A Future with Hope
Greetings clergy and laity of the East Ohio Conference. I greet you with the love and the peace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I give thanks to God always for each of you, for how you are living into our shared vision of being disciples of Jesus Christ, of making and maturing disciples of Jesus Christ. I give thanks to God for how you are being agents of healing, and hope, and transformation in your communities; for how you are loving, and leading, and serving your neighbors.
We know that these are challenging times in which we are living and leading and being the Church. And I want you to know that I am feeling the exhaustion, and the grief, and the loss, and the loneliness and the pain that many of you are experiencing. It is in these times that we should depend on the sufficiency of God’s grace, that we should depend on our faith in Jesus Christ and the gift of community.
We don’t know what the future will hold but what we do know is who holds the future … our Sovereign God … who has plans for our welfare, for our good and not for our harm … to give us a future and a hope. Because of the global pandemic, we have been living with the postponement of the 2020 General Conference of The United Methodist Church and the prolonged waiting for the General Conference to meet and make decisions on matters of separation has been difficult for some clergy and churches, no matter your biblical and theological beliefs regarding human sexuality.
During this period of waiting, some are actively soliciting pastors and churches and encouraging them to consider separating from The United Methodist Church and some are sharing information that is not always accurate and can be misleading. These efforts have the potential to generate fear and anxiety. These efforts are also intended to get pastors and churches to make decisions prematurely when the pathways for separation have not yet been determined by the General Conference or yet determined from provisions that already exist in The Book of Discipline.
Beloved, I do not want you to worry. My Cabinet and I, we know that there are some pastors and congregations that because of your convictions around human sexuality that you feel that you can no longer journey with the United Methodist family. Out of an abundance of care for you, we want you, those of you who are considering exploring separation, to have accurate information. We want you to know all of the options that will be available to you so that you can make informed decisions.
The district superintendents are leaders who lead with integrity and transparency, and they are prepared to respond to whatever legislation or Disciplinary provisions that will be made in these matters. The district superintendents are providing guidance and care for all pastors and congregations, for those who choose to remain in The United Methodist Church and for those who may choose to separate.
Beloved, I want you to know that there is a place for you in this our beloved United Methodist Church. No matter where you are in the Conference … urban, suburban, small town, country or rural … there is a place for you in this United Methodist Church!
The United Methodist Church has always been a big tent church … a holy communion of different races, and ethnicities, cultures, and perspectives united by the Holy Spirit, rooted in scripture, driven by the mission of Christ, and bearing the good news of an unmerited grace that changes lives and transforms communities. All of our members … clergy and local churches … will continue to have a home in the “Continuing United Methodist Church.” Whether you consider yourself liberal, evangelical, progressive, traditionalist, middle of the road, conservative, centrist, or something else … there is a place for you!
As United Methodists, we hold on to our Wesleyan heritage that “living the core of the Christian faith is revealed in Scripture, illuminated by tradition, vivified in personal experience, and confirmed by reason.” This is who we are, and this is our Wesleyan heritage.
There is a place for you!
When Christ prayed for our unity, His vision was for all of us. Christ envisioned all of us gathering around the table, to make space for one another, to appreciate one another, and to look for Christ in each other. Hear these words from the Gospel of John chapter 17 verses 20-23:
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me, and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
Beloved of God, we are called to be one people, rooted in Scripture, centered in Christ, serving in love, and united in the essentials of the faith. This is hard work, isn’t it? And it’s sacred work.
It is the ministry of reconciliation that Christ gave to each and every one of us.
Friends, beloved, our best witness in a hurting and in a divided world is to love each other as Christ has loved us, and to show the world the transforming power of the Holy Spirit to bind us together despite our differences. This is how we live out the gospel.
So, as we wait for what is next for The United Methodist Church, we pray, and we seek the Lord’s wisdom to inform all of our decisions and all of our actions. And as we wait for the Lord’s guidance and direction, I pray that we stay fully committed, that we each be all in in our being disciples of Jesus Christ so that we can be faithful to the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. And we do this as we love, and as we lead, and as we serve and stay focused on carrying out Christ’s mission of going into all of our communities, going into all of the world ... seeing all of the people … loving them, and teaching them to obey everything that Christ has taught us trusting that Christ is always among us.
And as we wait, we wait together. We wait in prayer. We wait in covenant with God and one another. And we wait with the sure and certain hope of the promise of resurrection and new life.
Remember, people still need to hear the good news of the Gospel, the good news of salvation, the good news of hope and peace through Jesus Christ. That is our work together. So, may the Lord make us one with Christ and one with each other and one in ministry to all the world.
To God be the glory for what God has done, for what God is doing, and for that which is yet to come. Let us embrace a future with hope. Amen.
Executive Secretary to the Bishop
The East Ohio Conference Office:
located in North Canton, OH,
near Akron-Canton Airport.
8800 Cleveland Ave. NW
North Canton, OH 44720
Monday through Friday
8:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
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