Soul Food - June 28, 2021

"A Radical Farewell" 

A Guest Soul Food by Dan Dick     
I am grateful to Bishop Jung for allowing me this Soul Food for a personal goodbye as I exit the Wisconsin Conference staff after 12 years of service.  And I want to thank all of you for the ways you welcomed Barbara and me, making Wisconsin feel like home from the very first day.  It has been my honor and privilege to serve this Conference, first as the Director of Connectional Ministries, then as Assistant to Bishop Jung.  I truly love the Wisconsin Conference and have enjoyed working with, and for, you.  There is much I will miss as I return to the local church ministry.  But I cannot express how excited and blessed I feel heading to People’s UMC in Oregon.  I am absolutely delighted.

So, why a radical farewell?  In the past year, as Bishop Jung and the Conference leadership have cast the vision for “radical inclusion and racial justice,” the question I have been asked more than any other is “why radical?  What does that even mean?”  This is the answer I give.  Radical has multiple meanings, and three directly apply.  First, radical means “from the roots.”  If something is truly radical, it is the root from which all else grows, it is the essential element that defines the whole, it is the source.  Therefore, radical inclusion isn’t just something we do or believe in; it is a natural extension of who we are as the people of God, whose name is Love.  My farewell is radical in that it comes from my heart and soul, and I simply must express my deep gratitude to you all.

Secondly, radical means “extreme.”  To be radical means to commit, to make a priority, to set an unalterable course.  Extreme inclusion reaches to the furthest limits and extends to the farthest margin.  No matter how inclusive we become, our goal is to become more inclusive.  My farewell is radical and extreme in that I extend it to everyone; to those who know me well (and some even like me!) and those who never got to know me at all.  I offer appreciation to those who have agreed with me, and those who think I am wrong-headed (and to quote some of the notes I have received, “evil,” “stupid,” “Satanic,” and “a doo-doo head”); to those who enjoy working with me and those who want nothing to do with me.  The rich diversity of thought, belief, values, and ethics in our Wisconsin Conference covenant community is wonderful.  I have benefited from the good, the bad, the ugly, and the glorious.

Third, radical means “revolutionary.”  I would dearly love to see a revolutionary shift in the Wisconsin Conference.  The practical realities of the pandemic, financial concerns, denominational divisions, institutional preservation, (and even the simple wrongness of imposing something fundamentally non-inclusive and racially unjust like Roberts Rules of Order on Christian Conference) are taking and holding too much of our focus and energy.  Regardless of our cultural or denominational politics, despite our petty rancor and infighting, and our penchant to “win at any cost,” God is still God, and God doesn’t really need The United Methodist Church to make disciples for the transformation of the world.  It is we that need God, and we forget that fulfilling our mission is a privilege and a gift, not a right.  The God-directed work of world transformation will happen whether there is a United Methodist Church or not.  My hope is that we wake up and remember who and whose we are.  Our world needs love and healing and mercy and justice.  Any church that fails to provide these things is irrelevant and a disgrace.  The world is watching.  Our witness at the moment is nothing to be proud of.  I am so encouraged by the constant call for unity and oneness of purpose that Bishop Jung so faithfully proclaims.  Sure, Jesus and Paul said it first, but Bishop Jung says it today to try to get us to look beyond our own wants and needs to discern the will of God.  It would be revolutionary for the Wisconsin Conference to model for the denomination and world what the incarnate body of Christ can look like and accomplish.

The revolutionary part of my farewell is my favorite quote from all of scripture, Romans 12:2 – “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  My prayer for us all is that we open our hearts, minds, and spirits to the transformative power of God’s Holy Spirit, that all of us together might provide the most glorious and terrific witness to God’s unconditional love and all-inclusive grace.  My dear siblings in Christ, thank you for this opportunity to serve you.  I have been richly blessed.