April 19, 2017
Dear Colleagues of our Western North Carolina Conference:
Following the election of Karen Oliveto as a Bishop of The United Methodist Church, the Judicial Council was requested by the South Central Jurisdiction for a declaratory decision regarding the constitutionality of the election. In anticipation of the Judicial Council’s response, to be released the end of April, we are cognizant of a mixture of emotions and opinions.
We often acknowledge the General Conference is the only authorized body to speak for the church and therefore a declaratory decision from the Judicial Council will not change and cannot change The Book of Discipline. The Judicial Council, according to our Book of Discipline, ¶ 56, has authority “to determine the constitutionality of any act of the General Conference…and any act of a jurisdictional or central conference.” Many of us realize the decision of the Judicial Council will convey their own perspective and will offer their reasoning. The work of the Judicial Council will reflect a specific response and will offer a specific request, but regardless of the response The Book of Discipline will not change.
I believe our clergy, like the Council of Bishops, are committed to the unity of the church and the thriving of its mission. For this reason, I find myself seriously praying, and I invite you to pray, for the Commission on a Way Forward. I believe the Holy Spirit, our Counselor, Comforter, Guide, and Teacher, is already present and working in the midst of our labor on behalf of the church.
Bishop Bruce Ough, President of the Council of Bishops is working with the Council of Bishop’s Director of Communications; our UMCom staff members; and Bill Waddell, our Council of Bishop’s chancellor, to prepare a statement to the Church that will be released as soon as possible after we receive the Judicial Council’s decision. As the Council of Bishops offer a pastoral word to the Church, I encourage our clergy to offer a non-anxious, hopeful word to their congregations, reminding them that the Church is the Body of Jesus Christ and we serve Christ in all things and in all times.
Paul L. Leeland
Resident Bishop, Charlotte Area