The community of believers was one in heart and mind. None of them would say, “This is mine!” about any of their possessions, but held everything in common. The apostles continued to bear powerful witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and an abundance of grace was at work among them all. There were no needy persons among them. Those who owned properties or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds from the sales, and place them in the care and under the authority of the apostles. Then it was distributed to anyone who was in need. -Acts 4:32-35 (CEB)
Dear United Methodists of Indiana,
I write you this pastoral letter after recently visiting two ministries in Indiana that have a deep investment and active support of United Methodists. Haven House and 4:34 Ministries’ sponsored “The Macy House” provide housing and support for homeless women, men and children that would otherwise be on the street as temperatures drop this fall and winter. These two ministries share a missional and relational focus that I have witnessed over recent weeks as I have traveled throughout the districts of our Indiana Conference.
These ministries are advancing the gospel in relationships that matter in real-time for people who can’t wait for our denomination to resolve our discord over human sexuality and inclusion.
Children and neighborhoods in Fort Wayne or Indianapolis being traumatized by gun violence and its psychosocial aftermath cannot wait for us to figure out as a church who we want to be. The hungry and hurting and those impacted by the opioid crisis become no less important as we navigate rough denominational waters these next six months and beyond.
As I have prayed with community workers, church leaders, advocates and those who have experienced personal crisis and the Church as a place of welcome and support, I have been once again convinced of the need for a church that puts its people in need first. Advancing the gospel should be our most pressing priority.
With recent Judicial Council rulings and numerous proposals and legislative petitions forwarded to the 2020 General Conference, here are some of my reflections and prayers:
Keeping our primary mission before us and embracing a healthy offering of Wesleyan grace will serve us well as we take seriously our General Rules to “Do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God.” Making disciples for the cause of transforming the world comes at the price of our own self-examination and commitment to lay aside words of vitriol for those with whom we disagree. As one of our younger clergy shared with me this past week, “Bishop, the number we often highlight as four million Hoosiers with no church home or religious affiliation includes thousands who have heard the gospel of Jesus, but also have been hurt by the Church or rejected by religious judgement.”
Based on recent Judicial Council rulings, I do believe conferences will proceed with providing a clear process for churches who wish to disaffiliate with The United Methodist Church for the purpose of becoming independent or aligning with a yet-to-be-determined Wesleyan/Methodist expression.
I am convinced having attended our recent Learning Day and Clergy Covenant Day at Zionsville UMC that we have not exhausted the potential benefits of deep-sustained conversation and listening as a way to deal with conflict. Many local churches and large numbers of laity have yet to have any conversation related to human sexuality and what unity amidst diversity looks like. The denominational divide is simply not the most demanding missional challenge for the vast majority of our churches.
As your Bishop, I have not been privy to nor invited to give input on any of the many proposed plans or legislation. I agreed with the majority of the Council of Bishops in favor of the One Church Plan. I am on record as being a leader who is unapologetically anti-segregationist and cannot get enthusiastic about proposals for doctrinal and organizational “separate but equal” Church models.
Here is what I know for sure:
- I will continue to promote the unity of the church, the advancement of the Gospel and our missional emphasis in Indiana.
- I will be guided by prayer, my consecration vows and my personal mission statement to encourage all people with the love of Jesus Christ to rise to their highest potential.
- I will lead as a bishop and pastor with the vision of a fully-inclusive church that puts love of God and neighbor before politics and prosecution. I will abide by our General Rules of doing no harm, doing good, and staying in love with God.
In this coming season where divisiveness could easily reign, I want to encourage each of us to consider utilizing our financial and leadership resources to continue building up one another and the Kingdom of God as we minister to the people and communities we are privileged to serve. As I said during Covenant Day, there are many things that can distract us and pull us away from the mission God has given us.
Let us stay together and remain focused on advancing the Good News of Jesus Christ, embracing ministry with the marginalized, loving people, and leaving no one behind. Let us pray that God’s will for the Church be realized and that our conflicts cease.
May we continue to be merchants of hope and instruments of God’s grace.
Bishop Julius C. Trimble
Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church