From The Conference

2024 Easter Sermon – Bishop Connie Shelton

View video at: Sermon Video

Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen Indeed! The long, Lenten journey fades like the darkness giving way to first light.

Mark’s gospel account of the first Easter is surprising! Mark’s gospel is the earliest or oldest gospel manuscript telling the stories of Jesus. Mark’s perspective of redemption is rooted in the suffering of Jesus and the significance of the cross. Each time we come to the Easter story from Mark, I am tempted to pull the endings from all the other gospels (Matthew, Luke, and John) and neatly conflate them to a pretty ending filled with joy and hope. But Mark doesn’t allow for such as we read the original telling in Mark 16:1-8. It’s the third day after Jesus was crucified. Here is my summary, the Cliff Notes, if you will, or perhaps the cliffhanger notes:

Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome go to anoint Jesus on the first day of the week at first light, worried and wondering, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” The large stone had already been rolled away. They went into the tomb, saw a young man dressed in a white robe, and they were confused, startled, and afraid. The guy in white said, “Do not be shocked and scared; you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He has been raised. Go, tell his disciples that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.” So they bolted from the tomb… terror and amazement had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone… they were petrified. That’s it! That’s the end of the earliest manuscript of this story in verse 8.

It’s unsettling. Verses 9-20 were redacted and added over time. The way I feel reading that first story that I read reminds me of how I react when I find an old journal in which I’ve written, and the story I logged is filled with pain, or despair, or uncertainty. My journal entry ends with a cliffhanger of uncertainty. And I am always a bit uncomfortable because I now know how things unfolded beyond that one day in my diary. Yet the journal entry captures with deep emotion, experience, and perspective, one moment in time.

Mark’s original ending in Mark 16, verse 8, is likened to a movie’s abrupt cliffhanger ending with no resolve, and the credits roll. On that first Easter morning, Mark’s gospel tells a story of worried women arriving to an empty tomb, and leaving terrified, amazed, muted, and afraid. Is that where you are this Easter?

Life is not what you hoped.

You’ve received some news that has thrown everything off course.

Disappointment and despair are all you know.

Jesus’ resurrection was a moment in time that changed all moments in time. Jesus did for us what we could not do for ourselves. Jesus’ emptying of himself, unbearable suffering, horrific death, and surprising resurrection demonstrate to what great lengths God goes to express love, life, and a future that has no end. Friends, Easter is about what Christ has done for us. It’s not about what you have done. If you are at a moment in your story feeling worried and terrified, the surprise of resurrection is happening. Staring into an empty tomb does not clear up feelings of the impossibility of resurrection! The women saw the stone rolled away and entered an empty tomb and still could not integrate the possibility of resurrection – they were terrified and amazed and silent and afraid!

The good news of Easter is Jesus’ resurrection is unexpected and complete! The triune God’s love for humanity is demonstrated in Christ’s death and resurrection, while we were still sinners, while we are still afraid, while we don’t understand the meaning of the empty tomb – resurrection is near. When you and I are worried and traumatized and silent and terrorized, the amazement of resurrection comes – whether we are aware or not. It’s really OK to not have it all together on Easter. It’s really OK to bolt from the empty tomb reeling from your own fears and terror. And remember that the journal entry in your life today is not how it ends. The stone is rolled away. The tomb is empty. The resurrected Christ has overcome death, despair, destruction, and the chasm between us and God! The risen Christ is ahead, waiting for you. Don’t be afraid. Your story isn’t over, because you are part of God’s unfolding story of resurrection power in the world. And you know what? We need others to walk with us on this Easter journey. If you’ve been disconnected from a church community, this is a wonderful time to reconnect. Find a United Methodist Church and tell someone there that you are ready to quit doing life alone. I know that the church is filled with imperfect people and lots of brokenness…and that’s the point. We need the resurrected Jesus to not leave us to ourselves. We need the risen Christ to keep us from harming each other. Those of you hearing my voice who are part of a congregation, remember that people in your path and in your broader community have been hurt by the church. Love well. If you’ve experienced Christ’s resurrection in your life, be gentle in sharing your story. Give space for fear, terror, and amazement from others.

Mark’s telling of the Easter story reminds us not to try to package Easter with fluff – it’s not pretty dresses and colorful eggs. Easter is God doing the impossible through Jesus, for all of humanity forever and ever, and for you. Don’t be afraid. The long, Lenten journey fades like the darkness giving way to first light. Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Amen.

Prayers for Appointments

Published on February 13, 2024

Bishop Shelton encourages us to pray for the Cabinet, clergy and their families, and congregations during the appointment-making season. See video at:

North Carolina United Methodists, we are in a season of appointment-making. The Bishop and District Superintendents receive the discernment of local church Staff-Parish Relations Committees, and we receive the Holy Spirit stirrings of pastors, and we seek God’s guidance in making clergy appointments. We look at the mission of the local church and the potential impact on their broader community. Then, we listen deeply to what clergy gifts are needed to lead at this moment in the church’s life.

This moment has never come before. Know that we are always making appointments for the future – and our prayer is that we are discerning God’s preferred future. We don’t make appointments trying to re-enact the glory days that a church may remember and celebrate. We look at the current reality of the congregation and the beauty of their surrounding community, and we discern, “Who is God calling to lead and serve this community?” I am asking you and your church to pray for your North Carolina Conference Cabinet as we practice this deep discernment work. Pray that we will be open to the surprises of God through this process. We need every clergy person, active or retired, every lay person, every congregation, every extension ministry, and everyone who can hear my voice to pray – because there is a great deal at stake for every congregation and every pastor.

Have you considered the impact on the children of clergy families? We trust that God is working out what we cannot anticipate for clergy families. As intentional and as attentive as the cabinet is regarding clergy who are single, married, have children, or don’t have children, moving into a new appointment is exciting and disrupting for families. Pray for all the clergy and those with families who now prepare to “let go” and prepare the way for the next clergy family to arrive. Grief is real. Give yourself space to experience all the emotions of transitions. Stay open to one another in the releasing and in the welcoming. Also, be attentive in your prayers for congregations and clergy who begin a new relationship with one another, learning a different culture, language, and a different way of doing things. This can be exhilarating and terrifying. This past week, I worshiped at two of our amazing North Carolina Conference churches in Mt. Gilead, NC. Zion United Methodist and Mt. Gilead First United Methodist. These two predominantly white congregations welcomed their first Hispanic clergywoman five weeks ago, Pastor Rosanna C. Panizo-Valladares. I sat on the edge of my seat, listening intently to every word as Pastor Rosanna preached the good news. While English is not her first language, her hospitality to articulate each word for the hearer to understand moved me to tears! The gospel message crystal clear, and God’s new thing was present.

Yet, I know when there is a first for any congregation, a first for any pastor, it takes great intentionality and prayer to fully show up for one another. Please pray for every appointment,
new or existing, that trust will be cultivated with the relationship between the pastor and the congregation, as well as with all of us in this beautiful United Methodist connection.

What if, with every new appointment, we respond knowing that God has birthed this new relationship, and we receive it with expectancy, knowing God has dreams for the church – The
United Methodist Church? Will you join me?

Let us pray:
“Creator God, thank you for the gift of transitions and new ways of co-creating in your church. You see what we cannot see! Give us joy and hope that you are ever working so that the entire world will be saved – every person made whole. Use your church to bear witness to your love in this world. Jesus, you promised you would prepare a place for us. As we name the pastors and congregations who are preparing for a transition of appointment, we trust you will guide the cabinet to hear your voice in this appointment-making process. Go prepare a place. Prepare the hearts of the friends who will welcome pastors, spouses, and children into friendship. Prepare the way by preparing the work you are calling the spouses to engage. Prepare the way – provide for the financial needs and extended family needs that our clergy families face, and prepare the congregations, who will receive the pastors and families so that deep community is formed. Keep congregations and pastors from comparisons. Give eyes to see the unique gifts each brings to the other. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. May new appointments ignite innovation, reconciliation, imagination, compassion, and even transformation. May we live into our baptisms, initiated into Christ’s holy church and incorporated into your mighty acts of salvation through the power of the Holy Spirit. Give peace, joy, and hope in your name, Jesus, Amen.”

I invite you to continue to offer prayers over these next few months. We will be extending prayers weekly through our Conference Office and invite you to join us in those prayers. Peace
be with you.

United Methodists to Meet in Charlotte for Worldwide Conference

Charlotte skyline image courtesy of
Charlotte skyline image courtesy of

United Methodists to Meet in Charlotte for Worldwide Conference

Nashville, Tenn.: The Commission on the General Conference announced today that the 2024 United Methodist General Conference will be held April 23 – May 3, 2024, at Charlotte Convention Center in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“The Commission selected Charlotte as the site that best met our varied needs. We believe that delegates and attendees will be pleased with all the city has to offer,” said Kim Simpson, Chair of the Commission on the General Conference. “Charlotte is a part of the Western North Carolina Annual Conference – but due to the shorter timeframe for planning, both the Western North Carolina Conference and the North Carolina Annual Conference will co-host the event.”

In making the selection, Simpson said that the Commission looked at the suitability and capacity of meeting facilities, availability of adequate space, the proximity of hotel rooms, accessibility and convenience of travel and costs of meeting space, lodging, meals and airfare. Proposals from three cities were considered, but ultimately Charlotte was determined to be the best fit.

Charlotte, known as the Queen City, is the 16th most populous city in the U.S. and a major airline hub for American Airlines. The 600,000-square-foot convention center recently completed a $126.9 million expansion and is only 7 miles from the Charlotte International Airport and within walking distance of 200 restaurants.

“We are honored to host the 2024 General Conference of The United Methodist Church,” said Bishop Kenneth H. Carter, Jr. of the Western North Carolina Conference. “Our people are hospitable and welcoming, and we trust that the delegates who gather for what promises to be an historic gathering will be blessed by the city of Charlotte and the state of North Carolina and its warmth and beauty.”

“We bathe this gathering in deep prayer while also praying for each delegate who will seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we spend time in Holy Conferencing. It is my prayer that the same spirit will empower and encourage us to see the possibilities and live the promise,” said Bishop Leonard Fairley of the North Carolina Conference. “May you experience the beautiful natural setting of North Carolina, and the amazing hospitality of its people as you do the work of the Kingdom always remembering you are Beloved of God.”

The last General Conference was set to happen in Minneapolis, Minnesota, until the pandemic made it necessary to postpone the quadrennial legislative event until 2024. At the upcoming conference, the Commission will follow appropriate protocols related to COVID-19 to safeguard attendees’ health.

Delegates from Africa, Europe, Asia and the U.S. will attend the 11-day gathering, which is expected to attract about 5,500-7,500 people.

“It is such an honor to be able to host the 2024 General Conference of The United Methodist Church,” said Mike Butts, Executive Director of Visit Charlotte. “I’m excited that delegates and attendees will get to experience the region’s warm hospitality and enjoy all the offerings that make Charlotte such a dynamic city.”


About General Conference

General Conference is the top policy-making body of The United Methodist Church. The assembly meets at the beginning of each quadrennium to consider revisions to church law, as well as adopt resolutions on current moral, social, public policy and economic issues. It also approves plans and budgets for church-wide programs for the next four years.

Media contact:
Diane Degnan