“Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.’ Simon answered, ‘Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.’ When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So, they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!’ For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.’ When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.” (Luke 5:1-11)

What is your call to ministry? No, I am not just talking to clergy, but to the laos, the whole people of God, clergy and laity together, I am speaking to every person who calls Jesus Lord, who has given their life to God, who have been baptized – and even to many who have not yet been baptized: What is your call to ministry?

The United Methodist Church is a discipling Church. It is in our mission: “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” We exist to help form, train, equip, support, employ, and unite gifted men and women to take their active and integrated place in the body of Christ. We do this by creating environment, space, and experiences to relate to God and neighbor; by exploring our scriptures, theology, and tradition together; by practicing the means of grace individually and communally, and by engaging in active service for mercy, justice, peace and compassion. We jointly discern and discover gifts for ministry, passions for service, and ways to act most effectively. When we do this together faithfully, God’s will is done, and the world is transformed. Personal discipleship is communal discipleship that results in transformation of self, Church, and world. It is a sublime and elegant system.

Each congregation is essentially a discipleship system. We move people from an initial care for God to a radical commitment to God to an affective union with God and one another. We move from believing in Jesus, to following Jesus, to becoming like Jesus, to becoming the incarnational body of Christ. In a discipling Church, no one stays unchanged. A discipling Church is a place of perpetual becoming – in Methodist teaching, a place where we are being perfected in love. But the Church is not the goal or destination; Church is a means to an end. The Church is not the building we go to, but the building we go to is where we are formed and transformed to BE the Church for the world. Our purpose is never in our building, but only out in the world.

“The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.”  (Ephesians 4:11-16)

As the United States celebrates again Independence Day, our United Methodist denomination celebrates its fiftieth anniversary. There are many parallels between the establishment of this country and the history of our Church, but there is one significant and abiding difference. While the nation celebrates “independence,” our Church celebrates interdependence.

Many theories of human development rest upon a three-stage process of maturing and growth. Initially, human beings are completely dependent upon others for survival, nurture, learning, growth, comfort and security. An infant is virtually helpless, and in many ways is powerless to care for itself. However, childhood and adolescence are periods of continuous testing, trying, and breaking free. Human beings strive to move from dependence to independence – to move from complete reliance on others to a healthy and productive ability to provide for one’s self. This is normal, natural, and necessary. But it is incomplete and unsustainable in civilized society. There is yet one more stage of development that moves us from a self-centered independence to a mature and inclusive interdependence. True strength, security, and survival is not a solo effort, but truly we are stronger together than we are alone.

It has been said that diversity focuses on our differences, but that pluralism focuses on the value of our differences. An independent worldview celebrates the uniqueness and difference of each individual, while an interdependent worldview celebrates synergy – how each gift and contribution makes the whole greater than the sum of the parts. Fully formed individuals make for a healthy and holistic community. This is a vision central to Jesus’ teaching and the gospel message. The body of Christ is a powerful image of radical and fundamental interdependence. It is what we aspire to as the Church.

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.

Philippians 2:1-2

Let me begin by saying, “Thank you!” Thank you to Program and Arrangements; thank you to Conference staff; thank you to volunteers; thank you to cabinet; thank you to our board and agency leaders; thank you to our young people; thank you to worship team; thank you to our Launch Out! team; thank you for a great Learning Day; thank you to Marriott; and special thank you to visiting Bishops, guests, Thomas Kemper – and especially Archives and History for a splendid 50th Anniversary Celebration Banquet. What a Conference! We celebrated together “One with Each Other,” and that unity of spirit was felt throughout.

I know we are in tense times. I know there is uncertainty about our future. I know there is disagreement about how we should move forward into the future; but despite all the possible divisions, we came together as one body, to worship, to learn, to plan, to discern, and to be family as baptized believers. What a joy it was for me! We navigated our differences to witness to the love, and power, and grace of Jesus Christ. Hallelujah!

And we stepped forward – leapt forward – in faith to Launch Out! My heart soars at this great confession of faith in our future. God is doing amazing things in the Wisconsin Conference. You, brothers and sisters, affirm my confidence and discernment – you make my joy complete – by joining together to make this faith-raising initiative a reality. As we faithfully commit to fulfill this exciting challenge, we will see miracles happen, and our world transformed. This is an incredible statement of faith in times of denominational struggle. It is a great testament to the high level of discipleship in the Wisconsin Conference.

We do not know what tomorrow may bring, but we face it together. One way or another, Wisconsin Conference will continue to serve faithfully, to risk boldly, and to proclaim confidently, we are “One with Christ, One with Each Other, and One in Ministry to All the World.” I am so proud to be your bishop in these trying, and sometimes difficult circumstances. We are tested, we are tried, but we are strong. I ask you all to pray for your bishop, to pray for your Conference, to pray for Launch Out! and to pray for our delegation as they prepare for the Special Session of General Conference in 2019.

Bless you all my brothers and sisters, and thank you for an amazing Annual Conference!

Grace and Peace,

Bishop Hee-Soo Jung

Have you ever waited for a miracle? We remember and recognize this situation every Advent time, but often it is not felt deeply and personally. It is a very different thing to pray, and petition, and hope, and dream of a miraculous act breaking into our day-to-day world. For my entire life, I have prayed that my nation, my country, my homeland, my heritage, and family could know peace and reconciliation – and become a peaceful and productive partner with our global community. I am overwhelmed as I see this miracle unfold, and am reminded again of the power of prayer to reconcile, to heal, to unite, and to usher in a new beginning for a new creation.

The historic summit in Singapore this week brought the Chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Kim Jong Un, together with United States President Donald Trump to discuss the future, not only of these two countries, but of the whole Korean peninsula as well.

There are so many challenges to ministry today, and a lot of our energy is being spent on the current state of our denomination. This is a crossroads moment for us, as we prepare to address the report of The Commission on A Way Forward, the Council of Bishops recommendation, and the upcoming special session of the General Conference in February of 2019. These are all very important, but they inspire me to a deeper reflection on the future of our Church: how will we be faithful to our call and to our mission? God provides us with so many opportunities – will we rise to meet them or simply let them pass? The work of God and the will of God are too important to ignore. While we worry about tomorrow, we miss the vision for a rich and vital future. So, when Jesus says in Matthew 6:34, “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today,” he is not saying we should not look to the future possibilities, but that we should not let our worries blind us. There are many things we cannot control, so to worry about them – and to use them as an excuse not to work for good – is an inexcusable waste of time.

Being a United Methodist bishop brings me many joys and great satisfaction. I am constantly engaged in conversations about vision for the future, unlimited possibilities, and discernment in God’s will for our Church. I serve with so many gifted men and women, in so many levels and capacities of the Church. Most days, I am proud, humbled and honored to be an Episcopal leader.

Then there are days when I feel burdened and sad. When we received the news that the two constitutional amendments concerning gender equality were defeated, I was deeply troubled. What did this mean? Were we saying women are not equal to men? Were we saying there should not be equal treatment and inclusion? Come on! This is not true of the Church I serve! We are rich in our diversity, beginning with gender diversity. Women are created in God’s image. Women are led by God’s Holy Spirit. Women are gifted to lead. I am proud that The United Methodist Church has long championed the rightness of women in ordained ministry, and in every leadership function at every level of the Church. And I feel very confident that the failure of these constitutional amendments to pass has more to do with other factors than respect and acceptance of women as equal in every way to men.

"… Jesus looked at them and said, ‘For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible." - Matthew 19:26

"… for we walk by faith, not by sight." - 2 Corinthians 5:7

Even people of faith can sometimes throw up their hands in despair and say, “This is too much; this is too hard; it is impossible.” This is a simple reality of human weakness – we want to believe but sometimes we give in to our unbelief. Hallelujah that we have a Savior, Jesus Christ! What is not always possible for us, is always secure in God’s hand.

Today, I mean this about Korea. I hope you have heard the news! President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea (South) and Chairman Kim Jong-un of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North) crossed the military demarcation line (MDL) to meet at the Panmunjom Peace House on April 27. There they crafted the “Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the Korean Peninsula.” This, brothers and sisters, is an answer to millions of prayers across decades. This historic many have come to say “is too much; is too hard; is impossible!” But celebrate together a miracle in our day – what may seem impossible to mortals is never impossible to God. We must hold on in faith; we must believe.

I want to share my thoughts and feelings about the recent Council of Bishops meeting that ended May 4 in Chicago. It was a rich time, a challenging time, a prayerful time, a frustrating time, a joyful time, and a time of deep reflection and discernment. In essence, it was our Church as it is today, in this time and place. I don’t see it as a good place or a bad place, a right place or a wrong place. No, we are where we are; and together we work out our own salvation – and future – with deep respect and some trembling. Our Church is not of one mind or one heart; but we are guided by the same Spirit; and through the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit, I believe we can have a strong, lasting future of transformation and grace.

I encourage you to read the summary reports on the Bishop’s recommendations, and to continue to pray about them and the Church. Prayer is the one thing we all can do; and in prayer, we trust that God will enable us to make the very best decisions.

The Council of Bishops reflects the many perspectives on the authority of scripture, the theological foundations of faith, engagement with LGBTQ individuals and communities; but in the midst of the diverse worldviews, some strong commonalities emerged. As a Council, we decided to place our trust in God and God’s Church – represented in our General Conference – to do the work that is needed, and to decide our best path forward.

I am thinking that an amazing God deserves an amazing church. In these days following the Easter miracle, I am again impressed by the immensity of the love and grace of our God, so loving this world that Jesus was sent to atone for our sins, but more than that, to empower and engage us to be the body of Christ for the world! The resurrection was no ending, but a new beginning. Our God is an amazing God. Can we respond in any way that is less than to be an amazing church?

You probably know my vision and my passion. I wish to see our church reach any and all people who do not know our God and our Savior, Jesus the Christ. Be they poor or rich, weak or strong, whole or broken – I want all brothers and sisters to receive the gift of God’s abundant love and grace – and in every way, I want people to know this grace through the people called United Methodist in Wisconsin.

I see thousands of opportunities to create new ministries throughout our conference. New generations of people, new immigrants, disillusioned former believers and energized new seekers could benefit so much from the love and grace of God, and we have almost unlimited opportunities to be agents of such love and grace.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”

John 14:27

The fruit of God’s Spirit that we most associate with Easter is usually joy, but this year I invite you to reflect on peace – the peace of Christ as a God-given gift for the foundation of our faith. Why peace? Because we live in such uncertain and anxious times. Wars, and threats of war, tear nations apart. Political parties attack each other and foster fear in their constituents. Violence in our society impels the fearful among us to take up weapons in self-defense. Economic woes and worries destroy lives, families, and communities. Disagreements and conflict threaten our churches at local, regional, denominational, and global levels. Many people live under the constant stress of anxiety and fear. This is not God’s will for God’s people.

The resurrection of Jesus the Christ is an eternal and infinite affirmation of the absolute power of God. Death is made meaningless. Eternal life is the new normal. Sin loses all power. God wins. There is no more uncertainty about the outcome. This is the essence, the cornerstone of our faith. There is no longer reason to fear. The evidence of Christ in our life is whether we are guided by faith or by fear. The message from God through the resurrection is simply this: be not afraid.

I want to walk as a child of the light;
I want to follow Jesus.
God set the stars to give light to the world;
The star of my life is Jesus.


In him there is no darkness at all;
The night and the day are both alike.
The Lamb is the light of the city of God;
Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus.

Kathleen Thomerson’s 1970 song of commitment, I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light, is so innocent and hopeful on the surface that it is easy to miss the gravity and importance of the sentiment. What does it truly mean to walk as a child of the light? What do we mean when we say we want to follow Jesus? Do we think it is easy, that we already are doing it? When we claim that Jesus is the “star of our life,” would anyone else describe us this way? I wonder.

While I walked the path of Jesus – from Bethlehem to the wilderness desert and through the sacred sites around and within Jerusalem – my Lenten journey was transformed. My imagination and thinking were challenged in creative ways through the place we call “Holy Land.” I reflected on John the Baptizer’s words from the opening verses of Mark’s gospel – “After me comes one who is mightier than I – I baptize with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” I believe myself baptized by this same Holy Spirit. But what does this really mean?

My brothers and sisters, I want to make sure you are aware of an event in our Wisconsin Conference that fills my heart with joy and my soul with hope. On Wednesday, March 21 at Central United Methodist Church in Milwaukee, starting at 6 p.m., I and leaders from the Niagara Foundation will be in dialogue about the ways Muslims and Christians can peacefully and faithfully engage in our modern world, so often torn apart by prejudice, hatred, and misunderstanding. I will be presenting a talk, Beyond the Walls and Divisions: Interfaith Dialogue Leading to New Possibilities, which I hope will explain my vision for interfaith, ecumenical engagement. Hilmi Okur from University of Chicago Divinity School will also share his expertise from the Muslim perspective.

My excitement about this opportunity is the building of bridges, and the opportunity to confront some serious misunderstanding and misinterpretation so prevalent in our Church and world today. Too often, different spiritualties are cast in opposition and conflict with each other. There is much biblical precedent cited for such animosity, but it is taken out of cultural, temporal, and social context. What we share in common is generally ignored in favor of our theological and foundational differences. What is bred is a hostility born of ignorance, intolerance, and fear. Interfaith dialogue is a crucial step in correcting age-old misconceptions.

In my Lenten reflection time, I note that we move from Black History Month in February to Women’s History Month in March. On one hand, there is much to celebrate in both recognitions, but on the other hand, why do we need to highlight “Black” and “Women” as special objects of attention? It would be so offensive to have “White Male History Month,” but an argument can be made that – still, to this day – every month is “White Male History Month.” In terms of attention, justice, awareness, equality, and fairness, it seems that the only way we can celebrate anyone other than white men is to designate a special “month.” This is sad, and this is wrong. Women, Chinese, African, Korean, Hispanic, Latino, European, Indonesian, Russian, Laotian, and a thousand other cultures, ethnicities, races, heritages, and histories should be celebrated each and every day of each and every year. We should celebrate brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, men and women as beloved children of God regardless of any human drawn boundary or limit.

At the same time, we should celebrate our diversity, but not just of culture, language, race, gender or skin color. Each of us is a snowflake – unique, wondrously made, one-of-a-kind. Each of us has a foundational personality through which we process knowledge, experience, information, talent, passion, interest, vocation, gifts, and sense of purpose. There should be a day to honor and celebrate every human being who walks upon this earth. If such attention were given, perhaps we would be a kinder, gentler, more compassionate, and merciful people. To look at each difference with gratitude and awe could change our whole way of thinking, acting, and being. Were we to see the gift of each child of God, perhaps we would stop looking for deficiencies, divisions, and reasons to judge and reject others.

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”

He also told them a parable: “Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully qualified will be like the teacher. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Friend, let me take out the speck in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.” 

Luke 6:37-42 (NRSV)

Brothers and sisters, welcome to the desert wilderness. Our Lenten journey leading to Holy Week and Easter is much more than a mere remembrance of the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness, where he fasted and was tempted by the devil. There is great theological and spiritual significance to these temptation stories, but Lent is a time for us to enter into empty spaces, where we can take a good, long look at ourselves, undistracted by creature comforts. Today, few Christians fast through Lent, and perhaps this is a shame for us, because we do not experience deep hunger, want, and need; and so from our comfortable position, we spend less time thinking deeply with God, and we spend more time thinking about – and judging – others.

He shall judge between many peoples,
and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away;
they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war anymore;

Micah 4:3

As Christians, we may differ in our understanding of God’s will, but there are some very clear messages from our scripture. War, violence, killing, injuring others, vigilantism, and revenge are aspects of our brokenness and separation from God. We are called to be peacemakers, loving mercy, showing compassion, standing for justice, and doing all in our power to spread God’s love. Few people debate these things.

Yet, on February 14 – Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day – seventeen students died at the hands of a troubled gunman. It deeply saddened me to see one of the earliest responses to this tragedy was not condolences or sympathy, but a strident defense of the right to own guns in the United States. The core of the defense was that the latest tragedy wasn’t about guns, but about the breakdown of our civil society and discipline for our children. Such equivocating breaks my heart.