The week of January 5, in the aftermath of the release of the proposed Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation, Bishop John Schol held open conference calls with clergy and laity to address concerns and answer questions. The following is a transcript of his remarks:

Most holy and gracious God, we lament the pain, anxiety, frustration and even anger that people within our church are feeling right now. We love you and we love the church. We know God that you have a path, a Wesleyan Path, but right now it is cluttered with confusion, rhetoric, hard truths and half-truths. God today we come seeking guidance, wisdom and a path to lead us into the future. Thank you for not giving up on us but your willingness to be with us each step of the way. In Christ Jesus we pray. Amen.

As we begin, I want to own right up front that I am United Methodist for generations. I was baptized, confirmed, married, my children were all baptized, and I plan to be buried all from a United Methodist Church. Why, tradition yes, but it’s more than that. I believe in salvation by grace; I believe we are called to personal holiness and social holiness, I believe laity and clergy have the same charge and are partners in serving and leading the church; I believe singing, preaching and the sacraments are cornerstones of worship and faith; I believe we were created for diversity and inclusion; I believe in open itinerancy; and I feel called to be a part of a global church. This is our tradition and tenants of The United Methodist Church. I choose to be United Methodist.

Today, there is a movement to force some to choose not to be United Methodist–to split the church. Some of this is coming from the far left and some from the far right. I applaud their convictions and passion, but I do not accept that we all should be forced into making a decision for or against being United Methodist. The majority of United Methodists around the world want to be United Methodist and don’t want to be forced to leave or to make a decision. In GNJ we already decided we want to be one and live with differences.

I was born into The United Methodist Church, and I anticipate I will be buried from The United Methodist Church because I love our church and while it is not perfect, it connects with my core values and beliefs.

I am grateful for the group and any group that prayerfully seeks to make our church better and help resolve differences. The group that worked on the protocol document last week is one such group.

GNJ leadership will continue to keep you informed each step of the way. Your prayers for my leadership and the rest of GNJ leadership are needed and welcomed.

The most important thing you can do is stay connected with one another and the people in your congregation with love and care for one another. See that others matter just like you do, and engage people facing outward to God and to one another.

  • It is most critical not to lose sight of our mission. Continue to make disciples and grow vital congregations for the transformation of the world.
  •  This Friday, GNJ United Methodists and the Coalition for Diverse and Inclusive Schools have a hearing in Trenton to prevent the state from dismissing our complaint to desegregate public schools because more than half of our Black and Latino students attend segregated public schools. If you can, join us.
  • On March 21 we will gather around the state to pack a half a million meals to feed those who are hungry. Why don’t you join us and bring people from your church and community?
  • At the end of May, two weeks after General Conference, a team from GNJ will travel to Tanzania to teach our joint pastors school and work on mission projects. Please pray for us.
  • Summer camp registration has opened, and we have added another week of camp to meet demand. We are changing young peoples’ lives. Why not be a camp volunteer this summer?
  • 200 of our clergy will gather for a convocation next week on storytelling to strengthen their skills for preaching. It is encouraging to see our pastors wanting to grow.
  • Preparations for the next IGNITE Conference have begun, which will host 1500 students and inspire them to receive Jesus Christ as their savior. Work with a student in your congregation to attend and receive God’s blessing.
  • We have raised $4.1 million for the Miracles Everywhere Campaign to bring hope to Puerto Rico and other hurricane-affected communities in the US, make disciples in Tanzania by supporting a pastor school, bring hope to the people of New Jersey by partnering with our churches to create Hope Centers and nurture the next generation of disciples.
  • Already this week alone, thousands of United Methodists have worshiped, distributed food and clothing to those in need, cared for more than 25,000 children in day care, preschool and after-school programs, studied the Bible, visited the homebound and those in hospitals, hosted thousands of people in Alcoholics Anonymous and proclaimed to the world that God is not done with The United Methodist Church!

I invite all of you to continue the most important journey, to lead people to the love and grace of Jesus Christ and to serve the world. That’s why I’m United Methodist. That’s why I will continue to lead us forward until, well until the day they carry me out. My love for you, for the church is not dependent on theological agreement or about a difference we may have but based on the difference Jesus Christ and The United Methodist Church have made in my life. I hope it will be the same for you.