Bishop L. Jonathan Holston, resident bishop of the South Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church, released this statement following the UMC’s 2019 General Conference:
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love
Ephesians 4:2-3 (NIV)
Makeevery effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”
Tuesday was a tough day, and the complexity of the conversation we have had over the past few days of the 2019 General Conference – indeed, over the past few years – has shown that we are still a church that is not of one mind on issues surrounding human sexuality.
I know there are people in South Carolina who see the decisions of the General Conference as hurtful and are saddened by the outcome. I know there are some in our annual conference who prayed for this outcome.
Whether you are pleased or challenged by the actions of the General Conference, this is not a day to declare winners and losers – this is a time for us to really seek God’s grace together.
Regardless of how we feel about these issues, I want to remind the people called Methodist in South Carolina that we are still one church. We need to work together in so many ways. We need to be in conversation with one another.
With the rapid pace of communication and today’s 24-hour news cycle, it can be difficult enough to process all of the information coming at us – much less to be able to engage each other in calm, respectful conversations around that information.
We so often find ourselves polarized on issues. But the church brings together people who are different in so many ways, and our shared love of God and our desire to follow Jesus is enough to bond us together.
As Christians in the midst of chaotic times, we are called to remember who we are and whose we are, and to be witnesses to the love of Jesus Christ for the world. To be faithful in our witness to Jesus Christ, we are called to love the strangers in our midst – especially those with whom we don’t agree – as if they were Jesus.
This is our calling and our mission – even when it feels risky and frightening to do so.
At times like this, it seems there is so much that divides us, but we need to focus on those things that unite us – our mission and our ministry at home and abroad. We need to remember that we are God’s people and that we have a future with hope. We are just going to have to discern what that future is going to be – and how we move into it together.
In the days ahead, let us continue to pray. Let us go out of our way to talk with each other – especially those with whom we might disagree. Being in conversation will be much more powerful and much more needful going forward.
If we do this, I believe God will show us the way to go.
This is the church of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This is the United Methodist Church. This is the church to which we have committed to give of our time, our talents, our gifts, our service and our witness.
First and foremost, we are trying to win people for the Kingdom of God. We have to find a way to work together, to be God’s people together, because I still believe that we are stronger together than we could ever be separately.
The church was not created for our pleasure; it was created for God’s purpose. And for United Methodists, that means remaining steadfast in our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
That is God’s purpose for us. With each step we take into the future, my hope is that we will claim our mission and engage together in this holy work.
Grace and peace,
L. Jonathan Holston