AC worship: Bishop Fairley urges us to show love in every setting

June 05, 2023
By Alan Wild

OWENSBORO, Ky. – To truly be passionate spiritual disciples in an uncertain world, we must show the love of Christ in every aspect of our lives, Bishop Leonard Fairley said Monday, June 5, during Opening Worship of the 2023 Kentucky Annual Conference.

“The word ‘love’ has gotten a bad rap these days,” Fairley said in his message, “This I Believe.” He adapted the title from the book, “This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women.”

“I pray we reclaim not only its true meaning, but its practice. I pray that love will lead us as a people called United Methodists into acts of both piety and social holiness, and that’s not an option, either. I pray we reclaim the trust of our calling to live out the love of Christ in both word and deed.”

Fairley’s message resonated with the clergy and lay members in the Owensboro Convention Center gathered for Annual Conference, taking place June 4-7. Opening worship included traditional music provided by Madisonville First UMC. The service was streamed on the conference website and on its Facebook page.

“There is no doubt in my mind, heart, or soul that Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life. This I believe is rooted in the love of God,” Fairley said. “I believe that love is the answer. I believe that love will find a way. I believe that the flowing waters of love can transform the hardest heart.

“Love is where true confession, repentance and forgiveness begin. If we have not learned to love and live like Jesus, then all our theology, all of our doctrine, and all of our dogma is suspect.”

Later in his message, he said that if we assume God truly is love, how would that “inform, and transform, our understanding of what it means to be a passionate spiritual disciple?”

“Is it possible that love is what we need to reclaim, revive, and renew us? What does the love of Jesus look like in Kentucky, that’s what I want to know, when it is lived out in practical ways?” he asked, citing examples across Kentucky of United Methodists serving as Christ’s hands and feet at Grace Kids: A Church for Children, the Kentucky United Methodist Children’s Homes, and the recent mission work team in southeastern Kentucky to help rebuild after devastating flooding in July 2022.
He related a poignant story about the mission trip. Fairley said that as he walked down the path at a house, someone had painted the word LOVE in big letters beside the stream.

“It was a love stronger than my weariness about disaffiliation or theological debates about who’s in and who’s out,” Fairley said. “It was a love stronger than debating about the General Conference or the election of delegates.”

Love looks like “grieving brothers and sisters who have decided to disaffiliate while rejoicing in over 300 churches that are still United Methodist and discovering together what a movement of love rooted in Jesus Christ looks like. That’s what it looks like in Kentucky, and I’m ready to go!” Fairley said.

He concluded with an invitation – and a challenge: “There’s a whole world out there waiting for us to show the love of God. That’s all I’m asking. Will you go with me, church? Father, son and Holy Spirit, Amen.”

The clergy, laity and guests gave him a standing ovation.

Here are the Scripture passages cited by Bishop Fairley in his message:
  • 1 John 4:20
  • John 3:16-17
  • Luke 10:25-29
  • Matthew 25
  • John 17:22
  • Deuteronomy 6:4
  • Mark 12:28-34
  • 1 John 4:7-12
See the video of Bishop Fairley’s sermon