A Pastoral Letter From Bishop Bard

A Message of Hope from General Conference in Charlotte NC May 4, 2024

A message of hope from General Conference in Charlotte NC
May 4, 2024

Dear Friends in Christ in The United Methodist Church in Michigan,

Many of you have heard about what happened at the postponed 2020 General Conference. Delegates made three historic major changes in the United Methodist Church, referred to by those in attendance as “The Three R’s” – Regionalization, Revision of The United Methodist Social Principles, and Removal of language that limited the participation of LBGTQ+ people in the church and was considered harmful by many.  I have outlined key actions taken at the General Conference below.

 While there are moments when things move slowly during plenary sessions, the news from the General Conference these past two weeks came in torrents. For many, it might have felt like drinking from a fire hose.  There were legislative petitions to track, not to mention the commentary offered by different groups with different perspectives or agendas.  I encourage us all to take time to breathe, pray, and digest all that has happened.

As you know, I have long favored widening the table in The United Methodist Church, expanding our tent.  Pastors can now officiate at the weddings of parishioners without worrying if those parishioners are in a same-sex relationship, or if they might face ecclesial charges. Persons can respond to the call of God on their lives, and Boards of Ordained Ministry can discern those calls, regardless of the sexual orientation of the person being called.  

For those troubled by these developments, I would say we are now genuinely agreeing to disagree without fear of church penalties and punitive processes.  Appointments will continue to be made taking account of church and community context.  Churches and pastors will make decisions about weddings.

While I will write more about the General Conference next week in my blog, I would like to conclude by sharing my hope that our United Methodist Church will be able to focus more freely on staying centered in the risen Christ and staying grounded in our Scriptures.  I hope we will focus on engaging, in Spirit-filled ways, in the mission to which we are called, making disciples of Jesus Christ so that people can experience the healing and freeing grace of God in their lives and so that the world may be made more just, loving, and compassionate.

I look forward to sharing this journey in ministry with you all.

Grace and Peace,

David Alan Bard
Michigan Conference

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