Monthly Archives: May, 2012

Concluding Reflection About The 2012 General Conference

Welcome back to my closing reflection about The 2012 General Conference of The United Methodist Church.

We end where we began this series of reflections about GC: “On a Wing and a Prayer.” Think about your relationship with Christ. As we so to speak fly in Christ through the journey of life so the United Methodist Church will fly, no matter where the Holy Spirit takes us.

Why should we be surprised with the contention within the UMC? Jesus Christ’s very birth into this world caused contention with King Herod. Even before Jesus Christ ascended there were good people who as gnostics questioned the person of Jesus Christ and his mission. The gospel of Mary, the gospel of Peter and of Judas, all sorts of cults sprouted up and so it is today. There is a great but glorious supernatural struggle going on throughout the world for the minds, hearts, souls, conscience, and bodies of people.

I’m convinced after General Conference that the future UMC will be reborn and restructured from the bottom up. One of the highlights I didn’t mention was the  desire that came from the laity to be seen as much more than certified lay speakers. There was considerable debate over the importance of the laity and their role in the UMC. It was like the laity were saying to the clergy-“Hey we want our church back.” Wonderful. In the end the wording within the Book of Discipline will state something to the effect that laity are as disciples of Jesus to be active in all parts of the Church. As that favorite Pentecost hymn goes: You are the church, I am the church, we are the Church together…all who follow Jesus, all around the world, yes we’re the Church together. This groundswell of Christ centered believers I believe will be used by The Holy Spirit to further bring revival back within The United Methodist Church.

So I say praise God for the ride called General Conference. For all the daily doings- the Renewal Reform Coalition, for the highlights, disappointments, challenges, and the abiding truths I so thank the Lord.

Like the Apostle Paul we live in a culture so similar to what he experienced: many wannabe gods and idols, yet as he told those of Athens in Acts 17:28-31: For in him we live and move and have our being.  As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his off-spring. Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone-an image made by man’s design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.” So General Conference points us to what and to whom? To our Alpha and Omega, God in Jesus Christ.

How the American UMC goes will so determine the future UMC. Like Bishop Peter Weaver , giver of the episcopal address at GC said: “Before any of us were delegates, we were disciples. Before any of us were bishops, we were believers. Before any of us were members in caucuses, we were members in Christ Jesus and therefore, members one of another. Before any of us had a resolution in our hands to vote on, we had a resolution in our hearts to devote ourselves to the living Christ.” Yes, yes, yes. It’s all about the wonderful transforming Jesus Christ, who has come into our lives and made us anew within Him. We are part of the Resurrection Revolution.

For me General Conference is summed up in that glorious hymn: To God be the glory great things He has done, so loved He the world that He gave us His Son. Who yielded his life an atonement for sin and opened the life gate that all may go in. Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the earth hear His voice. Praise the Lord, praise the Lord let the people rejoice. Oh come to the Father, through Jesus the Son, and give Him the glory great things He has done.

So thank God for what he has done for you through Christ and tell others what He means to you. Yes, as we fly with Christ through life, so the United Methodist Church fly, no matter where the Holy Spirit takes us. Let us do all we can to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Upcoming blogs will deal with such topics: Will Sophia be at Annual Conference; what’s the latest with the Home Church Movement; and the Soul Cafe mission movement in Ritzville.

Stay tuned.  We are all under construction…God is not through with us yet!

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“Abiding Truth of GC: Contend for the Gospel and The Common Good

Welcome back as we look forward to The Holy Spirit’s leading the United Methodist Church toward the 2016 General Conference.

First the good news. The Holy Spirit blessed the 2012 GC with a sense of doctrinal unity, oneness towards the task ahead in battling the decline of the USA UMC, and set the scene for a major spiritual and structural overhaul within The United Methodist Church.

Now the bad news-straight and not watered down. Since the creation of the UMC in 1968, the USA UMC has lost 3.5 million members and the decline continues in the USA. The American UMC like the Titanic has hit the ice berg and now the question before us is simply what will the future UMC really look like spiritually? In my back yard is a concord grape plant three years old.  It so needs pruning. It’s hardly producing fruit. Is this a picture of the USA? It just may be that God is pruning us personally and corporately; for Jesus says”Every tree that does not bear fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire (Matt. 7:19).

What is the abiding truth that will guide us toward the future?  It’s that we must contend for the unwatered down Gospel of Jesus Christ. Today’s culture is so identical to the first century culture of the first disciples. Many cultural gods and idols. Has the UMC America become so like the surrounding post modern culture of our day? The Apostle Paul says to us like the Philippians: “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you ( 1:27-28).”

At the 2012 GC I saw a lot of contending taking place.  But what for?   Is contending ours to do?  Are we to be like boxers in the ring verbally instead of physically going at it?  No, the scriptures are crystal clear-it’s not about us; for the scriptures repeatedly say in many ways: “This is the Word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the Lord Almighty ( Zech 4:6).

What changes people?  Is it our forceful speeches, articulate as they may be? No, it’s the work of the Holy Spirit addressing the strongholds within the hearts and systems of the world.  Contending is in the worldly sense people being against one another.  Yet there is another way to contend.  It’s not who or what you are against that matters as much as it is who you are for!  It’s about Jesus!

The truth about contending for the Gospel I believe is the wave of the future. Isn’t this the very reason for the explosion within the UMC Africa? Contending for Jesus is different than the worldly notion of contending. Wasn’t this really what Jesus was about: contending for God’s truth?  Jesus contended for God’s truth by saying to Pilate: “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me (John 18:37).”
 
Contending for the Gospel is for the common good.  As I watched how many days of contending–just maybe I learned something from it. What grabs me here is that like those first disciples we are to contend for the Gospel for the common good. Paul tells us: “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good (I Cor 12:7). At Pentecost the Gospel worked through people so that Paul said: All the believers were together and had everything in common (Acts 2:42).” The Gospel can and does stand by itself.  The Gospel of the Truth of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit has a wonderful power to convict and transform. Through the words of the Spirit and our works the Gospel causes transformation.
Contending for the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the love of the Holy Spirt must happen simultaneously within the American United Methodist Church and also out on the streets of post modern America.

Trinity Pulse for Week Starting Sunday June 3

Maureen and I are on vacation as your pastoral couple -but this Sunday God in The Holy Spirit will be more than present.

Byron Fitch, Lay Leader has helped through the Spirit call Janet Downing, certified lay speaker and disciple of Jesus, from nearby LaCrosse United Methodist to be our speaker this Sunday. Byron and Harry Schafer will help lead worship this Sunday. Thank you both.

Another way the Holy Spirit has shown Jesus to us is the Spirit within our two high school graduates this year: namely Corin Eckley and Brandon Becker. Corin is on her way to study as an undergrad at Seattle Pacific University with an interest in law and political science. Brandon is on his way to study at Spokane Community College with an interest in computer science. Wow-what a special young woman and man. Corrin and Brandon we will keep you in our prayers and hearts and stay in touch with you. Please congratulate them at worship again. We had a special celebration service earlier this May featuring both students in a dialogue sermon with Pastor John.

As we think of our mission in Ritzville I want to hold up the importance of The Gritman Senior Center  Meals that take place on Monday Wednesday, and Thursday of each week here in Ritzville, beginning at noon. It is so crucial that we be involved in supporting our Ritzville Community. For more info about the Senior Center contact its new President Mr. Roy Klein at 659-1289. As a way to be more involved within Ritzville this is an excellent way to meet new friends and expand your mission field for Jesus.

Nothing, dear friends is more important to God and Jesus Christ then people. Special thanks to all those who helped to recognize the 50th wedding anniversary celebration last Sunday for Cloyd and Helen Blake. Jesus is more than right when he said, “The world will know you are my disciples if you have love one to the other.” Cloyd and Helen we love you so!

Thank you to our Administrative Board for voting at our last ad. council meeting to make a $100 donation to the Ritzville Fire Department.  Oh wow-love takes on so many Godly forms!

Nothing matters more than love-the love of Jesus Christ!

Stay tuned!

Your Servants in the Mission Field for Jesus- Pastor John and Maureen

2012 GC Abiding Truth: Tug of War Over Piety and Scriptural Holiness!

As a kid of the sixties I so recall the 1965 song by the McCoys named: “Hang on Sloopy, Hang on!”  Well the Abiding ageless truth of United Methodism is that we are to hang on to two key spiritual ingredients: personal piety and scriptural holiness.

The spiritual genius of the Wesley brothers was their personal piety and scriptural holiness which were the drivers for their social conscience in reaching out to the people of their day. Wether it was their concern for coal miners and their working conditions, or child labor, or the waste of edible grain distilled for alcohol consumption, or the issue of slavery, they were relentless in their desire that God save ‘the whole person’.  As Wesley said we have no more focus then to “save souls”, yet they more then understand the social implications of ‘being born again’.

Beginning the first day of GC it was evident that there was a tug of war over personal piety and social holiness. This group or that group claimed to be the incarnation of Wesleyan basics. Wesley’s name and Wesleyan quotes were tossed around in delegate speeches like people tossing frisbees back and forth.

Approaching the front doors to the convention center on the first day was this outstanding banner, recognizing I believe The Lordship of Jesus Christ and the special Wesleyan heritage we members all have vowed to declare. I call your attention as well to the new links I have included in the blue box entitled “Important Links”, which will lead you to the websites of other evangelical reformation groups and their analysis of  GC 2012. I especially point out Dr. Riley Case’s reflections on the 2012 GC, with the Confessing Movement website.

General Conferences come and go but the abiding truth of personal piety and scriptural holiness has to do with how we understand Christ himself. If you want to really upset a Moslem then just tell him or her that you believe God became fully human-and watch how they respond. They reject God becoming as man. Yet the precious treasure we have within is the very presence of God himself for Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:7 declares through the Holy Spirit: “ But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us.” The treasure we have is not just the Good News of The Gospel of Jesus Christ, but the presence of Christ within.

Being a free thinker and open to learn from others I made it a point to visit the white occupy type tent across the street from the convention center where the  “Progressive” brothers and sisters in Christ held their pow-wows.   The speakers I heard the times I attended during lunch breaks all merged “civil rights, with their cause” and talked about the sin of being shut out of the UMC and how the struggle for an all inclusive church will be a long one. In thinking of this I refer you to a link within the Confessing Movement website where they offer a wonderful scholarly paper by Professor William J. Abraham, from Perkins School of Theology entitled: “Inclusivism, Idolatry, and the Survival of the (Fittest) Faithful.” If you have trouble printing this paper out let me know and I will help you get a copy of this helpful treatise.

So, as the song and word go: “We do not know what the future holds but we do know who holds the future.” The abiding truth of the 2012 General Conference is that we must defend personal piety and scriptural holiness. Let us hold up the cross, emphasize not cheap -but costly grace, and have loving hearts toward all within the UMC.

Stay tuned. I wrap up my reflections on General Conference tomorrow! Thank you O Holy Spirit, O Living Christ, for the power of personal piety and scriptural holiness you placed within John and Charles Wesley. Yes we really do have treasure within earthen vessels.

An Abiding Truth of General Conference: “Remain Connected”

Welcome back to a series of reflections about the recent 2012 General Conference of the UMC, held in Tampa, Florida!

Some experiences come and go yet others stick with us, like Brier Rabbit and The Tar Baby. In that famous American folklore, the story is how a rabbit got stuck with an life like doll that was really a tar baby. So there are aspects of the United Methodist Church we wish would change but are stuck with until possibly the next general conference. Yet other parts of the UMC we cannot do without like our common belief in the Articles of Religion and the Wesleyan desire to spread scriptural holiness.

Haven’t we all had someone say to us: “Can you see the trees amongst the forest?”.  In other words can you step back from all the small things happening around you and see the “big picture?”  Spiritual connectedness is ‘the big picture.’ At General Conference it was joy to see amidst divisive words, and actions-truly a spirit of spiritual connectedness. The big picture of salvation is that all are welcome to repent and connect with God through Jesus Christ, who is the only true way to God.

In a time when families, communities, states, and the federal government seem to be at constant odds with one another it is really the exception at times to see honest togetherness or connectedness. Here is where Jesus’ abiding truth about connectedness in Him is so important. In John 15 Jesus stresses abiding and connectedness in Him: “I am the vine,  you are the branches.  If a man (woman) remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing (verse 5).

Over and over in worship, plenary, press briefings, the breaks, and even in the legal and illegal demonstrations I saw the best of the connectional United Methodist Church at work.

Where do we see healthy respectful debate taking place in the church today?  In the Roman Catholic Church-hardly. In the Baptist or other Christian groups where women pastors, or issues like discussion about homosexuality are denied any place to be discussed. I mean no disrespect amongst the varied Christian denominations, or non denominational churches which are denominations unto themselves. I simply praise God, because I believe there is no more democratized, racially, economically, culturally inclusive church than the United Methodist Church. At the end of the debate over homosexuality again the UMC took action and continued to vote according to their scriptural understanding.  We keep talking and  people keep voting their spiritual conscience.

The struggle over the restructure of the UMC reveals both the strength and the weakness of the UMC: its paying attention to being connectional. It is slow, cumbersome, but in the end when all the parties finally agree Christ is the glue that keeps the UMC connected.

After the closing worship of General Conference I got two photos that say so much to me. One was the cross of Christ being lifted up high and the other was a photo of our own active Bishop Grant Hagiya walking out of worship with our retired Bishop Jack Tuell. What a wonderful image of service and connectedness.

So the abiding truth is for real: stay connected to Jesus Christ and one another. You won’t see a better illustration in diversity and connectedness than in The United Methodist Church.

Try this Oatmeal “Jesus Calling”

Your personal belief in the supernatural-specifically in Jesus Christ will rise and fall on two important influences.

First-whatever spirituality you choose-Christianity says: “Choose Life- Choose Jesus Christ.”  The biggest influence in your life will be the people you meet. The people you meet that will change you will be those who you allow to touch your soul. If you are reading this and don’t know Jesus Christ-I invite you to consider Him. No one has ever lived or will ever be His equal. I highly recommend Jesus Christ to you. If you have a relationship with The creator through Christ then congratulations.  The devotional book or phone app I am recommending is an excellent way to come to know God through Christ.

Secondly-we all are empowered through the books we read.  For followers of Jesus-no book is as The Holy Bible. Like Ezekiel, the hebrew prophet we are to,so to speak feed on Holy Scripture (for scripture as dessert read Ezekiel 2:7-3:).  The resource I recommend to you take within is entitled “Jesus Calling ” by Sarah Young.What makes this devotional so unusual is that it is written in the first person, as if God in Christ is speaking directly to you.

What makes this devotional so outstanding is that it reveals daily truths about the nature and makeup of God Almighty, supported by scriptures.This resource is also available to you from I-Tunes App Store by the same name for ten dollars.

Some personal devotionals are like a doughnut. They are sweet to the taste, but have no real nutritional value that sustains.  This devotion is like great oatmeal-it stays with you a long time!  Enjoy!   Stay tuned!

“Will the Real Jesus Christ Stand Up ?”-Challenges of General Conference-Part 4

Jesus Christ challenges us with: “Follow Me” and gives us reason for being His Church with His Great Commission (Matt. 28:16-20).

The challenges  of Jesus Christ,  The Apostles, and this General Conference cause people to choose between:

1. Having a Christian world view or subscribing to Deism and other world views. A Christian world view believes that God is Trinitarian, actively intervening as a sovereign God in people’s everyday lives through The Holy Spirit. Deism on the other hand believes in the master architect God but believes that God does not actively intervene in the course of human life.  I  say this because of all the sermons I heard at GC, (give or take 26), it was Bishop William Willimon of the North Alabama conference who really rocked my boat. On Sunday April 29th while preaching at Hyde Park UMC he challenged the congregation to reject Deism within the UMC. He respectfully chided the UMC in thinking that ministry solely depends on leadership principles, as if God has left ministry up to us. Yes of course we have our part to do in ministry; but Deists we are not. Ministry is essentially not up to us as much as it is up to our surrendering to God the Holy Spirit’s work within people and all of life. The truth claims of Jesus Christ confront head on the ‘no absolute’ truth claims of this post modern culture which is the seedbed for the all kinds of heresies within the UMC. With all due respect to sister Amory Peck’s laity address,her repeated mantra: “if it’s to be, it’s up to me” I interpreted as reeking of Deism.  Versus the self help religion of our day Jesus asks us what He asked Peter “Who do you say I am?”. The Articles of Religion within our Book of Discipline are either held up as our view of Christ or we pick and choose other world views making them our idols;

2. The challenge of connectionism vs congregationalism. Throughout GC  petitions and delegates challenged the need for a common connection for all to abide by. As the global UMC further restructures there is a creative tension to adapt a creeping congregationalism. In other words because of different contexts; annual conferences are wanting to have  the ability to pick and choose how to apply UMC standards to their own particular circumstances. As you recall this almost happened with the constitutional amendments that were put before all annual conferences following the 2008 GC. How do we maintain our UMC spiritual DNA while balancing our restructure to relate to different cultural contexts?  Just down the street from my hotel was this sign advertising Church’s Chicken.  Are we the UMC  a buffet where people pick and choose how they apply the Gospel without a common agreed upon menu (Book of Discipline) or are certain basics non negotiable?  To understand what has happened to the Anglican, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, and Presbyterian Church USA is to say that they have agreed to a congregational buffet theology and church structure?;

3. The challenge of recapturing a passion for Evangelism. This is the white elephant in the room so to speak.  On Friday afternoon April 27th, I sat in on a press conference offered by Bishop Jon Schol, another Bishop (don’t have his name) and Rev. Amy Valdez Barker. I found myself as an active pastor so glued on this presentation. The emphasis besides talking about new money and organization put into this effort centered around the importance of equipping pastors and laity to tell how they came to faith in Jesus Christ as Savior.  The presentation was the best I heard all General Conference about the real “hands on” efforts being made about evangelism and congregational vitality. Based on this presentation I am so proud of the efforts being made in our own Annual Conference with The Bishops’s Task Force on Evangelism. If you are reading this and you are active as a Pastor or Lay Person in your church then I ask you please, please, please  go to http://www.umvitalcongreations.org website. This dear brother or sister in Christ really is the future of the UMC. This site has info that so needs to be gone over by you a pastor or lay disciple for Jesus. I will further be writing blogs concerning this very important movement about congregational vitality.

I apologize for being behind on getting these General Conference reflection blogs out to you. I have been consumed by local pastoral ministry at Ritzville Trinity and now on Memorial Day I get this out to you.

Stay tuned. Tomorrow I begin a couple of blogs I’ve entitled: The Abiding Truths of The 2012 General Conference.

Trinity Pulse- for Week Beginning May 27th!

Hello Celebrate!  What a weekend for Holy Parties!  Come celebrate Pentecost-the blessed Coming of The Holy Spirit-this Sunday!

We’re  special not because of who we are but because of who’s we are!  We are those who have chosen to follow the movement first called “The Way”.  Jesus Christ is the Way,the Truth, and the Life that blesses all who believe on Him.

This memorial day weekend-we:

1. Continue  looking at the Truth Project-beginning at 9am.  Tour nine involves how we as Jesus’ followers relate to the state. Most interesting. From 9:30 to 10 we will relate these scriptures from the Truth Project to The Daniel Plan;

2. Begin a special series on the works of the Holy Spirit?  Do you know the seven ways the Holy Spirit wants to be at work in your life? Hey-who is the Holy Spirit?  This Sunday’s worship theme points to our inner need for Holy Spirit living. What’s the first work of the Holy Spirit.  Let’s look at John 16:8-11-the Spirit’s work of convicting;

3.  Following worship let’s celebrate the 50th wedding anniversary of Cloyd and Helen Blake.  Come congratulate the Blake’s for this wonderful spiritual achievement in their lives.

With the many doings of this memorial weekend there will be no Daniel Plan meal sharing this Sunday after worship!

Have a safe blessed Memorial Day weekend.  Your Servants for Christ- Pastor John and Maureen

General Conference Review-Part 3 : ‘The Disappointments’

This is the day the Lord has made, let us be glad and rejoice in it!  Welcome back to Lift Up Christ: reflections on the 2012 General Conference of The United Methodist Church.

How is it that we can ‘rejoice’ given the troubles of today?  We rejoice because we remember what Jesus Christ has brought us through! Jesus saves us from our past, can save us in our present, and has promised to save us in the future (John 16:33)!

General Conference worship centered around what it means to encounter God in Jesus along the sea shore. All kinds of issues were dealt with: where do we find the fish, how do we fish for people, how do we deal with storms that come our way while in the boat (the Lord’s church).

Yes GC was full of highlights, but there were disappointments as well. Just as the Jesus’ disciples had disappointments when they fished all night and caught nothing, so disappointments came to my soul during GC.   They included:

There was very little emphasis on the core of evangelism. The “E” word  as some people refer to it was hardly mentioned. How can we make disciples of Jesus for the transformation of the world without a strong evangelism emphasis in each church?;

The inability of GC to agree on the restructure of the UMC was disappointing. Like the holding of annual conference or a church administrative council meeting it’s easy for other issues to take precious time away from core issues that need resolving. All too often the establishment has ‘dog and pony shows’ (presentations about what some would consider minor issues of importance) taking time away from major core issues. All too often it appeared that the running of GC was so self serving the structure. Doing church legislation at GC was often slow, cumbersome, and lethargic. I so agree with Bishop Hagiya’s concern that we the church need to be more nimble and put time on what is absolutely central to the UMC’s future and that is mission. Despite numerous attempts by delegates to get GC to speed up, the majority of delegates were comfortable to proceed at a snail’s pace. Numerous motions were made to cut meal times or break times to spend more time on crucial issues.  Yet nothing changed. Why?  Because like at our own local churches people say “we’ve always done it this way”. Why was it that something as important as the budget and the restructure was put off until the very end?  I see the same pattern as to how business is conducted at our annual conference session each June;

-The clash between different views  about Holy Scripture was disappointing.’ Speeches were made during GC which revealed the clash between the apostolic inerrant view of Holy Scripture and the Progressive view of ‘new revelation’ scripture. For a descriptive explanation of these opposing scriptural views I point you to the past blog entitled: “Clash of the Titans” published on March 31, 2012;

The rise of spiritual propaganda is disappointing. By spiritual propaganda I mean newsletters which make statements not based on actual fact but instead on their own particular ‘spin’ or point of view towards a particular subject. The aim of this propaganda is to ‘educate’ or sway the undecided toward a certain position or camp. Example of this on the progressive side would be the “Alert Newsletter” and on the more inerrant side the “UM Action”. What makes a newsletter propaganda is when spiritual points of view address politics in a way which does more to promote a certain political agenda instead of first promoting the Kingdom of God which is non political.  The Word of God stands by itself and does not need politics to support its truth claim.

To not admit disappointment is to be in denial of reality. Yet Praise God. The  God we worship and adore is not the God of disappointment.  He is before us; He is behind us…He is our source and our goal and we move forward in “His” strength.

Hang in there.  Jesus is Lord…and we follow Him one step at a time.

Stay tuned.  Tomorrow I address the challenges the 2012 General Conference has put before us all.

Review of 2012 General Conference Highlights-Part 2

Welcome back to Lift Up Christ and our continued review of The 2012 General Conference of The United Methodist Church!

The old secular phrase is that beauty is in the eye of the ‘beholder’.  What one believes is a ‘highlight’ may not be what another agrees is  a highlight. Many changes took place with budgets, new people elected to various church leadership positions, including the election of  Bishop Rosemarie Wenner from Germany as President of the Council of Bishops.  She is the first female Bishop elected from the Central Conferences.  As important as the  changes in church structure are-even more important is the issue of spiritual transformation.

Christ calls each of us to see highlights in the light of transformation by The Holy Spirit. So as GC unfolded between April 24-May 4th I asked-“O God show me highlights that reveal Your transforming power within people”. I lift up these following examples as highlights that illustrate  Spiritual Transformation:

1. Over the last four years the United Methodist worldwide has started twelve new churches each month for a total of 610 churches increasing the worldwide membership of The UMC to over thirteen million members;

2. There are over 1730 seminarians in United Methodist seminaries; and at this GC a new line in the world service apportionment includes five million dollars for theological education in Africa and a new line includes seven million dollars for the same in the USA. This is hopefully about not just educating ‘church’ leaders, but the Holy Spirit creating ‘spiritual Christ centered‘ leaders for tomorrow;

3. To date The UMC has raised $20.2 million to support the denomination’s Imagine No Malaria campaign and has made a significant impact in hundreds of thousands of lives. Last GC in Dallas/ Fort Worth malaria claimed a life every 30 seconds. Now four years later this “Nothing but Nets” effort has reduced the  death rate from malaria to one life every 60 seconds;

4. We the UMC have continued to work with the poor  of the world in all kinds of anti-poverty programs.  In fact  a good number of new congregations within the UMC family come from very poor countries.

The United Methodist Church worldwide is to be commended for its ministry to the physical needs of the world’s peoples.  Yet the startling spiritual reality is that we can help save people from malaria and a host of other social evils, yet without knowing Jesus Christ as Savior, possibly the same people end up in hell. Yes ministering to physical needs is absolutely part of the Gospel mandate; yet we are not just a social club, we are to share the news that salvation is only found in Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12).

For me the highlights were not as much in the numbers, or system changes, or new spiritual leaders but in the reality that once again GC maintained a Christ Centered Holy Spirit Focus on the Wesleyan basics of personal piety and scriptural holiness. After a lot of debate and prayer the delegates voted  to maintain scriptural holiness on a whole slew of important issues.  From my time four years ago at GC in Texas, I sense now four years later that praise God there is an increased biblical literacy among the delegates of GC. 

The second major highlight of this GC is that the worldwide UMC is still in spiritual unity!  Yes parts of the UMC body are not happy with certain votes that were taken but the fact is that the delegates sensed that they have more in common then they have  in differences.  The emphasis on making disciples for Jesus Christ is spiritually reawakening our  denomination’s spiritual roots. Let me illustrate.

During GC everyone was treated to some outstanding spiritual artwork in the foyer of the massive convention hall. One of the images created by the young artist was that of a powerful spiritual image in that of a butterfly. A sign of spiritual transformation; a reminder of Jesus’ Resurrection. What do you notice though about this image? Look closely. You notice that the right wing of this beautiful creature is almost severed. My interpretation is that this creature is wounded and almost not capable of flying-but praise God it is still flying despite its wounded condition. As I was photographing this I heard a couple next to me discussing. They had delegate name tags on. One said to the other “what’s with the broken wing on the butterfly?”. The other responded: “Oh that’s the UMC in the western jurisdiction.” Ouch, oops.

For me though the top highlight throughout GC, was the visibility of the Cross of Jesus Christ. Whether it was in worship at Hyde Park United Methodist Sunday April 29th, or the ending of GC, it was the cross that captured my heart and soul. Now the cross is not new to any of us but in a post modern culture where there is no such thing as absolute truth, the cross is as controversial as ever. For some the cross is nothing more than an image of male testosterone gone wild, an image some would say that does not depict the atonement of Christ for the sins of the world but just a sign of violence. Yet the cross where GC gathered I would like to believe communicated to most of the people a symbol of the crucified Lamb of God Jesus Christ-The one and only Savior of the world.

Isn’t it comforting to know that everything shall pass away with time, but the cross and Jesus Christ are the same yesterday, today, and forever!

Stay tuned. Tomorrow..it’s about the disappointments of The 2012 General Conference!  Blessings to you and yours!