I have come to understand over the last couple of years that many people do not know unconditional love. They think it is a nice dream, but they don’t believe that it is really possible. When someone is kind to them, generous to them without expecting something in return; they are surprised and skeptical. As Jesus’ disciples, we have been entrusted with his incredible message of God’s unconditional and sacrificial love for all people. We have been entrusted with the stories of his life that demonstrate that love. We have been given the way to live life as God intended and what could be more meaningful than that. We have been entrusted with all of this saving grace so that we might share it freely with others, especially those who don’t believe unconditional love is for them. The focus of our mission and ministry is to point people to Jesus, to encourage them to open themselves to the wholeness and hope he can bring into life and to reflect the character and actions of Jesus so that others might experience him through us. Our mission and ministry are important!
Our mission and ministry do not require us to all think alike. We can see throughout the natural world that diversity and variety are a part of God’s design. Why is it so hard for us to accept that variety and diversity are part of God’s design of the church? The apostle Paul even uses the image of the human body to describe the church community – an example of unity that does not equal uniformity. At the Special Session of General Conference this month, the Council of Bishops is recommending a way forward for our denomination called the One Church Plan. It is a plan that basically says people of good faith who earnestly seek to please God and follow Christ come to different conclusions when it comes to human sexuality. We may read the same Scriptures, but we interpret and understand their claim on us differently. In the One Church Plan, each church community and each pastor are given the freedom to follow Christ as their conscience and their understanding of his calling dictate. The plan recognizes that unity can be achieved without uniformity. As John Wesley said, we can love alike, even if we do not think alike. My prayer is that we, as a denomination, choose this kind of unity. I believe that we will offer a stronger witness if we choose to love each other with our variety and differences.
I hope you will join me as we pray our way forward. The Special Session, the delegates, reserve delegates, bishops, observers, and our interactions with each other need to be bathed in all of our prayers. I look forward to sharing with you what I experience at the Special Session next month. “I’m sure about this: the one who started a good work in you will stay with you to complete the job by the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)