A Pastoral Letter from Bishop Hope Morgan Ward to the Annual Conference
Grace and peace to each of you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The 2009 Session of the Mississippi Annual Conference was filled with wonderful and with challenging moments. As we move toward this Sunday of worship in our churches, I offer this reflection and my prayers for each of you.
The Friday evening worship service has become a focus of much conversation. Some of our United Methodist community believe that the witness of a lesbian couple in the service was a mistake for which apology should be made. Others give grateful witness to being reminded of those in our midst and beyond who have stories that are intertwined with our own. The pastoral intent of the Friday evening service was an invitation to remember all of the people God loves; including those who have felt hurt or marginalized by our church.
As your bishop, I have been given responsibility to uphold the doctrine, discipline and polity of The United Methodist Church. This is a responsibility I remember and embrace in this instance and in every instance.
The Mississippi Conference has consistently supported the positions on homosexuality stated in The Discipline of The United Methodist Church.
The symbol for the bishop’s office in the United Methodist Church is a shepherd’s staff. The crook of that staff can be turned inward in caring for the flock safely gathered in. The crook of that staff can be turned outward toward those who are not yet here. It is my commitment and my prayer to give careful attention in both of these directions.
I am committed to listening to your concerns and your wisdom. You are invited to engage in dialogue on July 1 or July 2 around this or any other matters that are on your minds and hearts. The places and times for these opportunities will be sent to you early next week. I am also answering any letters or emails that you care to send.
Jesus told a story in Matthew 13 of a field in which wheat was growing. An enemy came into the field and sowed weeds among the wheat. The weeds and the wheat began to grow together. The question is posed: do we pull up the weeds? The answer is given: allow them to grow together until the harvest. At harvest time the wheat will be gathered in and the weeds destroyed.
We are bound together in this life and ministry with those who are different from ourselves. Living well together is a great challenge and a great opportunity. Thank you for your leadership in the onward journey.
With gratitude for your ministry,
Hope Morgan Ward