FROM THE BISHOP
JAMES R. KING, JR.
Hello Beautiful People of South Georgia!
We are blessed to live in a society with so many new devices and mechanisms in place to aid us in communicating with each other faster, more economically and more easily. Unfortunately, the ability to communicate globally as well as locally does not mean the world has become kinder and more loving. In fact, there are too many places where the walls have grown taller and differences isolate rather than unite the human family.
Communication is the means by which we build foundations for connecting and building bridges of love and support. New phones, email systems and iPads are terrific, but they do not guarantee we will communicate love.
The same can be said about the church. Our structures are created to enhance ministry and help grow a Christlike world but structures in and of themselves cannot grow a world that looks like Jesus Christ. Growing a Christlike world is a spiritual matter. If the structure gets better and the heart remains unaltered, then things basically remain the same even when devices and new structures suggest we are making progress.
Every four years The United Methodist Church has a General Conference to consider legislation that will amend the law of the church, as well as identify a programmatic emphasis that will enhance the mission of the church. During the last four years some leaders in the church have emphasized various ways to address the membership decline and unsustainable budgets by focusing on restructuring as a solution to our problems. Highlighting the fruitfulness of vital congregations was also identified as the key to impact the negative data regarding membership decline.
The 2012 General Conference left many frustrated and some disheartened because proposed structural changes were deemed unconstitutional. Nonetheless, several changes were made that serve as indicators that we are making adjustments to shift the emphasis to become more efficient and productive as a denomination. For example, boards and agencies reduced budgets and membership size to shift funds to more needed areas. With these adjustments annual conference apportionments will also be reduced. Many other legislative changes serve as markers for change. But again the area that received the most money for structural change over the last four years appeared for many to have been a waste of time.
We cannot expect structural changes to satisfy the spiritual issues. I am not suggesting that structural change is of little importance in helping our systems to be more efficient in facilitating the work of the church and in helping us to become better stewards of our resources. The point I am making is this: no structure can force us to love one another. No structure can break down the divides among us and no structure can heal cultural strongholds.
Let me encourage you to keep focused on what is of utmost importance and that is the mission of the church to make disciples of Jesus Christ. We need to love one another, teach the values of faith and build a common foundation for Christlikeness. “So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest-time, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9
It much more difficult to live by faith, so do not be deceived that our way to a Christlike world will come through physical devices and new structures. Stay focused on your disciple plan to follow Jesus.
Until next time, remember – God’s will for us is good. We must do the rest.
James R. King, Jr.