“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.
At its very best, The United Methodist Church is a uniting Church. God so loved the world that Jesus was sent to save all people; not based on merit or worth, but on grace and unconditional love. We can continue to simply focus on differences, but this will keep us locked into an immature pursuit to decide who belongs and who doesn’t, who is good and who isn’t, who is right and who is wrong. These pursuits are a deception and evil. They distract us from our purpose, divert our energy and effort in wasteful ways, and communicate to the world that the Church is no better than any other social organization on earth. This is why Paul encourages us to “grow up in every way into Christ.” Paul’s essential message to the Church in Ephesus is this – grow up, mature. Our world needs our Church to grow up! It is time for us to declare our interdependence, and show the world that we are better together than we are apart. Christ, who breaks down dividing walls of hostility, is our Savior and our Lord. Our liturgical prayer to be made “One with Christ, One with Each Other, and One in Ministry to all the World,” is our declaration of interdependence. Think about it. What God joins together, let no one tear apart. We are one, a uniting and united Church, living into the full maturity that can only come in covenant relationship with each other. The greatest gift God gave is Jesus; the second greatest gift God gave us in one another.
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).