Bishop Webb proclaims hope after Special Session of General Conference
Hundreds of people throughout the Upper New York (UNY) Conference spent an April or May evening gathered at a church in their region to listen to UNY Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb explain how the United Methodist Book of Discipline will change effective Jan. 1, 2020 based on the Judicial Council’s decisions regarding the constitutionality of the petitions that made up the Traditional Plan affirmed by the delegates of the 2019 Special Session of The General Conference.
Beyond understanding the Judicial Council’s decisions, Bishop Webb held these gatherings as a reminder of the power of the spirit of God. And to proclaim hope despite the mixed feelings and hurt felt by many throughout the UNY Conference.
Opening one of the April-May Regional Gatherings, the Rev. Dr. Aaron Bouwens, UNY Director of Vital Congregations, said, “You’re not here to listen to me and even beyond coming to listen to Bishop Webb, God is inviting us to listen to the Spirit.”
Prefacing the discussion of the Judicial Council decisions, a brief time of worship was held. Recognizing the pain that many people have been feeling after the Special Session of Annual Conference held in February 2019 in St. Louis, Bishop Webb reminded attendees what has not changed about the United Methodist Church.
Bishop Webb said, “The Special Session of General Conference did not change the nature of God. The Special Session of General Conference did not change the Truth that Jesus Christ is Lord. The Special Session of General Conference did not change the reality that every person ever born and every person yet to be born is significantly loved by God. The Special Session of General Conference did not change the truth that all human beings are broken and in need of grace. And the Special Session of General Conference did not change the truth that our God is a God of grace, a God who lavishes grace upon us.
Our mission has not changed. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are mandated to do all that we can to help other followers of Jesus to go deeper and further in that journey and then to do whatever it takes to make sure that at least one more person has a chance to know the love of God through Jesus Christ…we are called to make disciples of Jesus Christ that through the power of God, so that the world can be transformed.”
Bishop Webb likened the current state of the United Methodist Church to a Good Friday-Holy Saturday moment. He said, “I believe that in St. Louis, the United Methodist Church as I have known it and as you have known it began to die. But we’re a people of resurrection. To quote Tony Campolo, ‘It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.’ And while we may be in this Good Friday-Holy Saturday as a Church, Sunday is coming. You can’t get to the resurrection without death. You can’t get to new life without pain.”
After reminding regional gathering attendees of the fact that we must proclaim hope in this time, Bishop Webb reviewed the petitions that were named unconstitutional by the Judicial Council and the petitions that were declared constitutional by the Judicial Council (and will be added to the Book of Discipline effective January 2020). Click here to review the decisions made by the Judicial Council.
Once the decisions of the Judicial Council were reviewed, attendees had the opportunity to ask Bishop Webb questions they had about the future of the United Methodist Church.
Bishop Webb shared what he hopes can happen with the United Methodist Church. He compared his hope to a cul-de-sac with two or three houses where the beliefs and practices of those houses can be different, but where they are able to share a backyard.
Bishop Webb said, “I am going to spend the rest of my time that I have in Upper New York and on earth as far as that goes engaging in conversations where strategies like this can be discussed.”
Bishop Webb emphasized the fact that legislation and Judicial Council decisions will not fix the state of the United Methodist Church. He said, “We need a new conversation.”
Recognizing that this conversation will be difficult because of people’s lack of trust in one another and people’s unwillingness to be vulnerable, Bishop Webb said, “If a few people start and begin to invite others to the conversation, I think we will build a momentum and that momentum will give us hope.”