We can determine what kind of annual conference we want to be!
I gave my first ever “Episcopal Address” at Annual Conference 2019. The purpose of this episcopal address was two-fold:
- To help folks understand our current reality as a denomination and as an Annual Conference.
- To help folks to see the “big picture” of where we are headed.
The United Methodist Church is experiencing uncertainty and instability at nearly every level of the denomination. Based on what I am seeing and hearing, it will take an outpouring of the power of God to hold our denomination together. MIRACLES STILL HAPPEN!
The good news in all of this is that we may well be forced to a point where we cannot continue with “business as usual.” Our success on a global scale, coupled with the overall decline in the United States, has resulted in a shift of voting influence at our General Conference.
A bit of bad news
is that we no longer have the luxury, as a USA-centered denomination, that allows us to call all the shots. The result, based on the recently-held General Conference in St. Louis, is that, other voices and perspectives are starting to become more vocal in an attempt to be heard.
One of the things we learned from the 2019 General Conference is that while we talk about being a global church, the U.S. Church is largely content to simply concentrate on scratching where it is itching. The delegates outside of the United States made it pretty clear that they prefer a more traditional path on issues related to human sexuality. The reaction from a large segment of United Methodists across the United States seems to be that the fight for LGBTQIA inclusion trumps any other global concern. Whether that is the intended message or not, it certainly is where a good section of the U.S.-based church has landed.
So, where are we headed as a denomination and what is our future?
It really is too early to determine, but it looks more and more like some sort of a split is possible. Each Annual Conference may be forced to decide the type of Conference they choose to become. As your episcopal leader, I want to be crystal clear regarding my personal preferences and the direction I am seeking to lead this Annual Conference.
Regardless of the overall decision of the General Conference, I want us to be committed to reclaiming and retaining our Wesleyan DNA; one hand to God and one hand reaching out to the people that God loves.
First and foremost, we must all be committed to be an Annual Conference anchored in prayer. I BELIEVE IN THE POWER OF PRAYER!
Secondly, it really is ALL about Jesus! Knowing him and making him known to ALL. We must be a Christ-Centered Annual Conference.
Third, I want an Annual Conference that genuinely loves one another. The Bible says that folks will know we belong to Jesus by our LOVE!
- Love expresses radical hospitality.
- Love extends GRACE and SPACE towards one another.
- Love speaks the TRUTH with honesty, clarity and integrity.
- Love looks for ways to express itself in MISSION and MINISTRY.
I want an Annual Conference that loves to GIVE. Giving is contagious! Money should not be a weapon to coerce others, but a means of extending God’s generosity to others.
Finally, I want an Annual Conference that knows how to CATCH FISH! Our call is to Make Disciples and to TRANSFORM the world. Our challenge is to develop disciples into leaders with depth and compassion; ones committed to be the hands and feet of Jesus to a needy sin-sick world.
This journey can only be traversed as we commit and recommit ourselves to the task of being aligned with Christ. Each of us, must be attached to Jesus Christ with the yoke of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has been given to empower, assist, and direct the affairs of the church. As we center on Jesus and remain yoked to him, the Holy Spirit will produce in us and through us Christ-likeness that will bless and benefit all.
Thanks for allowing me to serve as your Bishop!
Bishop Frank J. Beard