“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without shape or form, it was dark over the deep sea, and God’s wind swept over the waters — God said, "Let there be light." And so light appeared. God saw how good the light was. God separated the light from the darkness. God named the light Day and the darkness Night. There was evening and there was morning: the first day.” Genesis 1:1-5 (CEB)
“Then God said, "Let us make humanity in our image to resemble us so that they may take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and all the crawling things on earth." Genesis 1:26 (CEB)
Brothers and Sisters,
Throughout this summer I have connected with family and neighbors in ways that have made my heart sing. I have heard sermons from pastors serving our churches, as well as reports from our Conference Superintendents regarding the transition of pastors and the clear and compelling message of the Gospel being preached.
In this season, I am “leaning in” as a leader, and I count it as a joy to do so with you. In the past 45 days, I have traveled to Minneapolis, MN, and Charleston, SC to attend family reunions. While these travels have brought joy and refreshment to my soul, I cannot ignore the fact that both of these world-class cities have experienced heightened racial tensions due to police shootings of black men and strained police/community relations.
And let us not forget the atrocity of the Charleston church massacre where nine members of Emmanuel AME Church (also known as Mother Emmanuel) were shot and killed by self-avowed white supremacist Dylan Roof, during a bible study held June 17, 2015.
During our time in South Carolina, we toured the McCloud Plantation. The tour highlighted many stories of wealth development from sea cotton and the African slave trade. Our history in North America is both complex and compelling with stories of brown and black people often distorted or buried under the historical and socioeconomic realities of white privilege.
For me, the recent visit to this beautiful plantation was a vivid reminder of the blood, sweat, and tears that are the backdrop of our history. We all stand on the shoulders of men and women who came before us. Immigrants and slaves, oppressors and the oppressed; the diversity of humanity — each of us with stories worthy of consideration as we resist the temptation to equate differences with deficiency.
Beloved of Indiana, we have a major problem that we must address: As John Wesley proclaimed and recorded, the practice of the Holy life and the transformation of society means that inward holiness must manifest in outward holiness.
Outward holiness is more than works of mercy and acts of kindness. The love of God we received is the essence of Christianity. Wesley believed that Love was, “the never failing remedy for all the evils of a disordered world, for all the miseries and vices of the human race” (sermon on Laying the Foundation of New Chapel, 1777).
Created in the image of God, we are to live in harmony with both God and our neighbors. I believe that we are living below our God-given potential when we fail to acknowledge and oppose the presence of white supremacist rhetoric and groups.
We also fail to live up to our Kingdom potential when we embrace, without critique, an “America First“ rhetoric and worldview.
We must ask ourselves, “What do you hear when our President says ‘Make America Great Again.”
When was the United States of America at its greatest?
While we can acknowledge that there is a civility problem that exists in the White House we must also recognize that there is a civility problem in the Church. Currently, I am reading Christine Porath’s book, Mastering Civility. In the book, she reminds readers, “that if you are excessively focused on yourself, you're going to be that much less concerned about the effects of your behavior on others.”
In a 2016 Civility in America survey, 95 percent of respondents believed we have a civility problem in America, 70 percent believed incivility has reached crisis proportions. I believe that incivility continues to rise from both ignorance and malice.
I also believe that we have a responsibility, beginning today, by promoting a commitment to Christian civility demonstrated through positive gestures and a consistent communication of respect, dignity, courtesy, and kindness that lifts up instead of tears down.
As a bishop of The United Methodist Church, I call on all leaders (lay and clergy) to speak out against injustice, to name inequality, and to tackle our incivility head on through preaching, teaching, acts of kindness, and by offering light and hope to the world.
We are called to prophetically embody the goodness and selflessness of Christ and strive to become the change we wish to see across the world.
As United Methodists, we are called to be leaders in our homes, workplaces, communities, and especially our churches. To do this we need to remind ourselves of the Lord’s Prayer, our Wesleyan heritage, and the Gospel message to Do Justice, Love Mercy, and Walk Humbly with our Godwho sees us all and can teach us to live without fear of our neighbors.
The Gospel message is LOVE. Love unites and strengthens us all to be who we were created to be.
My prayer is that we will engage in prayer, critical community-building conversations and activities, relationship building, and on occasion, protest against those things antithetical to the Gospel of Love. And I pray that we will be shaped by God’s Heart.
Bishop Julius C. Trimble
As you seek ways to engage your mission field in conversation and learning here are some resources that will help move us forward:
Our Indiana Conference Guidelines on Christian Conferencing were developed to help us dialogue with each other and to remember that we can respect, pray, listen, and work to understand each other even though we may disagree.