Annual Conference this year was a hopeful and healing time. As a Conference, we face an amazing blend of opportunities and challenges. But for Christians, this is normal. All of scripture recounts such blends of life – the victories and defeats, the successes and the threats, the times of hope and the times of tears. If we are facing the highs and lows of life, we must be doing something right!
At Annual Conference, we worshipped together, ably led by Dr. Marcia Mcfee. This was a time of great praise and celebration, reminding us continuously that in our faith we are “One With Christ.” Adam Hamilton, founding pastor of The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection offered three inspiring teaching times on how we can be more effective together as Church. We celebrated our 13-year sister relationship (stretching back almost 30 years in total) with the Dongbu Conference of the Korean Methodist Church, highlighting that our church is truly global in its reach. And together we reaffirmed our commitment to the mission and vision of our Church as the baptized body of Christ for the world. We were blessed.
Through our time together – in our clergy covenant and in the larger Annual Conference body as a whole – it became clearly apparent that we love our God, we love our Church and our churches, and we seek to be faithful in all that we do. We want to honor and glorify God in all that we say and do. As we continue to “Imagine Wisconsin Anew” – and explore together what it will require for us to “Make a New Wisconsin” – God is revealing an important and essential fact: Wisconsin United Methodists must be a Conference known for justice.
Reflect on these various passages from the Hebrew scripture:
20 Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, so that you may live and occupy the land that the LORD your God is giving you. (Deuteronomy 16:20)
28 For the LORD loves justice;
he will not forsake his faithful ones. (Psalm 37:28)
3 To do righteousness and justice
is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice. (Proverbs 21:3)
16 But the LORD of hosts is exalted by justice,
and the Holy God shows himself holy by righteousness. (Isaiah 5:16)
24 But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (Amos 5:24)
8 He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)
Why are these passages on justice so important and timely for us? They teach and instruct us on many levels.
First, they speak to how we treat each other. Note that we are not called to judge each other, but to do justice. Note again that we are not called to punish one another. Nor should we gossip about each other, or blame each other, or attack one another. In trust and in love, we strive together for a fair and restorative justice.
Second, they speak to our witness to the world. We cannot offer to neighbors, strangers, aliens and enemies that which we cannot offer to one another. We are daily tested in our ability to set aside judgement and vengeance to extend grace, mercy, compassion, forgiveness, and healing to those outside the Church.
Third, these passages speak to our relationship with God. By our actions, the world knows the essence and nature of God. God shows God’s own righteousness through us. Where we deny the justice of God, preferring vengeance and condemnation, we damage God’s reputation.
Mercy and justice – in thought, word, and deed – is central to making a new kind of Wisconsin and disciple-fueled transformation of the world. This year’s Annual Conference was a hopeful sign that “One With Christ” we can be the faithful witness to God’s justice that we are called to be.
Grace and Peace,
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung has served as resident bishop of the Wisconsin Annual Conference since September of 2012. Prior to leading the Wisconsin Conference UMC, Bishop Jung served eight years as bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference (Chicago area).