“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then we will see face to face.  Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.  And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love” (I Corinthians 13:11)

Ever since the conclusion of our Annual Conference, I have been reminiscing about my call to ministry. From time to time, it has been my spiritual practice to revisit that momentous time in my life as my faith was being confirmed, when I heard a call from God inviting me, urging me, to give my life to ministry and I responded, “yes.”  Finally.

Our theme for Annual Conference, “Called Anew to Follow” reminds us that God’s involvement in our lives does not end once God’s call is heard and answered. Rather, as we mature in our faith we experience the world and we understand ourselves in new and often astounding ways. We experience God and our perception of God shifts and changes. It is not that God changes as much as it is that as I grow in my faith and experience life, I begin to see God not so much as in a mirror dimly, but more fully, face to face.

This year at Annual Conference we began to explore what God might have in mind for us and our faith. One of the ways God is calling anew to us in this time is in God’s call to re-imagine what our church should be, what our church should stand for, and what we are called to do to birth something new either by reforming our United Methodist Church or by starting something completely new. At Annual Conference, we introduced the Desert Southwest Conference Way Forward, an effort to involve the passion, creative energy, gifts for God’s ministry and service, in collaboration with one another. The DSC Way Forward has already begun its work of dreaming of ways to reinvent The United Methodist Church as a church that practices inclusion of all in the work of ministry and mission; or of creating a new expression of the church that is rooted in Wesleyan theology and open to all. We are still looking for persons with passion and energy to engage in this work. More information along with a link to sign up if you want to serve God in this way can be found by clicking here.

Through the DSC Way Forward, we ponder and respond to these questions:

  • Are we able to create a church where LGBTQIA+ siblings are welcomed and where their gifts for servant leadership in our church are affirmed?
  • Can we focus our energy with razor-sharpness on being disciples of Jesus’ ministry as we “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation”  (Mark 16:1)?
  • Can we live together in a church where the tension of not agreeing will no longer lead to disparaging words about “the other,” but where our God-given uniqueness will propel us into learning and growing about our differences and maturing in the faith?
  • Can we create a church together where racism, sexism, homophobia, and other “isms” that destroy relationships will cease to tear us apart as the body of Christ?
  • If we were to create a church from the bottom up, what would our values be?
  • Do we really have faith that can move mountains when we are called to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world with open hearts, minds and doors?

These are just some of the fundamental questions we must be asking ourselves as we wind our way into the future.

But there is one more important question we must ask ourselves:  What is God calling us today to become? I believe that God is calling us anew – again – and in exciting ways to go in new directions to new places. I believe God is calling us anew to be new persons in Christ. I believe God is calling us anew to give our lives in servant ministry as courageous disciples who love like Jesus, act for justice, and are united in hope.

Let’s hold each other with grace and love as we journey together in faith!

In Christ,

 

 

 

Bishop Robert T. Hoshibata

Resident Bishop, Phoenix Area

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