Letter from Bishop Bledsoe to NWTX and NM Conferences Nov 12, 2014

A Letter From Bishop Bledsoe
I have learned a lot as a bishop of the church. I have visited many of your churches and I have heard some of the concerns of the people called Methodists. My hope and prayer is that we in the New Mexico and Northwest Texas Conferences will not let one issue divide us or distract us from the mission of the church. Our congregations are striving to fulfill the mission of the church and are working to enable their outreach to be relevant, passionate, and life-changing in their communities. I hope that we would stay focused on the mission.
However, the one issue that seems to be on the minds of many people at the moment is human sexuality. This letter comes in response to the statement many of you may have received this week from the Council of Bishops, which states:
As bishops of The United Methodist Church, our hearts break because of the divisions that exist within the church. We have been in constant prayer and conversation and affirm our consecration vow “to guard the faith, to seek the unity and to exercise the discipline of the whole church.” We recognize that we are one church in a variety of contexts around the world and that bishops and the church are not of one mind about human sexuality. Despite our differences, we are united in our commitment to be in ministry for and with all people. We are also united in our resolve to lead the church together to fulfill its mandate—to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. As we do so, we call on all United Methodists to pray for us and for one another.
Please know that this is a true statement concerning where the Council stands as a whole on the matter of human sexuality and not a position statement with regard to the issue. The Council of Bishops is made up of active and retired bishops from around the world. Each Episcopal Area is very different. In other words, one statement will not satisfy the needs and concerns of all the diverse areas where The United Methodist Church exists in the world. Thus, I wanted to speak directly to the churches in our conferences concerning the matter.
Please be aware of external groups working to try and influence the decision-making process of The United Methodist Church on this issue. These groups are autonomous and receive their support from those willing to donate directly to their specific causes; they are not official decision-making groups of the church and they are not supported by shared ministries. The only group that can speak for The United Methodist Church or change the position of the church on this matter is the General Conference, which meets once every four years. General Conference will be the decision making body that will officially determine the UMC’s position on many issues in 2016 and beyond.
In the meantime, I would hope we would not be deterred by any external group wanting to influence the outcome prior to the church actually making a decision – let’s keep focus on disciple-making. Those who choose to violate the Book of Disciple and those who choose to withhold financial support from the church, because of positions outside the bounds of the Book of Discipline, do harm to the church. My prayer is that we do no harm.
Finally, I would encourage us to not judge or condemn one another because of differences on this issue of human sexuality. I am of the opinion that nothing can separate us from the love of God made known through Jesus Christ. I look forward to addressing these issues as we work to accomplish our mission. Please continue to pray for the church and for its leadership!
In Christ’s Name,
    Bishop W. Earl Bledsoe

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