Not far from us, on the west side of Route 47, just north of Jericho Road in Yorkville, there is a sign that gets a lot of attention.
News reports indicate that passersby have called the police to report a dead horse. Some have stopped and knocked on the door of the farmhouse, “Do you know your horse is lying out in the field DEAD?”, either expressing sympathy for the loss or perhaps anger over such indifference to the pathetic plight of that poor four-legger. The farm folks finally put up the sign to let people know what they were actually seeing.
Indeed, the horse is on the ground…sometimes on its side and sometimes with its feet straight up in the air. It’s taking a nap, or maybe sunbathing, or just taking a load off, but it IS NOT DEAD.
Which brought to mind the situation in which many United Methodists are finding themselves, their local church, and their denomination.
These can be tough days for United Methodists.
We expect to be partners with our sisters and brothers in Christ, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, for the healing of the world in Jesus’ name. Instead, it looks like we’re stuck in a quagmire of chronic denominational conflict.
But looks can be deceiving. Here’s what I saw:
The movement keeps moving forward!
The WCA Global Legislative Assembly welcomed 240 elected delegates from around the world. They voted overwhelmingly to refocus the mission of the WCA, to elect a new president (Rev. Jay Therrell), and to bless current president (Rev. Keith Boyette) as he takes on chief administrative duties for the Global Methodist Church in anticipation of its upcoming convening conference.
There is joy in the house of the Lord!
There was a full house of more than 1,000 of us singing, worshiping, connecting, and eating together in Indy, plus at least that many at 80 livestream simulcast sites. For those of us together in Indy it was LITERALLY one of those “O, For A Thousand Tongues to Sing My Great Redeemers Praise!” experiences. Far from being discouraged or distracted, this is a network of believers who are passionate in worship, extravagant in love, and bold in witness.
This awakening is global and diverse right from the start!
There were no resolutions or aspirational statements about diversity. When “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” is authentic, well, the dynamic preaching and leadership at the Global Gathering came from women and men, younger and older, from the US, Africa, and Eastern Europe. Delegates came from Bulgaria, Zimbabwe, and Congo as well as throughout the USA.
At least for the time being, the future is not either/or; it is both/and!
United Methodist Bishop Mark Webb of the Upper New York Annual Conference brought a word of encouragement and led the celebration of Holy Communion at the Global Gathering on Saturday. Rev. Daniel Topalski of Bulgaria was recognized as the presiding elder of the Bulgaria – Romania Provisional Annual Conference of the Global Methodist Church and led the celebration of Holy Communion at the Legislative Assembly on Friday. Their presence, together, indicates that this awakening will, at least for the time being, work both within the UMC and also help those seeking to depart for the GMC. Of note is the strong affirmation to continue advocating and networking for the passage of the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation at the upcoming 2024 General Conference.
If you or your local congregation are feeling stuck, lift up your head and your heart! Sometimes we don’t see what we’re looking at.
Even more, the emerging, passionate, global awakening among United Methodists isn’t dead or delayed, either.
Here’s a promise of God we can count on:
For I am about to do something new.Isaiah 43:19 New Living Translation
See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.
By the way, if you are still not sure that this “not seeing what you are looking at” dynamic doesn’t even make any horse sense, take a look at another horse. Last weekend he went from no-name to Kentucky Derby Champion. Almost nobody saw that coming, either. Rich Strike Wins