I love the season of autumn. The colors, the sunrise, the retrieval of sweaters and jackets for the brisk mornings and cool evenings. It is a time of shortened daylight and increased meetings. Autumn is also a time where we focus on church stewardship and preparing for the winter season. We gather with friends to enjoy fall festivals, apple cider, church bazaars, potlucks, and football games. In autumn, we seek spiritual reflection as the year begins to wind down.
In Indiana, we turn our attention to the presence of deer on the roads as well as the predictable and colorful shedding of leaves from “deciduous trees.” The word, “deciduous” refers to a tree or shrub that sheds its leaves annually. In a broader usage, “deciduous” implies that which is not permanent or a time of transition.
In this season of transition, we recognize that for many it is a time of challenge and for some, grief. My family, like many other families, is grieving the loss of a family member as we approach Thanksgiving. My wife’s Uncle Sterling was present for our family reunion in July but will be missed this holiday and in future gatherings. His death after a progressive illness does not erase the memories of a life well-lived and times shared with family and friends, for which we are grateful. We celebrated his life at Friendship Baptist Chicago where he served as a Deacon for many years. As we approach Thanksgiving thinking about friends, colleagues, and family who will not gather at the table, may God bless those who have gone on before us.
As we enter into this season of waiting and wondering I find myself asking, “What is the nature of our unity and witness as the global United Methodist Church?”
In this season I want you to know I am more than a fan of Jesus Christ. I am thankful to you for the honesty and grace demonstrated as we affirm our witness of the Triune God. I am thankful for the ways that thousands of diverse people are welcomed into our churches. And I am increasingly thankful for the manner in which we are “being the Church” in healing ways to a hungry and often hurting world. I am forever thankful for words of encouragement and correction.
Most of all I am thankful for my United Methodist family which is Christ-centered at its core and is called to lead others to become disciples of Jesus Christ.
In The United Methodist Church, we are in a period of discernment that will result in a decision in 2019 as to the defining nature of our denominational unity. I am neither anxious nor worried. You will hear references to polity or doctrine, scriptural authority, contextual reality, but I still believe the Church belongs to God and God’s love creates community. One of the questions that the Church must address is, “Can we live out an adequately diversified form of the Christian community?” No matter what our organization, we must not obscure people’s view of Jesus Christ.
What is the nature of our unity and witness as a broader community of Christians? My wife and I recently returned from a trip to Africa University, a United Methodist-related institution in Zimbabwe. Our witness is strong and our unity in Christ and commitment to educational opportunities is bearing fruit in the students and graduates of this world-class institution.
Will the Church find a helpful way forward and bring resolution to the long protracted disagreements regarding polity and doctrine (what we affirm, we believe, we allow, we prohibit) regarding human sexuality?
Yes, I am back from the Council of Bishops meeting and I count it a joy to pray and worship with colleagues from across the globe. There are a lot of people represented by over 100 bishops who were in attendance. How do you paint a picture of 12,600,000 people, young and old, who call The United Methodist Church their home? A big and very diverse denomination.
I remain a “prisoner of hope” and I remain unapologetically committed to unity born out of honesty and grace, not church-mandated or human-created, but gifted to us from God through Jesus who prayed in John 17:21 that we may be one in Christ. I experience and witness unity in Indiana when we commit to pray for one another, worship together and give our lives in mission and the pursuit of being missional.
This Thanksgiving I want you to know that the saving love of God is for all people. I am thankful for honesty and grace demonstrated as we affirm our witness of the Triune God. I am thankful for all the communities in Indiana and around the world where we are being the Church.
Most of all I am thankful for you. Let the mission of making and leading people to Jesus Christ and transforming the world be our guide. We are Christ-centered at our core, and missional in our focus. The best of all is, “God is with us.”
Since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, this is the reason that I don’t stop giving thanks to God for you when I remember you in my prayers. – Ephesians 1:15-16. (CEB)
Bishop Julius C. Trimble