A Message from Reverend John Mars
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
Isaiah 43:19 (New International Version)
Happy New Year!
You may be saying: “Oh, Pastor John! How can you have such lofty expectations when our denomination and our country are in such turmoil?” It’s true that we face uncertainty everywhere. In May, yet another international General Conference of the United Methodist Church will gather to vote on legislation related to human sexuality, and no one knows what the outcome will be. In November, after what promises to be a brutal campaign season, our country will hold another presidential election, and no one knows what the outcome will be. I do not look forward to either of those events or the circumstances surrounding them –but they should not, they do not, and they will not define us here at the Church of the Warm Heart.
So I say it again: Happy New Year!
Let me suggest a good way to start off this new year: Keeping in mind the troubles our world faces, take out your Bible, turn to Isaiah 43, and read the first 21 verses. Make note of the hope, the optimism, and the encouragement it offers to God’s people when they face challenges. These verses remind us, over and over, that “this is what the Lord says.” The message is clear: Do not be afraid, because God is at work, even in the worst of circumstances. Even when we are in the wilderness, in the wasteland, God is doing a new thing.
It’s true that a “new thing” means we will experience c-h-a-n-g-e –but we are not required to dread that word! I will be so bold as to suggest that perhaps we should embrace it. If God is doing a wonderful new thing, “making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland,” doesn’t it make sense to welcome that new reality? Doesn’t it make sense to anticipate it with joy and thanksgiving as we continue to fulfill our mission to love all, change hearts, and transform lives? Of course it does!
It’s important to note that, while God is doing his part, we must continue to do ours. We do not stop our ministries while we wait to see what the “new thing” is. We continue to study Scripture, care for others, and reach out to our community. God may –or may not –shape those activities differently in the future, but they will always remain the foundation of our work for the Kingdom. Because we can count on that, the familiarity of those activities will bring us comfort as we move through times of change.
The Rev. Ralph Lawrence, my good friend and the former pastor of this congregation, recently reminded me that the word comfort is derived from the Latin com fortis, which means, literally, “with strength.” With that in mind, my prayer for all of us in the new year is this: God, please comfort us in 2020, helping us to face our challenges with strength and embrace the new thing You are doing among us –whatever that might be.
With God’s help and a positive attitude, we might even find it exciting!
With eyes on Him,
MESSAGE FROM OUR UNITED METHODIST CHURCH BISHOP
United Methodists of the Greater Northwest,
What came into existence was Life, and the Life was Light to live by.
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out…
We saw the glory with our own eyes...
Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.
John 1, The Message
This morning United Methodists around the world received a word of hope that the strife that has racked our Church might find a peaceful end.
A group of sixteen United Methodist leaders from around the world, who hold a wide range of theological and social convictions, have negotiated protocols for a graceful separation within The United Methodist Church. If adopted by the General Conference in May, the proposal would:
Maintain The United Methodist Church intact.
Allow local churches and annual conferences that choose not to remain affiliated with The United Methodist Church to leave, while maintaining their property, assets, and liabilities.
Commit $39 million to racial and ethnic inclusion and anti-racism work.
Convene the first session of the post-separation United Methodist Church, perhaps before leaving Minneapolis in May, to create four regional conferences.
Allow for the first session of the newly established North American Regional Conference to act on proposals to remove prohibitive language regarding LGBTQ clergy and weddings. In the meantime, signers to the Protocol have agreed to abeyance on complaints against clergy for related offenses.
While this is not the resolution I hope for, I believe it may be the best next step for the people called United Methodists who have been unable to find a way forward that maintains the unity of the Church. It does not move the Church toward Christ’s vision that we “may all be one…so that the world may believe” (John 17:21), but it is a faithful effort “to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3), even as we find it necessary to walk separate paths for a season.
I trust this proposal is designed to unbind us from our “irreconcilable differences” and free us to focus on the future. It does not guarantee a particular outcome, but it appears to offer United Methodists in the United States the opportunity to choose a future that is fully inclusive of LGBTQ persons.
Please read the attached proposal, asking prayerfully whether it offers Life and Light as we seek to create a new movement of Wesleyan faithfulness in the Northwest and around the world.
May the Life of Christ live in us, and the Light of Christ lead us into the future,
Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky