SOUTHERN HILLS DISTRICT
God’s Power Made Perfect in Weakness
In 2 Corinthians 12:9, the (imperfect) apostle Paul tells of God’s Word coming to him until he feels he must boast in his weakness because God’s power shines in the broken places. As we approach a Special Session of General Conference February 23, where our delegates across the world address the brokenness in our United Methodist Church over conflicting positions on same sex unions and the ordination of homosexual persons, I confess that I am feeling torn. Yet, being humbled has always been an oddly hopeful place for me. It’s my first step back toward finding God’s grace working. I pray we hold fast to the grace we’ve been shown, and that we seek to practice. We can help one another resist temptations to flee in fear or in a rush to judgment. May we listen and abound in steadfast love as God does. May we find peace as we know who is God of all. Then our next actions in the future can be shaped by our common faith and the power of prayer.
In my first year as a pastor in the East Ohio Conference in 1987, Bishop James Thomas called the whole Conference to a Bible Study about “Covenant.” He shared some of his story of serving in a flawed, divided denomination when a Central Conference for Black pastors and Methodist Churches was separate from the Anglo Methodist Churches, until 1968 when we became the United Methodist Church. Due to his baptismal and ordination covenants, he remained in the church through that time of division and then reunification. His witness calls me to plan to stand with the United Methodist Church, even with those in it who don’t see things as I do. I plan to continue serving in a denomination whose unity is fragile and exposed to public scrutiny, regardless of the decisions made in February.
One of the lovely places I visited in Liberia 3 years ago was a United Methodist school yard in Buchanan. A leader there could not walk but used a hand powered scooter as he led us on a tour. He described how this had been a place of refuge for the community during violent days of Civil War around 1998. Families gathered in that walled school yard, as persons guarded the entry points, while militia groups threatened homes and families running through their neighborhoods. We were getting to know a young leader named Sam Quarshie who lost all his family except his mother and brother in the violence of that Civil War, and whose education in that school yard was made possible by United Methodist scholarship support. He is now School Board president of another United Methodist School we toured in a slum area of Monrovia. Out of our church’s generosity shared with Sam, his torn life was made whole and strong in the broken places nearby, as he was giving himself in service.
I suffered from a torn cornea in one eye while serving as District Superintendent. It has caused me to take time to be still, pray and find medical support with the help of Christian friends. It has also felt like a signpost of how I’ve seen broken pastors and churches and felt personally torn as we’ve sought God’s grace to lead during hard times. I travelled to Liberia within two months of my first episode of a torn cornea, but had no trouble seeing the joy and beauty of the United Methodists there. God’s grace covered the weak place in my eye and overcame any fears I had of travelling there and back. If people see the United Methodist Church is conflicted and imperfect, they can also notice how God’s grace among us abounds. It is made more perfect and evident in our human weakness. There is no clearer sign of God’s power than to see it made more perfect in a weak and vulnerable human life, or community. I pray that our church can be a sign and witness to the strength of Christian community, mightier than our individual preferences and differences.
Gail Angel, Your D.S.
Southern Hills District:
Rev. Gail Angel
641 Steubenville Ave.
Cambridge, OH 43725
Phone: (740) 255-5691
Fax: (740) 255-5693
Monday through Thursday
9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
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