From the Bishop

General Conference is upcoming next month. With it will come lots of decisions about the future of our United Methodist Church. Our two Annual Conferences here in Indiana are upcoming, and those conferences will be making decisions about many issues including Imagine Indiana. The North Central Jurisdictional Conference upcoming in July will be electing a new bishop, following which its Committee on Episcopacy will assign all of us bishops to our place of service for the next four years. Decision, decisions, decisions. How do we make such decisions?

United Methodists Conference Together

United Methodists make decisions together as a Christian community by conferring together. We pray individually; we search the Scriptures on our own for answers, but we make our final decisions only after we have had a "conference" with other Christians to discuss, debate, disagree and finally decide together. We decide together, together with other Christians and together with God's Spirit.

Someone recently wrote an e-mail asking an important question, "Can anyone tell us if this Imagine Indiana proposal really is God's will for us?" The only final answer to that question is this - we will know after we conference about it, talk about it, pray about it and then vote. We United Methodists really believe that the vote of the whole body (through its elected representatives) is how we know God's will. Can a whole conference be wrong? Or course, we are human, and we can fail to discern God's will.

However, I still believe that a conference will make the right decisions over a period of time. That happened with our decisions to outlaw slavery. It happened again when a whole series of conferences changed the rules to allow women to be ordained. No one gathering of any one conference, even General Conference, makes perfect decisions. Over the long run, however, I trust that God's Spirit guides and directs the church to make the right decisions.

Questions from the Confirmation Rally youth

The recent Confirmation Rally on March 1 was another great success with more than 400 youth and their adult leaders present at Zionsville. As a part of that Rally, the youth wrote out questions for me to answer. Some were about me and my preferences such as what kind of ice cream do you like? Others were poignant questions about faith like does God love me even when I fail?

Several questions dealt with the church, wondering how the church works and how the church makes decisions. A few of those questions seemed to presume that the Bishop makes all of the decisions! I am glad that is not the case. I trust the church, through its conferencing, to make good decisions over time. Do I sometimes disagree with the decisions of any of our conferences? Yes, but I also have seen how God moves and works and directs us through our times of conferencing together.

Keep on praying

The best way to be sure that any Conference or any church meeting makes the right decisions is for us to keep on praying. It is prayer which helps us to move beyond our preferences to find God's purposes. It is prayer which leads us from individualism to the ideals of God as revealed in Scripture. It is prayer which gives us the momentum to be generous rather than selfish in our approach to life. How can we make the best decisions? Keep together and keep praying.

Bishop Michael J. Coyner
Indiana Area of
The United Methodist Church
"Making a Difference in Indiana and around the world"