In Decision Number 1480, the UMC Judicial Council affirms the ruling of Bishop Leonard E. Fairley at the Special Called Session of the North Carolina Annual Conference held on November 19, 2022.
Bishop Leonard E. Fairley
Joy to the World!
When I left the courthouse in Scotland County, North Carolina, I was weeping so hard I could barely see where I was going. I had gone in search of a birth certificate but discovered it was nonexistent. It was like being told you do not exist.
The walk back home, across the railroad tracks of Newtown, seemed longer than it really was. Hopelessness and despair will make any journey seem longer, and it is hard to see with water in your eyes.
This happened many years ago, and the details that seemed so spirit-crushing then are long since resolved. But I can still remember the tears I shed that day.
There has been too much weeping, too much despair of late, but in God’s spiritual economy, there always comes a day when we are called upon to “… lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.” – Hebrews 12:12-13.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” – Isaiah 9:6
When it seems as if the weeping of darkness will last forever, God invites us on this day, Christmas Day, to rejoice with unabashed joy to behold a light that will cast out all dark, a light bright enough to chase away the evil and hatred that would poison our souls.
The weeping becomes different when the tears are of a joy that shines bright with a light that guides our future. That light is Jesus Christ, Immanuel, God with us, born to take away our bent to sin, born to set our course toward a future where love, peace, and justice will reign forever. Through tears of joy on this Christmas Day, may we see in each other’s eyes a hope that was not there yesterday. May we sense a deep and joyful hope that runs counter to the narratives of despair, anxiety, and fear that hold us captive.
In the coming of Christ, our captivity to sin and death is over. My beloved sisters and brothers in Christ, “Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” – Psalm 30:5.
Indeed, “Joy to the world the Lord is come. Let heaven and nature sing.” It is a beautiful song giving witness to the world that joy we have on Christmas Day: The world didn’t give it, and the world can’t take it away. Therefore, it is a good and right thing to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas. May your hearts sing with joy.
Thank You, Bishop Fairley!
As Bishop Fairley’s time among the people of the NC Conference comes to a close, leaders from around our Conference expressed their gratitude for him, for his wife, Dawn, and for their shared ministry life with us. Watch the video below.
We’ve created a form where you can share your words of gratitude as well. The form will be open until January 17. Once everyone has had a chance to share, we’ll deliver them to Bishop Fairley with our sincere thanks.
Temporary Pause of Disaffiliation Activities
We are ending a season where a great deal of energy, passion, and attention has been given to topics related to our connectional life in The United Methodist Church, as well as questions regarding disaffiliation. During this time, we have worked hard to ensure that we’ve kept Jesus at the center of our activities. This is especially important now as we enter the seasons of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany, where our attention should be on the Savior of the world.
While I understand that a few meetings are already scheduled, I am asking that we pause all new disaffiliation work, including church conferences and town halls, through January 6. This will allow churches to engage fully in Christ-centered welcoming mission and ministry during this season. It will also give our eight District Superintendents, four Administrative Assistants to the District Superintendents, and conference staff, who have worked tirelessly during the past few months, some well-deserved time to spend with their families and on physical, mental, and spiritual renewal.
Work on existing church disaffiliations, effective 12/31/22, will continue.
May the Light of the World guide us all to honor Him by the ways we worship, witness, and serve as His Church.
Grace and peace,
From Mourning to Morning
It feels like Good Friday.
We have all experienced moments where we stand at the threshold of leaving behind what once was, grieving the loss of what is familiar. The disciples of Christ were at that place as they looked upon the cross of Jesus. I am sure none of them wanted to be in that place of anxiety, fear, and uncertainty.
Sisters and brothers who have shared the sorrows and joys of ministry and mission have made decisions to separate using disciplinary paragraph 2553. It is painful to be here. However, I give thanks to God that God does not leave us in the darkness of Good Friday.
We cannot and must not stay here wallowing in pain, hurt, anger, disappointment, and, as experienced by some, betrayal. If we stay here in our frustration, we will miss the truth that Easter is just beyond this cross of disaffiliation and separation.
We are Easter people. We are called to new life. And our new life lies in the care of God, who empowers us to continue making disciples, welcoming all people, and transforming the world God loves enough to give us the gift of Jesus.
Easter people are blessed by Pentecost. As we ask for the Holy Spirit again and move from Easter to Pentecost—where God will truly add passionate spiritual disciples to the number of water-washed Spirit-born children of God—I pray we do so with the courage to bless one another. We go forward not in bitterness but with a renewed sense of our calling to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
Today is not an ending but a beginning. I cannot wait to see what God births. I know it will be beautiful despite our painful journey. I pray God will continue to sustain each of us as we move into God’s preferred future.
For more information on the special session, visit the Special Called Annual Conference page.
We Weep, We Pray, and We Act
“Thus says the Lord: A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.”
– Jeremiah 31:15 (NRSV)
It puts all things into perspective when shots are fired in a Cary High School bathroom, and a 15-year-old walks into a Raleigh neighborhood and kills five innocent people. Our first response is to pray for the families of Mary Marshall, 35; Susan Karnatz, 49; Nicole Conners, 52; along with 16-year-old James Roger Thompson and Gabriel Torres, 29, an off-duty police officer on his way to work.
Sisters and brothers, all of us should pause and pray; this is how it should be. However, we must move beyond prayer toward action by asking what role the church plays in making much-needed change. What role do passionate spiritual disciples play?
What we do in the face of such senseless killing is as much a part of proclaiming the gospel as winning people to Christ. Can we call ourselves disciples of Jesus Christ and turn a deaf ear to the cries and calls for whatever is socially, religiously, and politically necessary to help prevent days like these?
Once again, we go back to struggling with the grief and pain of trying to make sense of gun violence. Sisters and brothers in Christ, this is becoming all too common in our country. We must not become immune and voiceless about this callous disregard for life. True disciples of Christ don’t stop at prayer but look for ways they can be an answer to the cries of young people and those who are hurt enough, or who are locked in darkness, that it causes them to senselessly, ruthlessly, and violently take another person’s life.
Yes, it is a good and right thing to pray for the victims and the city of Raleigh, but once we get up off our knees, what is the next faithful step in the face of sin, evil, and violence?
Lord, have mercy, Christ, have mercy. Comfort those who mourn and encourage, equip, and empower us with your Holy Spirit to faithfully do what is necessary to stop these shootings from happening over and over again.
Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy,