“Let’s Stay Together!”
by Bishop Julius Calvin Trimble
When it comes to conflict and division it seems that the history of the Christian church has plenty of both. The United Methodist Church is no exception. Once a thriving growing Methodist movement that swept this country, the witness of Methodists, including United Methodists, has been declining in the number of professing members and influence for decades.
There are growing churches with effective ministries that can be found in every region of the country. We do have exponential growth in Africa and mega churches in jurisdictions in the United States. As a Protestant denomination we have work to do to kick it up a notch in the area of relevancy and reaching new people, younger and more diverse populations. We are too easily described in many places as older, mostly white, Americans in small towns, rural communities, downtown declining churches, or churches where our greatest days are described by references to the past and not the present and future.
The news about The United Methodist Church is not all bad. In fact there is far more good news and under-reported victories in the name of Jesus that we fail to share. As a bishop of the church I see and experience signs of hope every week.
Preaching and passion for ministry in local churches is more often than not very strong. Hands-on mission and giving to local and global missions has never been stronger in Iowa, where I serve and live. Lay and clergy clearly articulate a desire for "revival” in the best sense of Wesleyan passion for saving souls and social justice. A hunger for inner peace and authentic joy that comes from communities not defined by scarcity, but opportunity, is increasingly what I believe people want. We need to move past just talk about diversity and cultural competency and claim, as I did at our recent Annual Conference session, "we are one family with one faith one Lord and one baptism."
What we need, in my opinion, is More Jesus and less talk about Wesley, more space for grace and diversity of opinion without compromising our connection…Much prayer which leads to much power…passionate pursuit of unity in Christ while pursuing holiness as defined by the three simple rules authored by Bishop Rueben Job…in particular, a greater attentiveness to staying in love with God.
My response to those who are predicting schism and splitting of The United Methodist Church is an invitation to wait on The Lord and be of good courage. I am too excited about prospects of eradicating Malaria in Africa to leave my church. I am too eager to join voices in my Conference who want to embark on a no more excuses campaign to end hunger and poverty.
We have talked about and debated the human sexuality and interpretation of authoritative scripture issues for years. I am not ready to give up on opportunity for family to listen and share with one another in ways that God can enter in and guide us. I am not, as some are, ready to give up on our General Conference gathering as an instrument of God's grace and a place where we, as a church, decide on big dreams and controversial realities. I am most excited about God using The United Methodist Church to take advantage of opportunity gaps to live out our mission…making disciples for sure. I am really believing we have been called to transform the world .
Al Green, known also as Rev. Al Green, is considered one of the greatest soul singers and performers of soul hit songs of the 1970s. Born in Forest City, Arkansas in 1946, he still performs his hit songs as well as gospel music while serving as a pastor. Some of his hits were, I'm tired of being alone and love and happiness. My favourite is still considered his signature hit song - "let's stay together "
I am unapologetically Christian and unashamedly United Methodist. I reflect on a few verses of the song let’s stay together. "Loving you whether times are good or bad, happy or sad. Will God be glorified if we ask people to choose a side and split the church into camps based upon support or disagreement with the current content and wording in the Book of Discipline?
We are one family. I grieve over the pain of prolonged disagreements.
I pray for the unity of the church and commit myself to the ministry of love and encouragement in Jesus name. Let's stay together!
Bishop Julius Calvin Trimble
*Bishop Julius Calvin Trimble is the Resident Bishop of the Iowa Area of The United Methodist Church