Bishop Lewis’ Reflection On 'The Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation: Breathe, Read and Pray'

Jan. 13, 2020 -- On January 3, 2020, I, like many of you, received “The Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation.”  As is my normal practice, I took the document into my prayer room. I was next led to share this protocol on the website and do what I asked the Virginia Conference do. “Please read the document in its entirety, try to understand it and pray for our denomination.”

After traveling this past week and engaging in conversation, listening and praying with the Southeastern Jurisdictional (SEJ) bishops and SEJ leaders comprised of the SEJ Committee on Episcopacy (COE), lay leaders and directors of Connectional Ministries; I decided to put my fingers to the keyboard.

At 9:30 a.m. today, the conference staff will come together to watch members of the mediation team present more information on the protocol. We will watch seeking deeper understanding.  I urge you to watch as well.

As a recap, an independent mediation team -- comprised of eight bishops and eight representatives from advocacy groups -- announced a proposal for the separation of The United Methodist Church. The proposed legislation is intended to be introduced to the 2020 General Conference.  It is important to remember that “The Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation” is one of several plans that have been prepared for consideration by the General Conference.  Also, the General Conference, held in Minneapolis on May 5-15, 2020, is the only body that can speak for the denomination and make changes to the current Book of Discipline.

During this period of discernment, I ask you to join me in breathing, reading and praying. One may laugh and say, “Why breathing? It is a normal body function.” Yes, breathing does provide your body with the necessary oxygen.  However, it alleviates stress and is effortless. 

I think you would agree with me that we are in a stressful season.  But, as United Methodists we’ve been through stressful times before – the Sunday after 911, recovering from natural disasters, the theological objection to women in ministry, and the creation of the Central Jurisdiction just to name a few.  However, as United Methodists, we are resilient, God-fearing individuals, who have a strong interest in social issues and a love for our Wesleyan tradition and heritage.

Second, I urge you to read. Reading is fundamental at this time. However, please be careful in reading social media and news reports that reported incorrect information. Last week, I observed many articles that added to the anxiety of our denomination. Please read the Protocol, FAQ and watch the livestream to be duly informed.

Third, I urge you as United Methodists to pray. I’m proud to be the resident bishop of an episcopal area that is not foreign to the teachings and the power of prayer. The Apostle Paul urges us in I Thessalonian 5:17, “...pray without ceasing.”  Please join me as we pray for the Virginia Conference delegation as they prepare for General Conference, the 862 delegates that will be discerning the will of God for the future of our denomination and the plans that will be considered as legislation at the 2020 General Conference.

And finally, I encourage you to continue to engage in conversations, discussions and be willing to listen to others who hold theological views different from your views. As Sister Joan D. Chittister wrote in The Time is Now, “‘I think differently about that’ is not confrontational but claiming space invites others to claim their space as well.” 

Peace and Blessings,

Bishop Sharma D. Lewis
Resident Bishop of the Virginia Annual Conference.


   


 

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