Beyond the Rivers – A Way of Deepening Our Connection
“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.” Psalm 46.4 (NRSV)
“It is here and now that we are in ministry. This is the appointed time. We claim this moment without fear. We do so compelled by faith to unite our voices and our ministry, to demonstrate what it means to come together in order to achieve the great things of God,” said Bishop McAlilly. “As an Area, I’m calling us to reclaim our nature as the ‘people called Methodists,’ so that we can be agents of grace in our mission field. We can be ‘repairers of the breach’ in many hearts and lives. We can claim the year of the Lord’s favor and announce that in Jesus there is liberation for all.”
In the midst of the current anxiety and uncertainty of the United Methodist Church, Bishop McAlilly is visiting with the clergy and lay leadership in every district in the Tennessee and Memphis conferences. His presentation includes three things:
1. Missio Dei
2. The Commission on the Way Forward
3. The Possibility of a New Conference across the Nashville Episcopal Area
This bishop stresses that the Missio Dei is the mission of God, not the mission of the church. The church has no mission except the mission of God in Christ. The Missio Dei rescues us from preoccupation with ourselves and reorients us toward our neighbor and toward the transformation of the world. The Missio Dei breaks through our passivity by pointing us to the active verbs of gospel of Jesus Christ: Go…Teach…Pray…Give…Heal…Love…Forgive…Baptize…Obey… It reminds us that God’s grace propels us and compels us to go places we might never go if left to our own preference and convenience.
The Commission on a Way Forward
As the bishop prays about this conversation, three groups of people come to mind.
1. The faithful pastor or layperson who has sacrificed to build up a particular local (UM) church. Their fear: they have given their life to this and don’t want to see it weaken.
2. The faithful LGBTQ person who has also been a part of the UMC in every way, from baptism to youth group to worship and financial giving to leadership. Their fear: in the end, they do not want to feel that the church never accepted them.
3. The young adult clergy who simply wants a place to serve and express their gifts and call. Their fear: that the divisions will weaken the institution and that opportunities will disappear.
The bishop invites you to pray for these groups as you open your heart and mind to the work of the Commission on a Way Forward. He encourages everyone to stay informed and to be in touch with your conference’s delegates for the special session of General Conference in February 2019 (email addresses below).
New Conference Across the Nashville Episcopal Area
Our marching orders come from the Great Commandment: Love God and love those God loves and the Great Commission: To Go and make Disciples. “I want to make it clear: I believe we best fulfill our call to follow Christ in this season by creating a new Conference,” said Bishop McAlilly. “After living with you as your Bishop for the past six years, I am persuaded that we are better together.”
Our conferences have done good work in recent years discerning, naming and claiming our mission as an Area for a time such as this. We’re called to Discover, Equip, Connect and Send lay and clergy leaders who shape congregations that offer Jesus Christ to a hurting world, one neighborhood at a time. He noted that in so many ways we are like those who first sang Psalm 46 – we’re in that season between what and where we’ve been and where we’re going.
He added, “While we are composed of two historically distinct conferences, the power of our witness is most effective when our voices are unified. In fact, unity is in itself a distinct witness in a time when our world and our Church seems ever more divided.”
The bishop asks us to join in common discernment and prayer as we move forward. Please encourage your congregations to participate in a Lenten 40 Days of Prayer in both the Memphis and Tennessee conferences.