“How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity.” -Psalm 133:1
The Common English Bible heading for Psalm 133 is “The blessedness of unity.” In this moment in history amidst pandemic, social, and economic disruption, what is your vision for unity? As we navigate virtual and hybrid Annual Conference gatherings of United Methodists, testing uncharted waters with the same faith of our foremothers and forefathers, may we never lose our appetite for the blessedness of unity.
I love Annual Conference meetings because of the symbolism and certainty of our connection one with another. For me, it still represents one of my important family reunions.
We as United Methodists have declared a Christian commitment to mutual relational responsibility rooted in the love of God and neighbor.
¶219 in the Book of Discipline says, “Faithful discipleship includes the obligation to participate in the corporate life of the congregation with fellow members of the body of Christ. A member is bound in sacred covenant to shoulder the burdens, share the risks, and celebrate the joys of fellow members. A Christian is called to speak the truth in love, always ready to confront conflict in the spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation.”
I remain not only hopeful but deeply in love with a unity that is found in Jesus Christ in community with you, the people of God. Our doctrinal heritage inspires our current efforts to not withdraw from our primary mission of making disciples of Jesus and transforming the world.
The last two paragraphs in ¶102 in our Book of Discipline say,
“Our heritage in doctrine and our present theological task focus upon a renewed grasp of the sovereignty of God and of God’s love in Christ amid the continuing crises of human existence.
Our forebears in the faith reaffirmed the ancient Christian message found in the apostolic witness even as they applied it anew in their circumstances.
Their preaching and teaching were grounded in Scripture, informed by Christian tradition, enlivened in experience, and tested by reason.
Their labors inspire and inform our attempts to convey the saving gospel to our world with its needs and aspirations.”
Beloved United Methodist of Indiana, these are difficult times, and the strength found in unity of spirit and purpose should not be undervalued. Thank you for doing all within your power to balance social distancing and abundance of caution with caring for those we cannot quickly gather with as we have done in the past. Thank you for your voices of compassion and justice amidst pain and indifference.
I won’t be sharing hugs, high fives, or fist bumps at Annual Conference this year. But my love for you, my love for Jesus, my love for children and justice, and encouraging hope and joy have not diminished. Thanks be to God.
Bishop Julius C. Trimble
Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church