Message of Pentecost draws people together to get past division


By Johnathon Goodenow
PEORIA – Pentecost provides a powerful description of what can be accomplished, but it isn’t an isolated event.

The Rev. Dr. Safiyah Fosua, assistant professor of spiritual formation at Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University noted that there can’t be a Pentecost without the crucifixion or the resurrection.

“Even before the stone was rolled away God was speaking to us,” Fosua said. “When Jesus told Mary and John to treat each other as mother and son following Jesus’ death, he was also telling us that the people around us aren’t strangers, they’re family. This family is one that can band together to get past our division and one that God can make a difference to people of every tribe, color, and nation.”

Fosua’s message part of the opening worship of the 2019 Annual Conference held June 6-8 at the Peoria Civic Center.

The opening worship also included a service of installation for two new district superintendents – Rev. Allynn Walker as the Mississippi River District Superintendent and Rev. Dr. Charliam Renner as superintendent of the Embarras River District.

District superintendent installations

Walker gave an address in which she spoke about her faith story and her desire to do good through her new role as a district superintendent. She grew up in the Springfield Jerome UMC, but broke away when she became a young adult.

“When I left for college, I was so smart I left Jesus at home,” she said jokingly. Specifically, she was bothered by a question about sin and grace: if she was redeemed, saved and made whole by God’s grace through the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, how could she also be full of sin? Eventually she came to a better understanding of God’s grace and learned that while Jesus’ sacrifice does not stop humans from being sinners, it can still save them.

Walker quoted Luke 12:48 which says, “…Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much they will demand the more.” She believes that she has been given much, and Walker hopes to use what she has been given to help the Mississippi River District spread God’s truth and love as the superintendent and a sister in Christ.

Renner spoke about how his goals as a district superintendent centered around connection, discipline, and the transitive property of mathematics.  

“I firmly believe that as our triune God works through disciples of Jesus Christ, we’re able to make new disciples, and as others become disciples and live into that reality the natural outcome is a transformed world.” Being a disciple takes more than doing no harm, doing good and using the means of grace, Renner says. It takes connection and discipline.

Renner’s mentor taught him that without discipline, churches opt for fake community that cannot hold members accountable as an act of love. Without connection, factions of the church attempt to impose agendas on one another.

Renner asks that members of the IGRC seek to deepen their relationship with God and through that be propelled into deeper relationships with each other. “It’s the transitive property of mathematics. If a = b and b = c, then a = c. If I’m becoming one with Christ and you’re becoming one with Christ, then we are becoming one with each other.” Therefore Renner’s primary purpose as district superintendent is to grow in his own discipleship, and his secondary purpose is to help the clergy under him grow in theirs.