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A pastoral message from Bishop Bob

by | Jun 27, 2015 | Not In USe

June 26, 2015

Dear Members and Friends of the Desert Southwest Conference,

I greet you in the name of Jesus, the One who proclaims the Good News of God’s love for all! My heart sings with a hymn from our United Methodist hymnal:

Photo By Dinah Brooks

Photo By Dinah Brooks

God of change and glory, God of time and space,
when we fear the future, give to us your grace.
In the midst of changing ways give us still the grace to praise.
Many gifts, one Spirit, one love known in many ways.
In our difference is blessing, from diversity we praise
One Giver, one Lord, one Spirit, one Word
known in many ways, hallowing our days.
For the Giver, for the gifts, praise, praise, praise!
-Al Carmines, 1973, The United Methodist Hymnal #114

Much is changing in the world of today! Now that the Supreme Court has ruled to legalize same-gender marriage across the United States we are experiencing BOTH the most welcomed and the most feared changes in our society and for our United Methodist Church. I write these words acknowledging that we United Methodists are not of one mind in our opinion of this decision. One thing is clear: the decision will encourage change in many ways.

I am among the persons who feel that this ruling is an opportunity for us. The changes we are experiencing offer opportunities for us to look deeply into our own selves, to find places where we might be patterned by old understandings and prejudices, and to discover anew what it means to appreciate, celebrate, and respect the diversity in God’s wonderfully created world. I am hopeful we will be able to accept, embrace, and incorporate change in our lives and in the ministries that God has called us to.

The profoundly moving words of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion form a foundation for our understanding of the importance of this ruling:

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

How does this affect us in The United Methodist Church? Unlike those who would say that “nothing has changed,” I prefer to say that this ruling is a signal to us that it is vitally important that we make changes in the way our Church does ministry.

It is not only about undergoing a shift in who is able to stand in line at a government office to apply for a marriage license. It is not only about the financial boom that we are already experiencing in wedding industry-related businesses. What is changing and what our United Methodist Churches must accept and embrace is the need for us all to intentionally reach out in love and radical hospitality to all persons to proclaim the love of Jesus Christ.

I am hopeful that we of the Desert Southwest Conference will commit ourselves to engage in respectful conversations in our congregations and in our communities, calling all persons to enlarge their vision of the Reign of God, where all of God’s creation lives in harmony and peace. I trust that we will all work to respond with openness to the changing demographics and the changing dynamics of the present time.

This is a magnificent opportunity for all of us to be in ministry to care for one another, even as we search for pastoral guidance in a time of change. Let’s care for one another, listening with respect to the concerns and beliefs of others. Let’s embark as never before to step out into the communities around us to demonstrate our dedication to ministries of social justice and love.

Where there is fear of the changes, let’s speak to our church and our neighborhoods a holy word of compassion and understanding, to calm those who are fearful and to encourage those who are doubtful. And to let our people know that in all times of change, God is with us to assure us.

This is a moment of opportunity for us to lead those in the pews and those in the homes and businesses in our neighborhoods that we United Methodists are striving diligently to finally bring to reality the words: “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors.” It is an opportunity for us to embrace change and to remain stalwart in our desire and intention to focus on mission and ministry as Christ-followers who labor in God’s vineyard to proclaim the Good News of Jesus in our words, our deeds, and our prayers.

I offer a word of reassurance as your bishop. For some, the Supreme Court ruling is a monumental threat to the institution of marriage. For others, it is a good start to movement toward full acceptance of the LGBTQ community. Let me remind us all that the Church is most true to its calling when we place mission and ministry above our human penchant to judge others, to separate and exclude. There is much that we can and should be doing to serve God through ministry. As always, I keep you, our churches, our members and our communities in my prayers as we step boldly into this new day and age and strive to continue to reflect the light of Christ for all.

And I am still singing:

God of many colors, God of many signs,
You have made us different, blessing many kinds.
As the old ways disappear, let your love cast out our fear.
Many gifts, one Spirit, one love known in many ways.
In our difference is blessing, from diversity we praise
One Giver, one Lord, one Spirit, one Word
known in many ways, hallowing our days.
For the Giver, for the gifts, praise, praise, praise!
-Al Carmines, 1973, The United Methodist Hymnal #114

In Christ,

Bishop Bob Hoshibata

 

 

A PRAYER FOR THIS MOMENT: Almighty and All-loving God, we turn to you in this time of change and transition. In this time, for some of us, long-held understandings are being challenged. For others, this moment is another step in a longer, more difficult journey. However we are feeling at this juncture; give us the understanding that new opportunities are ours to proclaim your message of love and grace in what we say and in what we do. Let us not shrink from our calling to love all, that our churches may truly be places of “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors.” We lean upon you for your guidance, your hope, and your reassurance in the name of Jesus, who taught us to love. Amen.

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