The hymn Stand By Me speaks to my heart at this time of conflict and uncertainty following our special session of General Conference. Storms of life are raging. The world is tossing us like a ship upon the sea. So we pray to the one who rules wind and water – stand by us. Hold us. Comfort us. Be gentle with us and help us be gentle with each other.
Old fisherman wisdom says when you are faced with a rapid current, slow down. Take careful steps. Set your foot down firmly, slowly, or you may be swept away. I invite us all to move slowly, to take careful steps, and to be very intentional. This is a critical time for healing and restoration. Our mission and ministry is important, but let us take time out to care for ourselves and others following our General Conference.
We will work hard to build our church up and to continue our critical mission work, but this does not mean “business as usual.” We want to be present to one another, to listen to one another, to minister to one another, and to heal tender, damaged or injured relationships. We will take time to be kind and merciful to one another.
What this means is that we will slow down some of our projects and efforts. Launch Out! is critical to the future of our Annual Conference, but to push it forward when people are hurting would not be wise. You don’t push out from shore in the middle of a terrible storm and choppy waters. You wait for the storms to die down before launching out into deep waters. We will slow down on the rollout of our Launch Out! campaign. Indeed, we are not stopping it, but we have other things we need to attend to first.
The leadership of the cabinet will be making time to talk with clergy and laity to hear where you are and what you are thinking and feeling following General Conference. We will be working together to make our Annual Conference session in June a time for restoration and vision, to build bridges and repair harm. We will use our gathering times to be present with each other, to better understand and appreciate where people are in their relationship to The United Methodist Church.
Being together is important. Listening is important. Working hard to understand each other is important. And we want to create the time and space to allow these things to happen. But this must not simply be passive time, but a time for active engagement and conversation. And it must be a time of prayer. I encourage us throughout our Lenten season and the weeks until Annual Conference to gather in prayer. Pray for one another. Pray together. Pray for the church. Pray for our future. Pray that God’s Holy Spirit will open us to the very will of God. And pray that we might be the church God most needs us to be. I rejoice to be your bishop. Thanks be to God.
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).