Update from the Moderators of the Commission on a Way Forward

December 23, 2016

December 23, 2016

At Christmas, we celebrate the good news that “God is with us” (Matthew 1. 23). This is the fulfillment of the promise of Emmanuel, Jesus, “Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing,” in the words of the great hymn. The good news, that “God is with us,” is about relationship. God’s way forward, beyond the impasse of sin and separation, injustice and unrighteousness, was to enter the world in human form.  

In A Nazareth Manifesto, Samuel Wells contrasts what it means to be for and what it means to be with. To be for focuses on a problem to be solved, an issue to be understood, an obstacle to be overcome. To be with speaks instead of sharing, life together and relationship. The latter is deeply rooted in the Triune God, and the wonder of grace is that we are included in the very life of God, through our creation, salvation and missional purpose.

Our way forward, as women and men created in the image of God, is to seek reconciliation with one another. It is not that we do the work of reconciliation so that we can later share the gospel through evangelism and mission. There is no evangelism, no mission, no gospel apart from reconciliation.  

And so we enter into the work of the Commission on a Way Forward, seeing it not as an interruption to our real mission, but as essential to our calling. To be for or against each other, or a cause, is less than God desires for us. We are created in God’s image, to be forgiven, reconciled and made holy. This process will not happen if we are isolated or separated from one another, whether that be one political movement of the church or one geographical area of the world. In the liturgy of the Great Thanksgiving, we pray:  “Make us one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world.” We confess that this happens through the invocation of the Holy Spirit.

A way forward relies on the good news of Emmanuel, God with us. And because God is with us, we reflect the image of God as we are with God and each other. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day many United Methodists will receive the elements of Holy Communion into their bodies. The bread and the cup are tangible signs that God is with us, not as an abstract idea, but through the real presence of Christ. Thus we see each other, not as abstract advocates for ideas or world views, but as beloved children of God, in need of grace.  

And so, as we kneel at altars to receive the sacrament, let us pray for the unity of the One Body. Let us seek to live in peace with each other. And let us remember the words of our founder, John Wesley: “The best of all is that God is with us.”

Bishops David Yemba, Sandra Steiner Ball and Ken Carter Moderators of a Way Forward

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A Summons to Witness, Protest, and Promise

We give thanks for this Summons to Witness, Protest and Promise written by the cabinet of the North Carolina Conference.  In our ongoing collaboration, we affirm these words alongside them.  Across our state, we invite all United Methodists to be a part of building “the new world God promises as heaven in time descends to earth.” (Revelation 21)

A Summons to Witness, Protest, & Promise

We, United Methodists in The Western North Carolina Conference, join our voices with The North Carolina Conference in witness, protest and promise in these times of violence against our Black brothers and sisters.

We believe. . .

We believe that the Holy Spirit is indeed poured out upon all people.
We believe that in baptism, we are incorporated into God’s mighty acts of salvation, and commissioned to resist evil, injustice and oppression, in whatever forms they present themselves.
We believe that God’s intent for humanity is community, compassion, and holiness, and that justice has been marred by the history of enslavement and racism.
We believe that repentance is urgent for the historic and ongoing violence against Black girls and boys, men and women.
We believe that in the wounding of Black bodies we see Christ crucified.
We believe that those who have been steeped in white privilege, through repentance, can be transformed into humble servants of the living God.
We believe we are called to work for the day when God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven.

We protest. . .
We protest violent murders of Black men and women, most recently Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd.
We protest the narratives of fear and suspicion that divide people from one another.
We protest our historic failure to ensure all our churches are places of hospitality, welcome, and belonging for our Black brothers and sisters.
We protest the historic and continuing suppression of voting and other basic rights.
We protest all incendiary public leadership in this time of crisis and turmoil.
We protest the lack of will in our communities, our state and our country to protect the lives of our Black brothers and sisters, and especially the most vulnerable, the young and the old.

We promise. . .
We promise to use our voices, resources and power to dismantle white privilege and racist systems, especially within our own United Methodist Church.
We promise to read the Scripture with ear and eye attentive to the continued call toward God’s will for all people.
We promise to exercise the right to vote and to work against voter suppression.
We promise to create around ourselves at all times hospitable space for all people.
We promise to name prejudice when we see it and to receive the correction of others who see prejudice in us.
We promise to be life-long learners, to constantly make adjustments in the way we use our power and influence, to be active participants in the building of the beloved community, and ultimately growing always in holiness toward the perfection we see in Christ.

Signed,

Bishop Paul Leeland
Laura Auten
Carl Arrington
Michael Bailey
David Christy
Amy Coles
Bev Coppley
Beth Crissman
Otto Harris
David Hockett
Kim Ingram
Linda Kelly
Mark King
Melissa McGill
Samuel Moore, Jr.
Dan Pezet
Mark Ralls
David Snipes
Caroline Wood
Jane Wood

Bishop Hope Morgan Ward
Tim Russell
Edie Gleaves
Ray Broadwell
Gil Wise
Gray Southern
Mike Frese
Kenneth Locklear
Randy Innes
Linda Taylor
Dena White
Tara Lain
Ismael Ruiz-Millan
Jon Strother
Beth Hood
Lisa Yebuah
Greg Moore
Steve Taylor

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