Last week was a series of reminders about transitions, change, and life journeys. It was also a time of being reminded that the church goes on. God is faithful. We are blessed with the "continuity" of God's leadership, care, and direction. Here is what happened:
- four bishops were retired at the North Central Jurisdictional Conference in Peoria, Illinois: Bishops John Hopkins, Jonathan Keaton, Deb Kiesey, and myself. The actual motion voting us into retirement (as of September 1st) said we are "released" from our responsibilities. I have to admit that word "released" sounded and felt pretty good.
- four new bishops were elected, including our own Frank Beard who was elected and then assigned to serve the Illinois Area (which includes the Great Rivers Conference headquartered in Springfield, Illinois). It was a great celebration, especially for our Indiana delegation and friends, and Frank will be a terrific bishop.
- the Indiana Area received news that Bishop Julius Trimble is assigned to be our new bishop, effective September 1st. Bishop Trimble was elected eight years ago, and he has been serving the Iowa Conference. He is my friend and colleague, so I am pleased to help him make this transition. Because he is an experienced bishop, he will have to learn about Indiana, but he won't have to learn how to be a bishop. This continues our usual trend in Indiana of receiving experienced bishops to serve our large and complex Area.
Other news happened last week that has many persons upset and concerned, namely that the Western Jurisdiction elected as bishop a person who is a married lesbian. For many persons this is an obvious violation of our Book of Discipline, and action was taken by the South Central Jurisdiction to ask the Judicial Council of our UMC (which is our "supreme court") to rule upon whether her election and consecration is a valid.
While I understand the many concerns I am hearing about the situation in the Western Jurisdiction, my own counsel is to wait and allow our judicial processes to deal with this case. In the meantime, God is faithful, the church goes on, and the Holy Spirit leads us through times of change and transition.
At the Installation Service for Rev. Steve Beutler as our new Superintendent of the South West District yesterday, I shared a "Word from the Bishop" and I chose the word "Continuity." We can trust in God's faithfulness (even when our own efforts seem disjointed) to lead us forward. Our "continuity" is not dependent upon human actions, but rather we can trust in God's faithfulness.
So let us congratulate Bishop Frank Beard, let us welcome Bishop Julius Trimble, and let us trust God to provide the continuity that our church needs.