me to learn about these two conferences, I want you to know what will ground my leadership and that of the Appointive Cabinets as we live into our vision and embody the mission and ministry of Christ in the now and future United Methodist Church.
First: We will not be timid about who we are as a people called United Methodist. We are a Spirit-filled people deeply rooted in the Wesleyan tradition. We are connected as those who practice personal piety and social holiness. At our very best, we are a disciple-making, justice-seeking, world-transforming people. As United Methodists, we recognize and celebrate God’s grace at work throughout our spiritual journeys: grace that prepares us (prevenient grace), redeems us (justifying grace), and continually shapes us into the people we were created to be (sanctifying grace). We will teach, preach, and reach unwavering in our identity as a people called United Methodist.
Second: As your Bishop and Appointive Cabinets, we are committed to leading in conferences where all are welcome and wanted. We celebrate the diversity and complexity of our people who have found a home in our Wesleyan heritage and affirm that we can indeed live together, relishing the gifts that come with our diversity of experience and understanding. We assert that unity in the Spirit does not demand uniformity of thought; even as we hold our doctrinal standards in common, our Wesleyan heritage reminds us that Christians are not called to be of one mind on all matters. In other words, “In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things charity.”
We are and will always be grounded in Jesus and guided by our Wesleyan heritage. As John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, exhorted, “The world is our parish,” and we seek to extend the grace and love of God to all people in all places at all times.
Third: We choose connection. It was John Wesley himself who first organized his followers into a connexion; for Wesley there is no religion but social religion, no holiness but social holiness. To state it another way: The communal forms of faith in the Wesleyan tradition not only promote personal growth; they also equip and mobilize us for mission and service to the world. Ever since the days of John Wesley, The United Methodist Church and its predecessors have proudly called themselves a connectional church, working together across theological, social, and political divides; reaching out to the margins; committed to evangelism and faith-sharing; and confronting the biases and fears in our church and society that manifest as injustice, exclusion, and oppression.
Fourth: We commit to living the Wesleyan Way of discipleship. John Wesley formed societies, classes, and bands. He created the society to be a learning community, and to that end, each Appointive Cabinet is engaged in intentional learning and spiritual formation. Our first book in 2023 is “Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry” by Ruth Haley Barton. Each Wednesday at noon beginning on Ash Wednesday, we will meet for prayer, study, and development as disciples as we seek together to grow in our faith. Additionally, as part of our commitment to accountability with each other, we will divide into bands of three to five where we can go a little deeper with our struggles and our dreams, and answer the question many a Methodist has been asked throughout our history, “How is it with your soul?”
Fifth: We will lead creatively and courageously, leaning into a world that is wounded, weary, and longing for wholeness and holiness of heart and life. We understand our priority in making disciples, developing and deploying leaders, growing vital congregations, offering relevant ministry, and engaging our communities—rural, suburban, and urban—for the transformation of the world. We take seriously the charge to watch over one another in love even as we develop, empower, and encourage the clergy and laity of our conferences.
May we be empowered and guided by the Holy Spirit and may our work as missional strategists be achieved by connecting the means of grace with proven leadership practices in our charge to foster a culture of missional appointment-making, alignment around our strategic priorities, and clear focus on the biblical imperatives to grow in love of God and neighbor, reach new people, and heal a broken world. We would deeply appreciate your prayers and we offer ours in return as we make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
Bishop Lanette Plambeck and The Appointive Cabinets of the Dakotas and Minnesota