For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.

Jeremiah 29:11

Let us build a house where love is found
In water, wine and wheat:
A banquet hall on holy ground,
Where peace and justice meet.
Here the love of God, through Jesus,
Is revealed in time and space;
As we share in Christ the feast that frees us:
All are welcome, all are welcome,
All are welcome in this place.

Marty Haugen

As the days pass quickly until this year’s General Conference in May, anxiety is mounting, rumors abound, information and misinformation mix together to make people even more confused instead of more confident.  What we know and what we think we know become blended into a thousand and one “truths”.  In the wake of the “Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation,” and its comparison with other plans and proposals, people are less sure about the future of The United Methodist Church than ever.  Media attention and popular opinion obscure the current reality; many people believe decisions have already been made, when in fact we are still a few months away from General Conference action.

We must be careful not to be caught up in hysteria and false rhetoric.  Our fate has not been decided, and I would remind us all that our future and our hope rest with God.  I am still committed to be the Bishop of all God’s people, all across our theological and denominational spectrum.  Do I agree with all?  Certainly not.  Do I condone the words and actions of all?  Again, no.  But do I affirm the baptism and confession of all and seek to see the Christ in all?  May it ever be so!

After the special session of General Conference in 2019, I heard from many more progressive and liberal brothers and sisters, and our LGBTQIA+ siblings, “The United Methodist Church does not want us.  There is no place for me.  I am not welcome.”  My response was that all are welcome and that we can still work through our divisions by God’s grace and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  When the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation was made public, I heard from traditionalists and our conservative sisters and brothers, “The United Methodist Church doesn’t want us.  We are being forced to leave.  I am not welcome.”  Again, my response is that all are welcome and that we can work together through our differences by God’s grace and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  Our disagreements may lead us to leave our church – often with broken hearts and deep hurts – but no one should ever be unwelcomed in the holy kingdom/kin*dom of God.

I also understand and empathize with many of our racial/ethnic siblings who are very anxious and torn by the current conversation of division and separation.  It is a very important reminder that different cultures and ethnicities have very particular readings and interpretation of scripture and understanding of core theological values and practices.  For many constituencies who have struggled to feel welcomed and included, this becomes one more incredible challenge to unity and integrity.  Across our racial and ethnic diversity, we must lead with care, compassion, patience, and mercy.  We are all one in Christ, but we are not all the same.  One size cannot possibly fit all, but there is a grace margin and a sacred space for us to embrace difference.

For centuries, the church felt threatened by unbelievers and feared persecution from those outside the faith.  How sad that today the threat comes from those who share our baptism and lord, but who believe differently than we do.  If there is a true threat to The United Methodist Church, it comes from within.  This provides us a great challenge and a great opportunity.  If we can find a way to stay together, we can witness to the healing grace of God to unite us beyond and above our differences.  But if we cannot find the grace to stay together, we have the opportunity to show the world how to separate with grace, dignity, respect, and honor.

There is no doubt that as we live into our future it will be very different from our past and present.  But as Bishop of the beautiful people of Wisconsin, I want you to hear this from your entire cabinet – you are welcome, you are respected, you belong.  No matter what decisions are made in May and beyond, the Wisconsin option, the Wisconsin Way, is a future with hope – for us all.

Grace and Peace, 

Bishop Hee-Soo Jung