ORDER OF THE DAY | Tuesday, June 13, 2017
Episcopal Address – “I Am Hope-full”
Bishop Tracy S. Malone
In her first episcopal address as resident bishop of the East Ohio Conference, Bishop Tracy S. Malone thanked the conference for the way that she and her family have been welcomed and received.
She expressed the joy she has experienced in connecting with the people, congregations, and ministries of the conference, and stated that she prays for a fresh outpouring of God’s spirit upon all aspects of the community of East Ohio.
She told those gathered that in thinking about the theological and missional task of the church, she was reminded of an African sculpture that she saw in Oslo, Norway while attending The United Methodist Connectional Table meeting in May.
The wooden sculpture depicts a hand holding an egg. The bishop told how the piece of art symbolizes the fragility of power. Citing and an African proverb, Malone said that power is like an egg; if it’s held too tightly, it breaks, but if it’s not held tightly enough, it will slip from our grasp.
As followers of Christ, we have been given a charge that comes with mighty power, the power of the Holy Spirit.
“As your Episcopal Leader, I hold out a vision and a hope that you will be bold, faithful and courageous in your Christian witness and behold the power, the Holy Spirit’s power that has been poured out upon you,” she said.
The bishop challenged and encouraged each church, no matter its size, location, or age to, “commit to focus on what you do have, and not on what you don’t have. Commit to focus on what you can do, and not on what you cannot do; commit to face more outward toward your neighbors, and your community, with the same care and passion you show inward toward each other. I am convinced that God can do far more abundantly than what we can think, ask or imagine.”
Malone highlighted two professional training sessions that will be offered to assist churches in focusing on making new disciples of Jesus Christ, instead of on internal issues. Rule of Christ training, based on Matthew 18, will be offered to all churches receiving new pastors this appointment year. The ultimate goal is for every congregation to benefit from this resource. Critical Response training will assist a local church when the congregation experiences a critical event in its life or in the life of its community.
The bishop asked each congregation to also engage, in a new and intentional way, in the Four Areas of Focus of The United Methodist Church: engaging in ministry with the poor; improving global health; developing principled Christian leaders; and creating new and renewed congregations.
Malone reminded those inside Hoover Auditorium, and those watching the live-stream feed, about the 32-member Commission on a Way Forward proposed by the Council of Bishops and approved by General Conference 2016, and about the Special Session of General Conference to be held in 2019.
“The work of strengthening and maintaining the unity of the church is all of our work to do,” she said.
“To that end, I have formed an East Ohio Conference Way Forward design team to develop a process for a conference-wide conversation among clergy and lay members to provide an opportunity to have intentional, meaningful dialogue with one another to discern together how we might strengthen and maintain the unity of the church and discern a way forward through the present impasse related to human sexuality.”
The bishop asked that each congregation “pray for the commission and its work and to pray for the conversations we will have here in the East Ohio Conference. I ask you to commit to participating in the conversation, to be open to each other and to the spirit of God, to listen and to share. Finally, I ask you to stay encouraged and stay focused on the mission of Christ and his Church.”