Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño gives the Episcopal address at the Western Jurisdictional Conference on Thursday, July 19 at the Town and Country Center in San Diego, California. Photo by Patrick Scriven.
Western Jurisdictional Conference of The United Methodist Church
Town and Country Resort • San Diego, California • July 19, 2012
Grace and peace to all in the name of Christ Jesus. We your bishops stand before you on this day to boldly proclaim that God’s love is available to all! The God whom we serve with you excludes no one. We believe that God’s vision for us and all who claim the name of Jesus the Christ is a home for all God’s people, gathered around a table of reconciliation and transformation. It is Christ Jesus who beckons us to be such a home. Our faith affirms for us that Christ Jesus has already built this home. It is a home of mercy and grace with the power to reconcile us to God and each other and transform us.
We also stand before you to unequivocally give witness to the fact that we your College of Bishops are of one mind. We believe that our beloved United Methodist Church has been less than faithful to the biblical mandate to accept all God’s children including our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. We assume responsibility for preaching and teaching in every place we serve, this good news of Christ Jesus who welcomes all. We pledge to you that we will continue to work for that day when we The United Methodist Church can truly live up to our logo of open hearts, open minds, open doors. And we covenant before God and you, that we will challenge statements or actions that offend, denigrate, or exclude any person because of the color of their skin, their economic circumstance, their political persuasion, their gender or their sexual orientation. We pray that we will together build the home of God’s own vision and hope for God’s all inclusive family.
Even now, though, we are grateful to God that we can give witness to the reconciliation and transformation that God has already been about amongst us.
Responding to Haiti
Early on in this quadrennium the earth shook with destructive and deadly force. The poorest nation in the Western hemisphere was plunged into darkness as an earthquake opened the mouth of a hurting land and swallowed up life and hope in Haiti. We lost friends in that earthquake. God mourned for the hundreds of thousands of children of God’s own heart and creation who were struck down and afflicted by this terrible earthquake. Operation Resurrection 2010: A Compassionate Response to the Earthquake from the Western Jurisdiction, was the way we chose to honor the spirit of our Haitian brothers and sisters, and UMCOR staff members Rev. Sam Dixon and Rev. Clinton Rabb, who died in the earthquake, and Rev. Jim Gulley who was rescued, and our way to proactively respond to the human suffering in Haiti.
In the process of responding we learned about Haiti’s history, culture and economy. We came to know a people and a culture of great beauty and hospitality. We came face to face with a people who are confronted daily by a history of slavery and oppression that has left them in cruel poverty. We learned about the complicity of U.S. economic and political decisions that
have contributed to Haiti’s vicious cycle of poverty.
We of the Western Jurisdiction committed to responding to the immediate needs of Haiti by raising $100,000 for recovery and relief for Haiti. We pledged to send 25 Volunteer in Mission (VIM) teams to Haiti over a 5 year period. We further committed ourselves to replace the 23,000 Health Kits that were immediately shipped from our UMCOR West Depot when the earthquake hit Haiti thus depleting the Depot’s supplies. We prayed together that God would bless our acts of obedience that in some small way we might be used to restore hope, increase faith and widen the pathway to peace.
By the grace of God, within a few mere months we the people of the Western Jurisdiction had raised 19 times more than we had committed to raising. Together, friends, as a connectional people we sent over $2 million to Haiti. Within 2 years, less than half the time projected, we met our 25 VIM teams for Haiti goal. We not only replaced the 23,000 Health Kits needed at our UMCOR West Depot, we filled the depot to overflowing! In the spirit of our Western Jurisdiction’s vision statement we were, “disciples who live out the Good News of Jesus as global citizens”.
We do believe that our efforts restored a measure of hope in Haiti. We pray that it may have increased faith in that land, and that our going and coming to Haiti in all the ways we had proposed, did widen the pathway to peace. What we do know for sure is that in being obedient to God in these ways, hope was restored within us, our faith was increased, and we found peace, blessed and joyful peace, in the doing of God’s holy work. Thanks be to God!
Working Together through Permeable Boundaries
One of the great learnings of our work for the people and the land of Haiti was that we can do mighty things when we commit to working together. During this quadrennium we your bishops with jurisdictional leaders have been in a conversation about permeable boundaries. We believe that for too long we have allowed conference boundaries to separate us. Conference boundaries were meant to designate areas of particular responsibility, but they have become walls among us that have kept us from doing those things that if we acted, moved, and led together would impact the West and the world in the name of Christ Jesus in much better and stronger ways. During this jurisdictional conference you will hear more about this conversation and the possibilities that determining that the designated geographic boundaries of our annual conferences are permeable, could lead us to. Let me now point to efforts over this quadrennium and efforts that we propose to lead us into our future, and that
begin to test the waters of permeable boundaries.
Enabling Emerging Connectional Leadership
In the report of our Western Jurisdiction Leadership Team you will hear about the leadership events that were held in the jurisdiction during this quadrennium. One of these jurisdictional leadership events focused on the issue of U.S. immigration concerns. Your College of Bishops participated fully and actively in this leadership event. At the end of this event, some of you
were inspired to step up in leadership around this critical social crisis, and engaged us your bishops in a conversation about establishing a Western Jurisdiction Immigration Network. We are pleased to report that this network is today actively leading us in addressing immigration concerns as a jurisdiction. Our jurisdiction also now has a place at the table of our denomination’s global task force on immigration. No other jurisdiction has to date taken this step of saying we need to help lead our church in the kind of transformation that welcomes the stranger, and that treats our immigrant brothers and sisters with justice and hospitality in this
country and around the world.
More recently an opportunity arose for us bishops to consider who in our annual conferences would be interested in addressing the need to eliminate the death penalty in the U.S. We sent the word out and it was quite amazing to see how quickly persons came forth ready to commit to this work of life and death, reconciliation and transformation. These are persons who are already working on this issue in the areas where they live and serve or who are concerned about this matter and would like to serve with others to eliminate the death penalty. We hope that before the summer is over we your bishops can organize the Western Jurisdiction Network to Eliminate the Death Penalty so that we can be assisted as a jurisdiction to be engaged in this
concern in a transformative way.
Neither of these two efforts have required institutional organizational changes. No monies have been pledged for these efforts, though in the future you may want to consider a financial investment in these efforts. What we bishops have attempted to do is to enable discipleship, finding ways to affirm those who sense that holy call from God to respond to the needs of the world. We have attempted to see what can be done if we enable and support our conference leaders to gather and work together. Our hope is that not only our boundaries but, even more importantly, that our hearts and spirits might be permeable for the sake of Christ’s work.
We would be remiss in not mentioning that the congregational developers of our annual conferences and leaders in our jurisdiction committed to rural and urban ministry have been working in these ways for some time now. The congregational developers have served us well in developing the new church start plan that you will act upon. Our other leaders call themselves RUN – Rural/Urban Network of the Western Jurisdiction. We are grateful for their leadership and for the ways they have modeled a commitment to these important areas of ministry, and a commitment to helping us as a jurisdiction respond to these vital ministry
Seeking God’s Future for Us
We your bishops have also worked very prayerfully and diligently to serve you by considering the whole area of the Western Jurisdiction and asking the question, “What is God calling us to do and how can we be faithful?” Our discernment processes have led us to work collaboratively with our Jurisdictional Leadership Team and with staff and conference leaders from all of our annual conferences. Out of these efforts come to you at this conference, a jurisdictional wide plan for starting new churches and a strategic direction for strengthening our work with and among Hispanic/Latino communities. We take our Western Jurisdiction vision to be multicultural and inclusive, engaged in the life of our communities, led by confident, effective lay and clergy leadership, very seriously. We are confident that these two efforts will help the vision God has planted in our hearts to bear much fruit. We commend the plan for starting new churches and the strategic direction for Hispanic/Latino ministry to you and pray for your full support for them. We believe them to be helpful, concrete and intentional efforts that will contribute to the strong work already being done in the jurisdiction,like the work of the Korean Mission, and will help us to build a home for all God’s children.
Building a Leadership Team with Others
To undergird the sacred work that together we are privileged to share, the College of Bishops has given attention to leadership development. We have made every good effort to grow in our leadership and to lead together with our Western Jurisdiction Leadership Team. With our Conference Directors of Connectional Ministry and the Chair of the Western Jurisdiction Leadership Team we have organized ourselves as a jurisdictional Mission Cabinet out of the conviction that through shared leadership we will serve more faithfully and effectively. In January of this year we gathered our extended cabinets to begin to build a team together of
mutual support, encouragement, accountability, and spiritual and leadership growth. Next week a group of clergy from across the jurisdiction will spend 5 days together at Claremont School of Theology learning creative new ways to grow the church in this 21st
Century. Congregational development workshops are also being conducted in ways that benefit the entire jurisdiction.
Through all these efforts we have experienced the walls of institutional separation becoming permeable connections of opportunity in new and grace filled ways. ¡Gracias a Dios!
Extending a New Challenge
Now we come before you with a new challenge; a missional opportunity with the possibility of transforming the continent of Africa and from Africa the world. Before we hear more about this challenge, we want to teach you an important song. Bishop Robert Hoshibata will teach us this song and lead us in singing it.
By now, we are all aware of Imagine No Malaria, our church’s mission to end preventable malaria deaths in Africa. You have heard that Imagine No Malaria takes our fight against malaria beyond mosquito nets, to include education, communication, and improved diagnosis and treatment against this killer disease. Some are calling it Nets Plus, which is an accurate description. Many of you have already been actively supporting Imagine No Malaria, and it has made a world of difference. Malaria has cast a shadow over Africa for many, many generations and it has not yet released our brothers and sisters from its grip. We your bishops would like to share a message with you about this deadly disease and ask for your support in favor of life.
As you heard from Bishop Yambasu, the mission of Imagine No Malaria is an expression of our faith and our commitment to partner with our brothers and sisters in Africa in favor of life. Imagine No Malaria is a unique opportunity for the entire United Methodist Church to do something together; to do something bigger than ourselves, bigger than any local church, bigger than any district and bigger than any one of our annual conferences. Many of you in this room have already supported Imagine No Malaria, and it has not gone unnoticed. Already you have saved lives.
When we started this effort, malaria claimed a child’s life every 30 seconds. Today malaria’s impact has been cut in half – to a death every 60 seconds, but that is not enough. Winning this fight against malaria requires an ongoing commitment. Our strong connectional participation and leadership in the Imagine No Malaria effort is a matter of life and death. Every member of our United Methodist family should have the opportunity to participate in a fight that we will win by God’s grace and mighty power.
On this day we your bishops, knowing the good hearts of the people of the West, knowing your connectional spirit, and your commitment to a world transformed, want to challenge you to raise $2 million for Imagine No Malaria over the next 2 years. We set this goal of $2 million as a jurisdictional goal. Some of our annual conferences have already committed to working toward this goal and surpassing it. We would ask this 2012 Western Jurisdictional Conference to affirm this goal as a commitment that together we will lead to its fulfillment.
We your College of Bishops have each been engaged in providing leadership for the entire denomination. We are active leaders in the Council of Bishops and serve throughout our general and global church. At all times we recognize that whatever we have been able to do has been by the grace of God, and in collaboration and partnership with clergy and lay leaders from throughout the jurisdiction and the entire United Methodist connection. It is a sacred privilege to serve Christ Jesus, and a sacred gift to us to serve among and with the people of the Western Jurisdiction. To God be the honor and the glory.
Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño
President, Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops
July 19, 2012