July 18, 2016

Dear sisters and brothers of the Western Jurisdiction Conference,

“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” Isaiah 43:19

I stand amazed at this new thing God has done, and give thanks to you, my dear sisters and brothers, at the careful and prayerful way we responded to the Holy Spirit and allowed our fears to fall away so we could joyously cross the threshold of this new thing together. I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of love I have received from around the world—it is more than my heart can hold.

To my dear California-Nevada friends and colleagues: thank you for all you taught me. I thought my sojourn in California was going to be a short one when I arrived in 1989 to be a campus minister at San Francisco State, but you drew in this New Yorker from Babylon, informing my ministry and helping me grow as a pastor and a person. I am forever grateful.

To the episcopal candidates: thank you for the grace-filled way we walked together over the course of the conference, for the unique gifts and graces we each possess, which we were willing to offer the WJ. May God continue to work in you and through you, and richly bless you and your ministries.

To the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops, I am so very grateful for the way you warmly welcomed me to the table, and look forward to the work God is calling us collectively to do.

To the Mountain Sky Area: You opened your arms as wide as the Montana sky to welcome and embrace Robin and me. We have already fallen in love and cannot wait to meet the rest of the family!

To the delegates of the WJ Conference: we listened so deeply to the Holy Spirit. We worshipped and prayed and wept and then danced in joyous response to the Spirit’s call. I am moved by the response of the entire jurisdiction to support the Mountain Sky Area family as we enter into ministry together. Isn’t this the vision God has put on our hearts over the course of several quadrenniums: to reach across conference lines to bring our very best to building Christ’s Church? Here we go!

I know there are many who are lamenting my election. Our task is to love deeply, which means standing before those who are angry, anxious, or fearful and be a witness to all they are feeling, and to remain in relationship through the power of Christ’s love. The best of our United Methodist tradition is when we can hold the tension of our differences for the sake of our mission: To make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. God has called us for such a time as this. Can we do it? “Lord, we are able!”

With much love,

Bishop Karen Oliveto