A message from Bishop Middleton
A message from Bishop Middleton
With great joy and anticipation I greet you in the name and the hope of Jesus Christ!
I thank God for the ministry of Bishop Martin McLee who in a short time has left a powerful legacy to the New York Annual Conference. During the past few months, the ministries of Bishop Neil Irons and Bishop Ernest Lyght have been a gift to the conference. And now it is my honor and privilege to serve as your interim bishop for the next 20 months. I consider this conference to be my spiritual and ecclesiastical home. I am grateful to God and to those who made the decision to send me home to be your episcopal leader and I pledge to you my intention to serve you with zeal and faithfulness.
I will be living in White Plains and have every aim of being as present as possible. I understand that my personal calling is to empower pastors for excellence, to assist our churches to be vital communities of faith and to advocate for risk-taking outreach ministries of justice and mercy. As the song describes, “We must draw the circle wide.”
My husband Jack will join me as much as possible. We celebrated 53 years of marriage this past year and he is truly my partner in ministry. God has blessed us with two daughters and four grandchildren. Our daughters live with their husbands and children, one in Florida and one in Seattle. We have experienced many mission journeys together to Bolivia and enjoy travel to many places, especially to be with our grandchildren!
I want to respond to the action of the 2014 session of the Annual Conference requesting a statement from the bishop about consultation during the appointment process. I was not involved in the process for which this request was made, so I think it is only fair that I speak to you of my intentions as your bishop for the next two years of appointment making.
Perhaps the most fundamental, challenging, spirit-filled, fruitful, and sometimes disappointing distinction of The United Methodist Church is our appointment system. “Clergy shall be appointed by the bishop, who is empowered to make and fix all appointments in the Episcopal area of which the annual conference is a part. Appointments are to be made with consideration of the gifts and evidence of God’s grace of those appointed, to the needs, characteristics, and opportunities of congregations and institutions, and with faithfulness to the commitment to an open itineracy,” The Book of Discipline ¶ 425.1 When this process is bathed in prayer and in openness to the movement of the Holy Spirit, possibilities emerge for the pastoral leader and the congregation to experience a grace filled life together.
In my years as a superintendent and then as a bishop of the church I have found the appointment process to be one of the most demanding and most rewarding experiences — one in which the only way to proceed is to listen carefully to all those involved: the congregation, the pastor, the cabinet and above all, the yearning of God.
The Book of Discipline states very clearly, “The process of consultation shall be mandatory in every annual conference.” ¶ 426.1. Consultation involves communication and dialogue with the pastor and the committee on pastor parish relations and I am committed to insuring that this will happen, understanding that the authority of the bishop to appoint is clear.
As I serve as your bishop for the next two appointment seasons, it is my intent that every step will be faith filled and fair. From the first moment that an appointment change is possible, careful consideration will be given both to the needs of the congregation and to the gifts and the manifestation of God’s grace in the life of the pastor. Be mindful of two important facts: 1) that pastors make a commitment to go where needed upon ordination, and 2) that United Methodist Churches deserve the most effective pastor possible. Therefore, extraordinary efforts will be made to discern the ways that these needs can be met in the most optimal way. The intent is to achieve an enthusiastic, deeply felt match for the pastor and for the congregation.
I am committed to consultation at every step. When a pastoral change is anticipated, the superintendent will consult with the staff parish relations committee to understand as well as possible the potential for vitality in ministry as well as the challenges faced by the congregation and its community. When the cabinet designates a pastor to a particular church/charge, the superintendent will consult with the pastor to provide information regarding the appointment and to allow the pastor to engage in discernment.
I plead with all the laity and clergy of the conference to hold all of those who are involved in this process in prayer, whether or not you are in a position to anticipate a change as a church or as a pastor. Only by faithfulness to God’s yearning can we hope to claim the New York Conference for God!
This is a time of enormous challenges in our families, our communities, our country and in the world. As disparities increase and tensions rise, as the reality of rampant disease and poverty threatens to overwhelm, as animosities and warfare rage we must be those who continue to proclaim the message of the Prince of Peace and to bring hope through our words and actions.
Ultimately, as we live together as bishop, laity, and pastors of the New York Annual Conference, it is my expectation that we have one goal and one goal only: to be faithful to God and to the mission of The United Methodist Church: “To make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” It is my prayer that all that we do will indeed carry out this high calling.
Again, let me say, how excited I am to be in ministry once again in the wonderfully diverse and gifted New York Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
In Christ’s love,
Jane Allen Middleton