Following a further postponement of General Conference 2020 to August 29-September 6, 2022, Bishop Patrick Streiff wrote a letter to the members and friends of the UMC in Central and Southern Europe, by which he shared his thoughts about the impact on his own episcopal ministry.
When I thought “my foot is slipping,” your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up. (Psalm 94:18)
Dear sisters and brothers in Central and Southern Europe,
The months following the called session of General Conference 2019 have been tough and tensions among us have been high. Since March 2020, the Corona-pandemic has led to a first postponement of the May 2020 General Conference, but has also shifted our priorities. For me personally, it meant to postpone my retirement for an additional year. We all hoped that the postponed General Conference would be held in early September 2021. Together with my colleague Bishops Christian Alsted and Harald Rückert, we issued a statement “Our Commitment” in mid-February 2021, on how we commit to lead the church in times of a possible split.
Ten days ago, it was announced that General Conference will only take place from August 29 to September 6, 2022. This further postponement of General Conference by a full year took us by surprise. It has been a heavy set-back for all those who would have liked to move on – on all sides – and who have just waited for the decisions of General Conference. It also affects me personally, for the second time.
Heidi and I needed a few days of discussion and prayer. I also consulted with the officers of the central conference and the working group on episcopacy. I finally decided to remain in active ministry as bishop up to a regular central conference that will follow General Conference of September 2022. In many difficult times in my life, I have experienced that God’s steadfast love holds me up. I trust in it also for this prolonged journey in active ministry.
This very week, the Executive Committee of the Central Conference will have online meetings on March 12 and 13. It will fix a new date for a central conference where my successor will be elected. It will also plan on a process of preparing the central conference for the needed decisions after the actions of General Conference in September 2022.
One fruit of the Spirit is patience. We all need it for ourselves but also towards our brothers and sisters with whom we disagree in our church. Otherwise, our feet will slip. May God’s steadfast love continue to hold us up on a difficult journey as United Methodist Church in central and southern Europe.
In Christ, our Lord and Savior,
Bishop Patrick Streiff