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.