A historic gathering will take place February 23-26 in St. Louis, Missouri as the specially convened session of General Conference takes place. This meeting will shape and direct the future of The United Methodist Church. It is a monumental moment in our long and varied history. It is my fervent prayer and deepest hope that it will be a God moment.
What we will do in St. Louis is incredibly important. It will say to the world who we are, what we value, how we understand the God of love, and why we believe the church is important. It will determine how we will live together in covenant, and the foundation upon which our covenant is based. It will impact how we treat each other, and what the core of our ministry is in our broken, contentious, and conflicted world. This conference will determine whether we can continue to serve God as the body of Christ or if we will have to go our separate ways. And while it will not settle our different understandings of the authority and interpretation of scripture, our theological debates, and our ideological disagreements, it will influence how we will be able to engage in these issues in the days to come.
As important as what we do, then, is how we do what we do. The world is watching us. How will Christians behave when they discuss, debate, dialogue, and disagree about the critical decisions that must be made? How will disciples of Jesus the Christ speak to one another? Will the Holy Spirit have anything to do with our deliberations? If so, then the evidence will be a General Conference abounding in the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These will be the determining proof of who is in charge of General Conference 2019. “Winning” is not the point. Honoring and glorifying God, modeling Christian grace and mercy, embracing a Pentecostal infusion of Holy Spirit – this will proclaim to the world our core beliefs and values.
February 23 has been designated a day of prayer and discernment for this special General Conference. I want to invite all clergy and laity throughout our Annual Conference to hold this Saturday as a true Sabbath. Set aside time, energy, and focus to pray simply, but powerfully, “not our will be done, O Lord, but in all things may your will be done!”
There is still so much critical ministry for us to do. We still exist in a world of hurt and violence, untruth and hatred, brokenness and despair. And we United Methodists have been blessed with the gospel, the good news that God is still in charge. Our God is love. Our God is grace. Our God is compassion and mercy. Our God loves the entire creation. And God loves all of us so much that God’s Son came to redeem and reclaim us all. Let us do nothing, through our human weakness or short-sightedness, to undermine the will and work of God. Let us pray together to be faithful in all things. I believe God has great plans for us that echoes the prophet’s promise, a future with hope.
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).