To all the beautiful Wisconsin people,
Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud,
be gracious to me and answer me!
You are in my heart and in my prayers. We are so divided over our beliefs about human sexuality and these emotional issues sometimes make us act and behave in harmful and unkind ways. We, intentionally and unintentionally, continue to do great harm to LGBTQI+ persons, and our attitudes and beliefs about the gay community cause great divisions within our fellowship. This is also made clear by all the heartfelt and faithful leaders who signed the statement of “Sacred Resistance and Call to Action.” What became crystal clear to me at this special 2019 General Conference is how deeply injured we are, and how deeply we stand in need of God’s healing grace.
I am hearing “Bishop, why did you not stand with us?” But I am hearing that from the LGBTQ+ community, and from the supporters of the Traditional Plan, and from supporters of the One Church Plan, and plans for exit, and plans for unity – I am hearing it from everyone. All I can say is that I am standing for my faith in Jesus Christ, my love for The United Methodist Church, and for all my Beloved siblings in and beyond the Wisconsin Annual Conference.
I hear that many of you have had enough, that you are exhausted by the fighting, that you feel the church is no longer your church. This makes me very sad, but I understand you, I affirm you, and I love you. But I must be clear, I will stay and fight. I will stay and fight for the church I believe God wants us to be – one body with many members. I do not believe God is finished with us, and I will dedicate myself to a loving, caring, inclusive, and united church. It may look impossible, but what is impossible for weak, broken people is still possible for our God of love.
To my LGBTQ+ siblings who stand together shouting, “We won’t go,” I stand with you. To my traditional brothers and sisters calling for accountability, I stand with you. To all the moderate and centrist voices calling us to live up to our standard of “open hearts, open minds, open doors,” I stand with you.
To each and every one of you willing to stay in the struggle to become a better church, I stand with you. I am a bishop for ALL God’s people – I will take a stand, but I will not take a side. If all means all, it means ALL.
I have said before and will say again, we are a wounded church, a broken church, a divided church. But I still have hope, because I do not worship the denomination; I worship God. I do not love the institution, I love the church; I love you, beautiful people. I do not believe our current condition is God’s will for The United Methodist Church. I believe we can be better, but not if we give up.
Again, to those who have had enough, I am so, so sorry. You may not feel it, but you are loved. You are valued. You are blessed children of God, and I cannot emphasize enough how disappointed I am that you have been made to feel unwelcome. This is wrong. Wisconsin is committed to expand the circle of leadership -- both lay and clergy -- with full inclusion. I have been serving to extend the healthy and radical inclusion with LGBTQ+ individuals and community. I will work continually to eliminate the barriers of discrimination in race, gender, culture, and human sexuality for the healthy leadership of God’s people called to ministry.
We are challenged not to conform to the status quo, but to be open to transformation. We are called to work together for peace, for unity, for reconciliation and healing. We are called to leave judging to God, which frees us to engage in work that offers light, and life, and hope. We are given permission to forgive ourselves and each other so that we might recognize our place in the body of Christ while celebrating the place every other person occupies as well. Our differences are important, but not nearly as important as our call to be Christ together for the world.
And so, I support the church, in beloved community of all people because it allows me to be the bishop God has called me to be. I am bishop of grace. I am bishop of God’s love for all people. I am bishop for hope. I am bishop for a redeemed creation that welcomes and receives all. I am bishop to all people in all places at all times. This is an honor and this is a trust. I love my God. I love my church. I love the creation that God so loves that God sends his only Son. I want there to be a future for all of us, where love and joy and peace and grace prevails. Pray for God’s will and guidance. Pray for the Holy Spirit’s revelation and support. Read and study God’s word with the utmost integrity and rigor. Engage in honest and respectful Christian Conference with our siblings, whether we agree with them or not.
And open your heart and mind to the millions of people who need the love and forgiveness of God in their lives. Let us plan to be Christ Church together, honoring and glorifying God in all we say and do, for years to come. I will pray for you, and I ask that you continue to pray for me.
With Christ’s blessing,
Hee-Soo Jung, PhD
Bishop, Wisconsin Annual 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).