Recently over eight hundred delegates and countless other United Methodists from all over the world gathered in Portland, Oregon for the quadrennial (every four year) General Conference.
The bishops and pastors, church members and staff, volunteers and visitors, met to , to worship and to celebrate God’s faithfulness, to engage in Christian conferencing, to affirm our global connection, and to make decisions for our church’s future,
Of major importance are the bold new goals that were prayed over and discerned as God’s will for our worldwide fellowship over the next four years:
.....to make a million new disciples of Jesus Christ, (that’s 250,000 NEW followers per year);
.....to engage 3 million new people to make a difference in the world (that’s 750,000 NEW people involved in helping others);
....to transform 400 communities for vital abundant living;
.....to reach a million children with lifesaving health interventions;
.....and to double the number of vital congregations (that’s starting and restarting communities of faith).
Furthermore, Bishop Bruce Ough, president of the council writes in part:
“We celebrated the success of our Imagine No Malaria initiative, which seeks to raise $75 million in the fight against malaria, a disease that takes the life of a child in Africa every two minutes.
We celebrated our ecumenical partnerships as we move into full Communion with the Uniting Church in Sweden and toward full Communion with the Moravian church.
We celebrated our heritage: the 250th anniversary of our oldest church, John Street United Methodist Church, the 200th anniversary of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the 150th anniversary of United Methodist Women, the 25th anniversary of Africa University and others.
We continued in our acts of repentance with a presentation from the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes about the Methodist involvement in the 1864 Sand Creek massacre.
We shared in the consecration of deaconesses and home missioners and the commissioning of missionaries.
We moved toward a global Book of Discipline and global Social Principles. We voted to add five new bishops in Africa after 2020, and approved a churchwide study on our ecclesiology.
The Episcopal address set the tone for the event, focusing on humility and lifting up our accomplishments.
We heard from our laity an invitation to members to be more involved in making disciples and getting involved in ministries to bring the love of Christ to others.
We heard our young people say they “are engaged in Christ’s journey with energy and love.”
We also heard them say clearly that they do not want a divided church and urged us to “be in unity even if we do not have unanimity.” They give us hope for our future.
The body had difficult and challenging work before it as we acknowledged our differences over human sexuality.
Amidst those differences, the delegates affirmed they want their bishops to lead and we found ourselves with an opportunity for a holy moment.
We spoke candidly about what divides us and what our church might look like in the future if we dared to consider new possibilities.
We offered a way forward, postponing decisions about sexuality matters and committing to having a different kind of global conversation that allows all voices to be heard.
Our differences do not keep us from being the body of Christ. They do not keep us from doing good in the world. They do not keep us from making a difference – and so we set forth bold new goals (mentioned at the beginning of this article.)
Most importantly, we affirmed our commitment to stay united.
We proved that we are more than debates and divisions, more than rules and resolutions.
We stood together as the body of Christ.
As we reflect on our time in Portland, our prayer is for unity in the church for the advancement of our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
As John Wesley reminded us, “Best of all, God is with us.”
Signed on behalf of the Council of Bishops,
Bishop Bruce R. Ough, president of the Council”
Many have asked what is the essence of the Methodist movement. Our General Conference gives evidence of the answer.
The Methodist movement is trusting God’s Holy Spirit to move and work through all of us, the gathered body, the church, and through open and honest conversation, prayer and discernment. In all this we discover God’s will for us as a particular part of the great tribe of God’s people.
Through our conferencing: our General, Jurisdictional (regional), Annual (sub-regional) and Church (Local) Conferencing, we covenant together to consider the way God has brought us together and our future together in God’s Holy Spirit.
On June 15-18, Lancaster UMC will send 8 people to our Annual Conference as Lay Members to “Christian Conference” for our sub-regional area, the California-Pacific region (Southern California, Hawaii, Guam and Saipan.
Our Lay Members are: Steve McDougal, Heather KinKennon, Vicki Fisher, Melinda Hunter and Tina Crowe. Our Alternate Delegates are Helen Jones, Keith and Cathy Swords.
On June 28, all of you are invited to our local Church Conference as we connect with the world-wide church and we elect our leaders for the coming twelve months and present our yearly budget.
You are invited to join us at 6 pm for a pot-luck dessert and then the meeting at 7 pm. That night we’ll begin our review of our 3-5 year Vision that will be completed in the Fall.
What are your highest highs and lowest lows this week?
What scripture has stayed with you this week?
What have others learned about Jesus Christ because of you?
How goes it with your soul?
Grace and Peace,