"By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things."

Galatians 5:22-23

God’s Spirit is truly at work in our world, even in those places where we sometimes give up hope, despair of progress, and doubt lasting change. But the fruit of God’s Spirit is not solely dependent on our ability to keep faith. Often, we can simply sit back and marvel that miraculous things are happening, which then can inspire us to renewed belief. I am so inspired by what is continuing to happen between North and South Korea.

On the second day of a three-day summit between Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong Un, the leaders of the two Koreas made bold declarations that Pyongyang was on its way to denuclearization. It is easy to dismiss this as simple diplomacy, but many Koreans doubted that such a day and such declarations could ever happen. Even statements of intention to move toward peace, restoration, and reunification are nothing short of miraculous in the minds of a great number of people. It is of great significance that this is the third summit between Korean leadership. This lays a critical foundation for U.S. involvement and the relationship that President Trump builds and maintains with North Korea.

Beyond military de-escalation, talks included a commitment “to search for the remains of troops killed but unaccounted for during the Korean War and pull back their guard posts within the DMZ on a trial basis,” (according to one government official). Talk has occurred to transform the DMZ into a “peace zone.”

“After having lived together for 5,000 years, our Korean nation had been separated for 70 years. Today at this place I propose to completely end 70 years of animosity and take a big step forward to once again become one and unify,” said President Moon Jae-In, in a speech in front of 150,000 citizens of North Korea. I encourage us all to celebrate BIG STEPS wherever and whenever they occur. What is now happening in Korea is not just about Korea: it affects global community and diplomacy, and it involves a healthy and supportive relationship with the United States and other world powers.

It is too simple to view all of this as political, social, military, and economic without comprehending the spiritual dimensions as well. This is a healing of a nation, of families, of communities, of race and ethnicity, of a people. Korea has been divided in many physical, emotional, ethical, and metaphysical ways for seven decades. While a reconciliation of religion may not be in the offing, a reconciliation grounded in “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control,” seems possible for the first time in years.

I want to call upon The United Methodist Church to engage in a witness of prayer for global peace, exemplified by what is happening on the Korean peninsula. For Korea, I ask that we pray for peace, but also for a creative and generative vision for a unified and vital future. By God’s grace, may families, friends, traditions, and heritages be reconciled and healed. At this point, a great deal of power is in President Trump’s hands as the United States continues to negotiate with the Koreas — to provide a way forward as these leaders meet at the UN assembly next week and beyond. I pray that this movement takes us through an Armistice Treaty to a true, lasting peace treaty in the very near future. This is a holy time, and a time to rejoice and be glad. For our God is an awesome and miraculous God who can move us beyond our most devastating differences to a new and glorious unity and promise.

Hee-Soo Jung, Bishop
Wisconsin Episcopal Area
United Methodist Church

“Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.”  (John 14:11-14)

What will it take for the laity and clergy, congregations, and conference leadership of the Wisconsin Annual Conference to do “greater works” than Jesus? It seems preposterous on one level, but on another? It is what Jesus calls us to do — and by the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit, it is our new reality.

There is some concern in our conference that we might not be in a good place financially. To be completely honest, we have spent down our reserves and we are experiencing a “cash flow” shortage in the immediate future. But that is only part of the story. Our Conference Council on Finance and Administration, with the support of the cabinet and Connectional Table, has developed a plan to reestablish a solid financial base upon which we will continue to do our ministry. We will move through this time of budgetary correction quickly and well. Our Conference Boards and Agencies hold more than $12 million dollars in funds invested with our Wisconsin Conference Foundation for the ongoing, long-term ministries. This is our current reality. The Wisconsin Conference is in excellent financial condition beyond the current day-to-day challenges.

This is why we are so confident that it is time to Launch Out! in faith, in new directions, to do “greater things” than we have ever done before. Launch Out! is not a way to “pay our bills,” but a way to take a giant leap of faith forward to fulfill our mission of making disciples for the transformation of the world.

Wisconsin — both the state and the Conference — is experiencing a massive paradigm shift. Our population is changing. We are moving from a predominantly “white” culture to a gloriously diverse multi-cultural reality. New opportunities for new faith contexts with new people are all around us. We need to invest — today — in the communities that will lead us into our future.

We have existing congregations that are poised for high-potential, community-changing/world-changing ministries across the conference. The revisioning, revitalization, and resourcing of existing ministries to “turn around” our decline and struggle is essential. We need to invest — today — in empowering our existing churches to do transformational ministry.

The needs to serve, support, and engage individuals, families, communities, cities, and towns are greater than ever, and as social structures are able to do less and less, it is imperative that the church do more and more. Mercy and justice ministries have never been more challenging, but there has never been a greater opportunity to make a difference. We need to invest — today — in Christian service and mission that gives hope, light, and life to the most needy and vulnerable in our world.

Launch Out! is about faith-raising, not just fund-raising. Money is not the point; ministry is. We have a beautiful opportunity to make a commitment to say, collectively, that we walk by faith, not by sight. Our future will be determined by what we have, not by what we lack. What can we do together to do “greater things”?  We are envisioning bigger and better things than we have ever been able to do before.

We are a Conference of many gifts, many assets, many resources, and many opportunities. We are a Conference of life-giving, world-transforming faith. We are a Conference that worships God, that serves a risen Savior, and that is empowered by an incredible, awesome, and miraculous Holy Spirit. Let us rejoice in the great blessings we have been given, and let us Launch Out! together in faith. Thanks be to God!

A Song of Ascents.

I lift up my eyes to the hills — from where will my help come?
My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.
He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and for evermore.(Psalm 121)

On Sunday afternoon, I stood with the pastor and members of our Wesley United Methodist Church in Marshfield, watching with a broken heart the fire that destroyed this historic sacred building. There are no words adequate to describe the pain and despair, the helplessness and distress, of seeing fire consume the beloved church home of generations of Marshfield members. The fire not only burned a building, but a spiritual home filled with joys, grief, memories of celebration, memories of loss, sense of community and a safe foundation, as well as hopes and dreams. No price can be calculated that covers the immense value of a church home.

But, the building is not the church — the church is always so much more than the bricks and mortar, the glass and furnishings, as blessed and beloved as they are. I was very impressed by the Wesley leaders — they stand hopeful and committed in the face of their loss. They are trusting in God, and they are determined to come through this tragic time stronger than before.

They are witnesses to the power of God alongside all the women and men who have suffered loss this month during the flooding across our state. On both individual and community levels, rains have caused flooding that damaged and destroyed homes, businesses, community centers, public services, schools, and hospitals. The losses have included human life. It has been heartbreaking to see the tears and suffering of people losing homes and treasured possessions. One interview showed a woman wracked with sobs asking, “Why would God do this?”

In times of tragedy, people sometimes wonder why God allows pain and suffering, destruction and devastation, bad things to happen to good people. But it is important to remember, God doesn’t act in such a fashion. It isn’t that “God did this,” or “God allowed this to happen,” but that we are living in God’s creation — a creation of great beauty, awesome wonder, and incredible power. Our God is a God who created and established a natural order. God fashioned the laws of physics, the wonders of the universe, and gave us the means to explore and understand through biology, geology, astronomy, and the other sciences. No one understands the forces of nature better than our creator God, and no one understands the heights of joy and the depths of despair better than our heavenly parent. When we rejoice, God rejoices with us; and when we are torn by tears and grief, God grieves and cries with us. But God so loved our world, that Jesus was given to establish once and for all time that what happens to us on earth is not the whole story. The ups and downs of day-to-day are nothing to compare with the glory God intends. God gave us a Messiah to grant us eternity, and God gives us to one another to help us day by day.

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us."  (I John 4:7-12)

The United Methodist Church is a loving church. From time to time we may question this; and indeed there are occasions when United Methodists act in less-than-loving ways, but as a scripturally based Christian fellowship, we deeply believe in the words from John’s first epistle. We are a church of love.

Who do we love? We love those whom God loves. Who does God love? God loves God’s creation and all those created in the image of God. God loves God’s children. God loves the whole world. So much does God love the world that God sent Jesus to save and redeem us all. We cannot fully conceive of God’s love, but we BELIEVE.

God’s love is why we do all that we do. Our ministries are motivated by God’s love. Our plans are motivated by God’s love. And Launch Out! — our conference faith-raising campaign — is an affirmation of God’s love. How can this be?

Launch Out! will enable us to reach new people in new places with the saving grace of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We will reach thousands of people with the love of God. We will extend God’s grace to many who have never known acceptance and forgiveness. We will revitalize, reenergize, and resurrect congregations too long complacent, bringing a new day of meaningful ministry to churches long struggling and lacking direction. We will engage in transformative servant ministry, living the fullness of Matthew 25 — feeding the hungry, giving drink to those who thirst, clothes to the naked, comfort to the sick, care to the imprisoned and welcome to the stranger — as well as housing for the homeless, education for those deprived, economic justice to those unfairly treated, and a host of other ministries of comfort and care.

We will use the material resources of our time and place to faithfully honor and glorify God. We will take the concept of love and make it concrete. We will transform the inward and spiritual feelings of kindness, compassion, and generosity into the outward and visible signs of aid, service, and action.

We will not ask the question, “Who is deserving of God’s love?” Instead, we commit to the pursuit and achievement of unconditional love — love for all, freely given by the God who loves the whole world.

As we Launch Out! into deep waters of ministry possibilities, let us remember that we Launch Out! in love. We may do many wonderful things, but unless we do them in love they are meaningless. When our United Methodist Church formed, the delegates sang “They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our Love.” May we join together that this sentiment be much more than a desire for the future, but a lived reality today.

Grace and Peace,

Bishop Hee-Soo Jung

In the “Large” Minutes, John Wesley summarized his understanding of Methodism's purpose: "What may we reasonably believe to be God's design in raising up the Preachers called Methodists? A. To reform the nation and, in particular, the Church; to spread scriptural holiness over the land."

United Methodists take note: we are here to reform the nation and spread scriptural holiness over the land. We cannot sit idly by while injustice occurs, oppression exists, and violence is commonplace. We are a people committed to evangelism – spreading the good news of Jesus Christ – missions – caring for the vulnerable, those at risk, and those who have never been introduced to the gospel – and social justice – those oppressed, violated, and unjustly treated. These are priorities set for us by John Wesley himself, and the source from which he drew these conclusions was the Holy Scripture.

Wesley was concerned that those not well-acquainted and deeply invested in our Christian scriptures would err in four important ways:

  1. focus on membership and its retention to reverse the trend of membership decline,
  2. lack of theological reflection,
  3. disinterest in sustained Christian practices or spiritual disciplines, and
  4. reluctance to engage the other, particularly across socio-economic boundaries, including wealth-sharing.

These four problems could only occur if church leaders – particularly pastors – failed to understand the Bible. It could be argued that these four concerns pretty well define our Church in the 21st century. Perhaps if we hope to turn our denomination around in the United States, we need to recommit to a scriptural holiness that worries less about numbers, more about theological engagements, recovers and embraces essential spiritual practices, and commits to radical and transformational justice.

The United Methodist Church is a scriptural holiness Church. I offer a challenge to all our laity and clergy leadership that reflects these four Wesleyan concerns:

  1. Let us focus on the quality of our ministries, and reach out to new, young, and diverse people.
  2. Let us make theological reflection and Christian conversation a top priority.
  3. Let us recover and embrace an active practice of the means of God’s grace.
  4. Let us engage with the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the ill, the imprisoned, the stranger, the deprived, and the dispossessed wherever and whenever possible.

If we will address just these four issues of our faith, we will engage in a level of scriptural holiness unheard of in our age, and we will live as empowered and gifted Christian disciples actively participating in God’s miraculous transformation of our world.

Grace and Peace,

Bishop Hee-Soo Jung

Brothers and sisters, the full report from our Commission on a Way Forward and the full deliberations and recommendation of our Council of Bishops has been released. It is available here. I want to encourage you all to read and reflect on the plans and the recommendation. Please do this prayerfully, contemplatively, openly, and with deep regard for the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Many are anxious about the future of The United Methodist Church. This is not without warrant, but we are a people of faith, not fear. In the tradition of John Wesley, we believe that this Church is God’s Church, and we are humble, dedicated servants to God’s will. This is why we are committed to unity and the common vision to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. This, which unites us, is so much greater than anything that might divide us.

The Council of Bishops is committed to a future for the whole United Methodist Church. We are fully aware of the emotional magnitude and spiritual distress many in our Church experience over the LGBTQ+ concerns, and yet we truly believe that we can stay united even beyond our disagreements of the authority of scripture and its interpretation. In no way is our recommendation for the One Church Plan discounting the importance of our varied perspectives, but we are attempting to establish a “grace margin” in which all believing Christians can co-exist, even WITH our different readings and interpretations.

I am so proud to be the bishop of our Wisconsin Conference – the whole Conference. I honor the full breadth of biblical and theological perspectives, even those with which I disagree. The strength and heritage of United Methodism is that it allows for a wide variety of perspectives and beliefs. We are a denomination of grace and mercy, tolerance and respect.

Ultimately, The United Methodist Church is God’s Church. With Jesus, we pray, “Thy will be done.” Each of us, individually, may have strong feelings and beliefs; but together, we are the people of God, consecrated through our baptism, made one in the Spirit, and acknowledging that what God joins together, no one on earth should tear apart. May you reflect prayerfully, mercifully, and compassionately on the way forward – on our future life together. Thanks be to God.

Grace and Peace,

Bishop Hee-Soo Jung

“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)

It may well be that we have no more important task than to discern the gifts of women and men for Christian service in the world. Raising future leaders is what The United Methodist Church is all about. Laity and clergy alike – deacons, elders, licensed local pastors, certified lay ministers, lay servants and lay speakers, and well-equipped laity volunteers – the whole people of God, gifted for Christian service.

The Wisconsin Conference needs to cultivate a culture of call. Not all calls are to ordained ministry, but ordained ministry is critically important. I issue a challenge to every clergy and laity member of our Annual Conference: LOOK for the gifts for ordained ministry in your young people (and your not so young people). Prayerfully discern, “Could this person become a pastor?” It is part of our history and heritage that clergy and laity identify and affirm those who are gifted to the sacred functions of Word, Order, Sacrament, and Service. We need more gifted leaders to take us into the future.

Prayerfully discern: “What gifts for ministry do I see in the women and men who worship in this congregation?” Lay leadership is central to the life of United Methodism. The ministry of the Church is not limited to what happens in our buildings, but what happens in our buildings should equip everyone to use their God-given gifts in Christian service in our everyday living.

Prayerfully discern: “Am I using what God has given me in the very best possible way?” Christian vocation is not a career or occupation. Christian vocation is an ongoing and outward expression of WHO WE ARE. All of us are gifted. All of us are called. All of us have opportunities to discern and do the will of God. There is no such thing as a “passive disciple.” The more fully that we embrace and live into our discipleship, the more of ourselves we give to God. And trust me, God will use everything that we choose to give. There is no end to God’s abundant grace, and no end to God’s desire for us to serve.

“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.