On February 22nd, Bishop Hee-Soo Jung led a Clergy Day Apart and a Laity Day Apart in the South East District at Gethsemane United Methodist Church. The Clergy Session began in the morning with a group discussion on “unity and strength” led by District Superintendent Deborah Thompson. According to one group, “Unity in the community and serving others gives us strength.” In a discussion about hope, one participant said, “I find hope in other believers, and those who all of a sudden come to Christ. God is still moving within us.”

Bishop Jung spoke next about how honored he was to be in leadership in Wisconsin. He talked about all of the new faith communities that are being birthed each year. We have more than 70 churches with community farming, and 300 congregations have homeless and food pantry ministries. We also celebrate our growing number of cross racial and cross cultural churches. He said, “We need to continue creating new faith ministries as well as new mercy and justice ministries.”

The Bishop led a Bible Study entitled “May We Live Out the Unity as God’s People?” Bishop Jung used John 17: 1-25 and I Corinthians 12: 12-27 as a foundation for discussion on Jesus’s vision of unity as the kingdom reality. Bishop said to the group, “I need to claim to you that unity has already been achieved. God created the oneness. No matter how we debate…this oneness exists. Unity makes us bigger than who we are. I don’t know why we cannot grasp this. How do we not see Christ’s image in others? From the dawn of creation, we have had a spirit of unity. Oneness with the birds and the sky and the animals and all of creation. Our oneness cannot be legislated. It is God given. We are one body.”

The Bishop’s discussion also touched on the Commission on the Way Forward and how we need to strive for unity during these difficult conversations, saying, “We live in a challenging time, with issues around homosexuality and same sex marriages, as well as denomination difficulties. This week we are praying for the Commission on a Way Forward to determine what the Church will look like. There is no way forward, unless we are willing to redesign for unity…God’s vision of unity.” Bishop Jung then led an exercise called “I Have a Dream” where participants discussed their dream for the United Methodist Church. If you would like to read the full Bible Study, you can download the "May We Live Out the Unity as God's People?" Bible Study here and the "I Have a Dream" exercise here.

After the Bible Study, Randy Chapin, Project Strategist for Launch Out!, spoke about the proposed Conference-wide effort to invest in the future of the Wisconsin Conference. The Launch Out! Funding Campaign has three main priorities: revitalization of existing congregations that desire life and growth, new faith communities to reach those who don’t currently relate to our existing congregations and ministries, and mercy and justice ministries as collaborative opportunities in every community. For each of those priorities, focus will be on leadership development for laity and clergy because that is the key to effective mission and ministry. If you would like to learn more about the campaign, the WisconsinUMC YouTube Channel has a playlist of testimonies from Launch Out! team members. Watch playlist here

The South East District Laity Session was held that evening and followed a similar schedule to the Clergy Session. Bishop Jung also led a Clergy and Laity Day Apart for the North Central District on February 23rd, and for the North East District on February 24th. The South West and North West Districts have their events this upcoming weekend, on March 2nd and 3rd.