Be Not Anxious

June 25, 2014

Philippians 4:6 says, "Be not anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."

This is a good word for us in the United Methodist Church these days.  Our denomination continues to have an ongoing conversation about issues related to human sexuality.  Most of the recent media hype is focused on same gender marriage.  The difference of opinion in our church reflects the division in our secular culture.  As we draw closer to the 2016 General Conference in Portland, the debate will only grow louder and more intense.

I talk to many of our clergy and laity who are quite concerned about where our church is going and what the future holds for us.  There are many voices in our church speaking about the issue in strong and defiant ways.  Some talk about schism in our denomination while others vehemently oppose such notions.

The truth is that the vast majority of our clergy, laity and bishops are staying focused on our mission of disciple making.  In fact, I want to encourage all of us to not be distracted from our mission by all of the conversations surrounding human sexuality.  We can waste valuable time and energy on social media sites, obsessing about what is happening in the United Methodist Connection.  But using our time this way does not make one new disciple nor does it provide any transformation in our local church or community.  So fear not.  Stay focused on helping our people grow toward spiritual maturity and fruitfulness for the Kingdom of Christ.

Most of you know that I am very traditional in my views on marriage and human sexuality.  I keep the covenants I make including my promise to uphold The Discipline of our church.  At my consecration as a Bishop I made a vow to be a "sign of unity" in our church.  That is a hard job these days. However, it means that I also love those who might disagree with me on these controversial issues.  I have no appetite for division of our church.  I will strive with all my being to find a way to hold our  diverse church together.  I am actively working with two groups of United Methodist leaders to discern ways of keeping us together.  I ask for your prayers for me and our church.  But let us not fret away our days of grace. 

As a person who has dealt with cancer now for ten years, I am keenly aware of my mortality.  Living with cancer has taught me many important lessons.  One of the most important lessons has been to value each day and every precious moment as God's gift to me.  I do not want to waste God's gift so my prayer each day is that I will do exactly what God wants me to do.  I want to spend my life doing things that will make an eternal difference in the lives of the people I am called to serve.  I do not want to waste God's gift by anxious hand wringing.  And I want the same thing for you.  So fear not!  Stay focused on God's mission.  I am confident that the Lord will lead us through this time.

In Christ,