By Bishop Tracy S. Malone
December 8, 2016
The season of Advent teaches us the discipline and the gift of waiting on God. Advent is about inviting, waiting and expecting the Spirit of God to be radically at work in our lives and in the world – making all things new! It is not a passive waiting but an active waiting fully offering ourselves to be God’s agents of love, healing, transformation, peace, and justice in the world.
As I write, I am reminded of the words penned in Luke 3:4-6 (NIV):
“As it is written in the book of words of Isaiah the prophet: A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all people will see God’s salvation.’”
As John the Baptist preached these radical, transforming words about leveling the mountains, filling the valleys and making straight the highway, he was not speaking about divine landscaping but was speaking to the powers to be – that which threatens the common good and the welfare of all of God’s people.
We, too, are preparers of the way of God’s love and redemptive work in the world. As followers of Christ, and as a people called United Methodists, we are bearers of the good news of Jesus Christ. We are those who are called to tear down the walls of hate, division and fear, and to be builders of authentic, loving community. We are those who are called to do justice, and to offer and restore hope where there is brokenness and pain. As baptized believers, we are called to “renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, repent of our sin and accept the freedom and power God gives us to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.” If not us, then who and if not now, when?
As a United Methodist Church, we are seeking to be preparers of the way of God’s love, grace, justice and unity even among ourselves as a denomination. The 2016 General Conference gave a specific mandate to the Council of Bishops to “lead The United Methodist Church in discerning and proposing a way forward through the present impasse related to human sexuality and to explore options that help to maintain and strengthen the unity of the church.” In response, the Council proposed – and the 2016 General Conference approved – the formation of a Commission that will assist in helping us find our way forward. The Commission on the Way Forward has been named by the Council of Bishops, and the 32 members have begun their work.
Friends, finding our way forward is the work of the whole church. As United Methodists we believe in the power of prayer and holy conferencing. Every annual conference is asked to be active preparers of the way forward by making a commitment to pray for the work of the commission, and by engaging in meaningful dialogue.
Every clergy and lay member of the East Ohio Conference will be asked to specifically pray for the work of the commission during a week in April, 2017. We pray that we are being faithful to being united in Christ and to fulfilling the mission of the church, which is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Even now you are encouraged to send forth prayers for the Commission as it begins its work, and I ask that you plan to participate in the 2017 all-conference week of prayer.
Following the week of prayer, every local church will be invited to engage in holy conferencing. Together we will reflect:
Detailed plans of the week of prayer and the invitation to holy conferencing will be communicated via E-News and the conference website to ensure an opportunity for conference-wide participation.
In these desperate and anxious times in which we live, I remain convinced that the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His Church is still the hope for the world. Let us fully embrace our role in helping to prepare the way of God’s love, grace, peace and justice, both in the church and in the world. Each of us has a part in the Kingdom-building work.
May the Spirit of God continue to take up residence in your life and lead you to places where you have not dared to go, to people you have not dared to meet, to love where you have shown no love before, and to do good where you’ve shown no mercy.
As we seek to remember who, and whose, we are as followers of Christ, I invite you to read “Division and Discord", a letter to the people of The United Methodist Church from Bishop Bruce R. Ough, the president of the Council of Bishops.
Grace and Peace,
Bishop Tracy S. Malone
Executive Secretary to the Bishop’s Office
Board of Ministry
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