The IGRC Delegates have been called together by Bishop Beard and are starting the process of preparation for the Called Session of the 2019 General Conference. The special Called Session will focus on the Council of Bishop’s report based on the work of the Commission on the Way Forward.
Thank you all for the many prayers that you have been praying for me as your Bishop, for the Council of Bishops (COB) and the Commission on a Way Forward (Commission). The COB, at our most recent meeting, received the initial report from the Commission on a Way Forward. I want to do my best to share with you an update on the work of the Commission.
Rodney King’s question still haunts us. We want the answer to be “yes”, but the reality is that we are facing old and new emerging challenges that threaten to widen and deepen the divide. “No Rodney, I am sad to say that, for the moment, we cannot and will not get along with one another until we share a common denominator.” The horrific events of 2017 provide a template for us to use as a guide for creating unity and togetherness. It has been said that tough times bring out the best in people.
We are reminded that in this and every situation the church of Jesus Christ has been called to be a beacon of hope and light. My prayer is that as we respond to this recent tragedy and others that may occur around us that we will be conduits of God's love and grace to all. This tragic event reminds us that we live in a world that is broken and in disrepair. We need the presence of believers everywhere to demonstrate the love that is the trademark of our faith community.
October is Pastor Appreciation Month. This is a time to intentionally thank your pastor and leaders. Pastor appreciation should happen every day but because we tend to forget to express gratitude on a regular basis a month has been set aside to make up for our negligence.
“Bishop, do you still have hope for the United Methodist Church?” The question caught me by surprise, but I was ready to answer. Over the years, I have learned to slow down my mouth so that my brain can catch up. I try to respond rather than to simply react. Sometimes my mouth wins the race (I’m sure I am not the only one with this struggle). What I wanted to say was, “I did not know that we had a choice.”
I am requesting that the IGRC family designate November 18th as PRAYER WALK DAY. Churches and ministries are free to participate in ways that will be beneficial to their setting. Some churches with multiple sites will want to join in solidarity. Some communities with more than one UM church will want to work together as a united witness to our connection.
Sept. 1 is our official anniversary as Bishop and Annual Conference. We have been together for one whole year. I wish you could see me doing my “happy dance.” I know there is a way to embed a video link, but that would not be a pretty sight. I do hope you feel like dancing, too! It has been a good year.
Dear IGRC family, What can we do? I've heard that question over and over as the news of those affected by Hurricane Harvey's destructive forces are made known. Because United Methodists are people of action, we often wish to be able to do something to assist. I am writing to encourage your participation in ministry to those suffering from this storm by offering a few suggestions on what we can do together.
There was also another important factor that contributed to the success of this Annual Conference and that was the graciousness and patience of the delegates and visitors. I love being here in the IGRC. My experience across the Conference was reconfirmed as I led the sessions and walked the halls of the Convention Center. The IGRC is filled with folks that are passionate Christ followers and folks committed to The United Methodist Church.
I believe we are poised for the greatest revival the world has ever seen. The wood is dry, the wind is blowing and all that we need is a spark from the Lord. The best days of the church and of Christianity are not behind us. The fire of God is available and can be maintained if we are serious about obeying the Lord.
The speakers were thumping out Kool and the Gang’s super hit, Celebrate, and I was dancing on my roller skates in perfect rhythm with the music. Yes, I was singing and screaming the lyrics too: “There's a party goin' on right here A celebration to last throughout the years So bring your good times, and your laughter too We gonna celebrate your party with you, celebrate good times, come on!”
Today I take great pleasure in knowing that the denomination that I love has a process and a plan designed to hold its members accountable while doing its best to assure a fair process when addressing a variety of issues. Our process seems, at times, long and complex when it comes to rendering a final decision. I am reminded that Jesus, though often pressed and pushed, never rushed to a decision. Jesus was not reactionary; he was responsive.
“And are we yet alive, And see each other's face? Glory, and thanks to Jesus give For his almighty grace!”
The prayer of agreement does not rob us of individual expression or deprive us from using our own unique talents. A prayer of agreement allows us, like a praise band or orchestra, to play the proper piece at the right time in harmony with one another under the guidance of the conductor/director. The Lenten journey is designed to culminate in a harmonious celebration of the resurrected triumphant Lord. During this holiest of weeks let us unite our hearts in a prayer of agreement for our Nation and for our World.
The disciples that Jesus had assembled started drifting away at the Passover. By the time we get to the crucifixion of Jesus only a few women and John, the beloved disciple, remain clearly visible. Each of the original disciples abandoned Jesus in one way or another. They all deserted Jesus and fled away in fear. Jesus’ last words on the cross were, “It is finished!” After uttering those last words, he died. His death, while predicted and announced by Jesus himself, left his disciples in a state of disarray and panic. The followers of Jesus were broken, defeated, and most of them, as echoed by the two pilgrims on the Emmaus road, experienced a state of unparalleled hopelessness. How did this ragtag group of frightened followers experience both personal and corporate renewal and transformation? Their transformation was so powerful and effective that they were eventually noted for “turning the world upside down.” What happened?
The forty days of Lenten observance are designed to end with the joyful celebration of the triumphant Christ. Jesus has been victorious and has promised that his successful conquest will yield a harvest of righteousness within those committed to following him. Lent is often observed with extended periods for fasting and repentance because sometimes we fall short of the standard Christ requires.
The need for the light of hope and the healing help of the church has never been more pronounced or critical to addressing the requirements of our rapidly changing world. Simply put, the world needs the church now more than ever.
Our communities and our nation are filled with folks that are crying out for relief and hope. We cannot give what we do not have. It is only when we trust Jesus to forgive, cleanse, and renew us that revival becomes more than an unbridled resolution. Once we have experienced personal and corporate resuscitation we can share the life giving wind of God's Spirit with those around us. As the flight attendants remind us, "put your own oxygen mask on before trying to assist others."
I yelled for my 9-year-old daughter to “hurry up” so we could go do some catching. I had visions of walleyes running through my head. I was in such a hurry that I left the map of the lake behind. That was my first mistake.
Thanksgiving is a day set aside to give thanks for the blessings we have received. How strange that right after giving thanks we rush out to get more, oftentimes at the expense of pushing others so that we might get there first. Lord have mercy upon us.
One of the things I have been sharing with each district is EXPECTATIONS. I firmly believe that unrealistic, or under-stated and unstated expectations are often the root causes of confusion, chaos, and disappointment. Allow me to share a few things that I expect of you and that you can expect from me as your new Bishop.
We’ve only just begun but the ride thus far has been great. It has not taken me long to discover three reasons why the Illinois Great Rivers Conference (IGRC) is a wonderful place to be. I’m sure that by the end of the year I will have discovered a dozen or more reasons but for one month, here are my observations: 1. IGRC folks are great at hospitality. 2. IGRC people are genuinely friendly. 3. IGRC members are extremely generous.