May 03, 2019
Dear Beloved in Christ:
Greetings in the precious name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
In the days following the first Easter, Jesus’ followers were confused, frightened, uncertain about their future; there are many United Methodists who feel the same way in these anxious times. As Easter people, we know that the risen Christ revealed himself in many ways to provide comfort, assurance, and courage for facing the future unafraid. May we walk together with hope in the knowledge that the living Christ reigns today and will shepherd us toward a new future fruitful in mission and ministry to God’s glory.
It is my deepest desire to spend these next 16 months with you preparing for a future filled with promise. We have done so much together in ministry, and there are several more things we can do to strengthen our conference for our shared mission. Last year in my Episcopal Address to the Annual Conference, I mentioned three priorities for the coming year, one being to commission the General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA) to take a thorough look at our financial and physical resources, investments, and staff/district structure in order to advise us on steps we can take now to help ensure our long-term sustainability as a conference.
Their study is now complete, and one of the recommendations is to reconfigure our district structure to reduce the number of districts from nine to seven effective July 1, 2020. Our Conference Council on Finance and Administration (CCFA) will bring that recommendation to the 2019 Annual Conference, as it requires the approval of the members. If it is affirmed, as per the 2016 Book of Discipline (¶415.4), the Cabinet and I will work together to reshape our district boundaries to maximize our resources and best steward the mission in New England. This is your annual conference and your decision; I trust that you will prayerfully consider all that is before us.
This recommendation has impacted my discernment around the leadership of the Tri-State District for the coming year. Rather than appoint a new district superintendent for what may very well be a temporary assignment, I am dividing the churches in the Tri-State district among three members of our current cabinet, Rev. Dr. Karen Munson, Rev. Taesung Kang, and Rev. We Chang, to share oversight of this district. Dr. Munson will be the lead district superintendent. This decision was made in consultation with the Cabinet and Tri-State District Committee on Superintendency as well as the Mid-Maine, New Hampshire and Metro Boston Hope Committees. They have all affirmed this decision.
I recognize that this decision may raise questions, and I want to be faithful in answering them and addressing any concerns. Please feel free to send your question(s) to my office at firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday, May 10.
I have always appreciated the ministry of Rev. Jim McPhee and give thanks to God for the many gifts he has shared with our conference and the general church. Please join me in prayer for him as he retires from active ministry as well as for the superintendents who will assume the responsibilities for the Tri-State District, and the churches, members and staff of the district as they prepare for this transition. Together, may we put our faith and trust in God who calls us to serve, following the example of the Risen Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit, for such a time as this.
In Christ’s Love,
Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar