Editor's Note: Recently, over 150 United Methodists from the Florida Conference gathered in Orlando to discuss how we can be a more welcoming church to LGBTQ and all people, led by Dr. Steve Harper, Bishop Melvin Talbert, Rev. Tracy Hunter, and Nadine Smith. Bishop Ken Carter, Resident Bishop of the Florida Conference, shared this greeting. Watch the videos here.
In the name and spirit of Jesus, who ate with sinners, who touched the unclean and who heals us in body, mind and spirit, welcome to Orlando and to the Florida Conference. Jesus in the gospels named the fears that were present in the hearts and minds of his disciples. He came to them, and he comes to us and says, again and again, "Do not be afraid."
His body, the church is called to cast out fear with his perfect love. In every sphere of the human condition---minority and martyred Christians in the Middle East, LGBT Christians in many of our communities, black Christians profiled in many of our cities and incarcerated in our prisons, immigrant Christians crossing borders, trafficked young people who are enslaved across our world, and women in the grip of domestic violence---the church is called to stand alongside those moving from oppression to freedom.
When we love one another, as Jesus first loved us, the circle does indeed widen. When the Holy Spirit moves in our midst, the circle does indeed widen. When we become less arrogant and more humble, the circle does indeed widen. And when it becomes, finally not about us, but about lives that glorify God, the circle does indeed widen.
May this time lead you and all of us more deeply into the perfect love of Jesus and the ever widening circle of his grace.
Blessings to each of you.
The peace of The Lord,
Resident Bishop, Florida Conference
The United Methodist Church