“Indeed, the body does not consist of one member, but of many” (I Cor. 12:14).
“The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’” (I Cor. 12:21).
“Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (I Cor. 12:27).
“Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing” (I Thess. 5:11).
March 3, 2022
Dear Siblings in Christ,
Greetings in the hope that is ours in Christ. I write today to share news released from the Commission on the General Conference, and to call us, as the scripture says, to: “…encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing” (I Thess. 5:11). The following excerpts are from the release today:
“As the pandemic continues and the wait time for visas stretches to over two years in some countries, the Commission on the General Conference announced today that the 2020 General Conference cannot be held in 2022 due to COVID-related and governmental policies/constraints.
Commission members received a report based on conversations with multiple officials of the
U. S. Department of State outlining the massive backlog of visa applications in some areas. This backlog has led to wait times up to 800+ days for scheduling an initial interview. In addition, commission members described an increasingly complex interview process in some areas requiring two or three interviews, which also creates a roadblock that would preclude participation by many delegates outside the United States of America…
The Book of Discipline 2016 requires the Commission to take necessary measures to assure full participation of all General Conference delegates. Consistent with that guidance, the Commission determined that the physical attendance of as many delegates as possible at the General Conference is critically necessary…A technology study team appointed by the Commission reported in February 2021 that it wasn’t feasible to create a virtual alternative of the General Conference…”
In response to the decision, Council of Bishops President Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey said:
“Now is the time to continue focusing on transforming our communities and expanding our witness, and we must persist in ministering to one another in the spirit of grace and reconciliation amid division. This focus happens every day in United Methodist churches all across the world, and it happens regardless, or even despite, a meeting of the General Conference.
The Council of Bishops will immediately begin to explore various pathways for sustaining the worldwide mission and witness of the United Methodist Church, given the announcement of this further and understandable delay.”
There will be many questions to answer in the days ahead related to legislation windows, terms of service for the delegations elected to serve the anticipated 2020 General Conference, and more. For now, I would like to thank the members of the Commission for their principled and tireless work.
This decision, despite the questions it raises, makes clear that the content of the work of the General Conference is not more important than the process by which we conduct ourselves. We face many critical issues, but the process related to how we gather, who is included, and how we relate is more important than the many decisions that have been delayed by a pandemic.
In the coming weeks, I will continue my usual practice of drawing near to the conference leadership, lay and clergy, and see you during my visit to the districts, to remind us of our vision, to renew our commitment to clergy health, and to discuss our context as a church. A link to the dates for each district follows: Bishop's Day Apart
The way forward is deeper. Observe a holy Lent. Share the ministry. Practice the means of grace. May we draw from grace so that we are able to lead as a covenant community with a mission to make disciples of Jesus for the transformation of the world.
Each day will hold Christ before us and with us to direct our discernment. May we continue to encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.
Thank you for your ministry.
Hee-Soo Jung, PhD
Bishop, Wisconsin Conference
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung has served as resident bishop of the Wisconsin Annual Conference since September of 2012. Prior to leading the Wisconsin Conference UMC, Bishop Jung served eight years as bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference (Chicago area).