Dear St. Matthew’s Church Family,
Last Sunday, we kicked off a new sermon series, This Thing Called Church. In the five sermons of the series, we will be considering some of what the Bible says about the Church. In the first message, I reminded us that the Church exists not because we think it is a good idea, but because God thinks it is a good idea. The Bible is clear that the Church exists to fulfill God’s purposes in the world, not ours. I think this is an important point, because if we believe the church is our idea, we do what we think is best; but if we believe the church is God’s idea, we do what God thinks is best. Seeking and trusting God’s will for our lives is not easy. But the truth is that when we trust God and seek to do what God thinks is best, we experience the joy of abundant and meaningful life.
As I’ve been pondering how to put this into practice, I’ve been wondering what might happen if we: (1) believed that God is actively at work in our lives, in the Church, and in the world around us; (2) used the Gospels’ accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry as our primary guide for the way God works; (3) intentionally participated in what we believe God is doing (and got out of God’s way when necessary); and (4) trusted in the life-changing power of God’s grace. I don’t have all the answers to what this might look like in my life, but I but I believe it is worth the effort to explore the possibilities.
Over the next four Sundays, we’ll be continuing our exploration of This Thing Called Church. I hope you’ll plan to be present in worship every Sunday if you’re able. The message this week is entitled, A “Sensible” Mission. The Scripture readings will be Luke 13:6-9 and John 15:1-11.
I know that many of you have been closely following the work of the Commission on a Way Forward. The commission “was proposed by the Council of Bishops and approved by the 2016 General Conference to do a complete examination and possible revision of every paragraph of the Book of Discipline concerning human sexuality and explore options that help to maintain and strengthen the unity of the church.” The Commission recently shared its report with the Council of Bishops who met last week to make a recommendation that will be presented to a special called session of General Conference in 2019. My friend and colleague, Reverend Tom Berlin is a member of Commission. Earlier this week, he shared an update with his congregation, and with his blessing I am sharing it with you:
Last week the Council of Bishops (COB) met to discuss the report of the Commission on a Way Forward. At the end of their time together the bishops recommended the One Church Plan for the 2019 General Conference to consider. The One Church Plan will now be put into legislative language to be offered to General Conference delegates. At the same time, the bishops have asked that the other two plans offered by the Commission on a Way Forward, the Traditional Plan and the Connectional Conference Plan, be placed into a report that will also be shared with General Conference delegates. Their desire is to be transparent about everything that was considered and give everyone the same information about the process the commission used to bring these plans to the COB. These plans bring very different outcomes for the future of the United Methodist Church, which is why it is important for people to understand their intentions. Only the One Church Plan will be offered with the recommendation of the COB. You might be interested in reading the press release about the Council of Bishops’ recommended way forward. Bishop Ken Carter, a moderator for the commission, issued a response that might also be of interest. Virginia’s Bishop Sharma Lewis also released a video about her thoughts related to the COB recommendation.
The United Methodist Church is considering serious issues and the General Conference will be making important decisions. Please keep the Bishops, the General Conference delegates, and the entire Church in your prayers.
Anne and I leaving town tomorrow afternoon for a few days of rest and relaxation. But we’ll be back in time for St. Matthew’s Confirmation Weekend (May 19-20), when members of our Confirmation Class will stand before the congregation to publicly profess their faith and make a commitment to be a member of God’s Church. It will be a great day at St. Matthew’s and I look forward to seeing you then.
Since I won’t see you on Sunday, I want to wish all of the Moms a Happy Mother’s Day. I hope everyone has a great weekend.