Sunday, July 22, 2012
Grace and peace to you from the Lord Jesus Christ. I am writing to tell you how happy I am that I have been reappointed to serve as the bishop of the Eastern PA Conference and the Peninsula-Delaware Conference for another four years. This was decided last week (July 16-20) at the Northeastern Jurisdiction Conference of the United Methodist Church that was held in Charleston, WV. My thanks to the area delegates who faithfully attended this conference and represented us well. Dr. Mary White, Rev. Jim Todd, Rev. Dr. Sandra Steiner Ball, Mr. Demetrio Beach were the heads of the delegations for our 2012 conference season. Rev. Michele Wright Bartlow, Ms. Judy Ehninger, Rev. Derrick Porter and Mr. Kevin Goodwin represented us at the NEJ Episcopacy Committee, where the bishop assignments were made. I have been blessed to serve this area with so many great servants of God!
We are thrilled and joyful over the election of Rev. Dr. Sandra Steiner Ball to the Episcopacy and pray for her and her family as she moves to the West Virginia Annual Conference on September 1, 2012. Her many gifts for ministry and her leadership skills will be a wonderful asset to the United Methodist Church there.
I am looking forward to serving this area for another 4 years and will strive to build on the relationships and the programs that have already been developed. I have enjoyed getting to know you and visiting your wonderful ministries. I have deep respect for the many faithful pastors and lay people who give sacrificially of their time and talent and treasure to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ in their communities. I am encouraged by the growth in our diversity and spirituality.
I am happy to receive any suggestions for improvements and any other ideas you have for me as I begin a new quadrennium with you. I see our work together as a partnership and I value your input and support. My email address is email@example.com and the office number is 610-666-1442 or 800-828-0933.
So what is my personal goal for this area for the next 4 years? Body work! I shared with the delegates and friends of the area who gathered in Charleston on Friday morning that I hope we will become more and more like magpies and less like robins in the years to come. In the book: The Power of Positive Deviance by Pascale, Sternin and Sternin they describe the characteristics of these two birds. Robins are territorial, live in isolation and vocalize in order to maintain their territory. Magpies, on the other hand work together, nesting in large groups on cold nights, teaming up to drive out predators, assisting young parent birds with the nestlings and using their collective strength to lift garbage can lids. As a result these birds are able to make considerable progress in their ability to thrive and grow as a species. Let’s be more like magpies in our conference life as we work together in unity with one another!
We as the Body of Christ can achieve great things this way. The connectional system of our denomination has shown us again and again the power of collaboration. New people are reached for Christ, the needs of the poor are met, killer diseases are alleviated, new churches and faith communities are developed. It only works when we work as a unified body. This is what the Apostle Paul was talking about when he said: “Speak the truth in love and grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part if working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.” (Ephesians 4:15-16)
Finally I ask for your prayers and I covenant to continue to pray for you. May God bless you richly in the years to come and thank you for the awesome privilege that my husband Michael and I have to be here among you.
Monday, July 9, 2012
Grace and peace to you from the Lord Jesus Christ! I hope that you are finding some time of rest during this summer season but in all things may you keep the lamp of the Good News of Christ burning for all to see. Even in difficult times we are called to continue the work of our ministry and never give up. People who do white-water rafting say that when the water gets roughest the most important thing you can do is to keep paddling. If you stop paddling and hold on to the sides you will lose control of the raft and it will turn upside down. Keep paddling when money is scarce, keep paddling when your best efforts result in less than enthusiastic results, keep paddling because God will use your ministry for good in this world; good that we may never see in this life.
I want to let you know that next week (July 16-20, 2012) the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference (www.nejumc.org) will be held in Charleston, WV. Delegates from every United Methodist Conference will be gathering there for the holy work of worshiping God, electing bishops, electing officers, establishing the budget and carrying on the important structural and organizational work of the United Methodist Church. I ask that you pray for this important meeting. I especially ask that you pray for the three pastors from the Philadelphia Area who have been lifted up as possible candidates for the episcopacy: Rev. Dr. Irving Cotto, Rev. Dr. Christopher Kurien and Rev. Dr. Sandra Steiner-Ball. Pray for our delegations as they conduct the interviews and discern God’s will for these elections. There will be three new bishops elected and all bishops will be assigned to their episcopal areas at this meeting. Three bishops who are retiring will be honored as well: Bishop Ernest Lyght, Bishop Jane Middleton, and Bishop Peter Weaver.
One final word about bishops: I give thanks for the life of Bishop Leontine T. C. Kelly, who passed away on June 28, 2012 at the age of 92. Bishop Kelly was the first African American woman bishop in a major Christian denomination. She was elected in 1984 and served in the Western Jurisdiction as the bishop of the California-Nevada Annual Conference. She was a social and political activist as well as a spiritual leader. Bishop Kelly has cast a bright light for many to follow in her footsteps and she “kept paddling” when the voices of racism and sexism tried to stop her from fulfilling her calling. May our elections next week be informed by a desire to elect more bishops with her character and strength. May all of us work to widen the circle of inclusion and giftedness as we serve Christ, lay and clergy alike.