One of my favorite stories from the former North Indiana Conference is about a pastor named Phil Stephens who was serving as pastor of First United Methodist Church in Marion, then was appointed to serve as a District Superintendent for six years, and then was appointed back to First UMC in Marion. His first Sunday back in Marion he began his sermon with these words: “As I was saying…”
I share Phil’s sentiment in many ways as I write this column for The Hoosier United Methodist Together after being assigned to serve my third term as Bishop of the Indiana Area. I am delighted to be back in Indiana, and I know we have much more work to do here to fulfill the Imagine Indiana Plan and to grow in grace. I am very much open to new movements and new inspirations from the Holy Spirit to guide us for these next four years. And yet I am sure that much of what we have been saying to one another still applies, so let me remind you of the Five Ways of Being United Methodists that we have been stressing and will continue to stress:
- We have one mission as United Methodists, adopted by the General Conference and by our Indiana Conference as a reflection of the biblical mandate: “Making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world;”
- Our Wesleyan theology calls us to focus upon holiness, and we believe that there are two forms of holiness: personal holiness and social holiness;
- We follow the General Rules of the Methodist societies first prepared by John Wesley and incorporate into Three Simple Rules as described by Bishop Rueben Job: “Do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God;”
- Our Wesley Quadrilateral reminds us that there are four sources of truth: Scripture, Tradition, Reason and Experience; and
- We know that Vital Congregations revolve around the Five Fruitful Practices described by Bishop Robert Schnase: Radical Hospitality, Passionate Worship, Intentional Faith Development, Risk-Taking Mission and Service, and Extravagant Hospitality.
Those five points are my best summary of what it means to be faithful United Methodists today. Here in Indiana we have been living into those five emphases in a variety of ways, and our methodology has included a pattern of “inverting the initiative” by designing the Indiana Conference to equip our local congregations for their ministry, while also providing a connection for ministry beyond the local church.
Those five points will not change. I have been talking about them for eight years, and I am sure I will keep talking about them. No one knows what changes and surprises the next four years will bring, and yet I believe it is important to address those changes and surprises from a consistent foundation of focus upon these Five Ways of Being United Methodists.
As I have been saying … and as I will continue to say … I am blessed and honored to continue to serve as your bishop.
Bishop Michael J. Coyner
Indiana Area of
The United Methodist Church
“Making a Difference in Indiana
and around the world”