November 13, 2018

From Around The UMC...

Input, articles, and material from our United Methodist leaders and Congregations
http://bishop.michiganumc.org/blog/ Monthly Words from Bishop Bard
http://news.michiganumc.org/2017/11/bishops-pastoral-letter/
Bishop's response and insight re. the Church shooting at the Sutherland Springs Texas First Baptist Church.  www.umc.org/what-we-believe/united-methodist-now-inspiration-for-daily-living 
 

Copper Country Flood Recovery     From MIConnect for October 10, 2018

                                          By Kay DeMoss, Senior Content Editor

The Rev. Paul Perez, Associate Director for Mission and Ministry for the Michigan Conference announces the hiring of two UMCOR Disaster Case Managers to serve the Flood Recovery Project–Copper Country.

Marci Vivian and Dennis Leopold have received training and are now preparing to aid residents in the Keweenaw Peninsula affected by the torrential rains overnight June 17, 2018, causing the “Fathers’ Day Flood.” Assisting with their training along with Perez were Christy Smith, UMCOR staff; Dan O’Malley, Michigan Conference Disaster Coordinator; Katie Vokal and Anne Wortley, Disaster Case Managers for the Flood Recovery Project in Midland.

A grant from the United Methodist Committee on Relief will keep Marci and Dennis at work for the next 12 months. Their office is located in the Portage Health Foundation: 400 Quincy Street, Suite 405, Hancock, MI 49930. Contact them by phone at (906)231-6856; email dleopold@michiganumc.org and mvivian@michiganumc.org (after October 15).

Perez reports that the Portage Health Foundation “has done a tremendous job over the past four months assisting 460 residents in their recovery.” As the Portage Health foundation efforts draw to a close, the UMCOR Case Managers will pick up where PHF leaves off. “Marci and Dennis will follow up with about 150 residents who have self-identified as in need of recovery assistance,” Perez says. “They will also conduct outreach to engage additional residents working in partnership with the Keweenaw Foundation and Good Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church. The Foundation at the ELCA have funds for use in direct assistance.”

 
 
 
Denominational Crisis to Be Addressed in February 2019    
      As some of you may be aware…and to the surprise of others…The United Methodist Church for many years has struggled over issues of human sexuality and the underlying issue of how we, as United Methodists, interpret the Holy Scriptures as revealed to us by God in the Holy Bible. Resolution of these issues has eluded us, and the struggles have become more serious and divisive over time.
      For the last eight years we have faced the very real possibility that the Church could split, as increasingly focused groups within our denomination feel compelled to take action to live more faithfully, as they see ‘faithful living’ to be. Indeed, at the world-wide General Conference of our Church in 2016, schism was narrowly avoided when a motion was made asking the Bishops of the Church to take leadership and develop ‘A Way Forward.’ This motion in 2016 was first defeated and then, through parliamentary procedure, recalled and passed by a relatively few votes.
      Out of that mandate the Bishops convened a group called, ‘The Commission on a Way Forward’ that met for 30 months with the intent of proposing one or more plans that could provide a road map into the future. (See the May 2018 Tower, page 7, for more information on that process.) In May 2018, three options/plans were presented to the Bishops who chose to back one of them, ‘The One Church Plan,’ at a Special World Conference in February 2019 in St. Louis. Since then, all three plans have been published in four languages for review by the church as a whole…it is a 93-page document in its English form. A link to it can be found at http://www.umc.org/topics/general-conference-2019-special-session.
      The three plans will all be discussed and possibly amended, and hopefully voted on at the February 23- 26, 2019 conference in St. Louis. Each of them has much of goodness in them. The three plans have varying degrees of complexity in terms of implementation going forward. They all are committed to the historical and on-the-ground missions and service for Jesus Christ that are respected and valuable throughout the world. The three of them were developed by faithful, sincere people of good will, doing their best to serve God and the world through our United Methodist Church. But…there is no doubt that seeds of discontent and division have been planted, watered, weeded (or not!), and may well sow an unexpected harvest of division and reorganization.
      This is one of those times that no matter what the final decision…some group of people will be delighted, another group will be intensely unhappy and, the larger majority will be thankful that we can stop talking about it and get on with the work of being disciples of Jesus in a world that needs our love, our prayers, our energy, and our lives to shine some light in the darkest places.
      Please, please put The United Methodist Church at the top of your prayer list in these coming months. Organizations and institutions fall prey to the same sins of arrogance, self-will, and pride as do we, as individuals. Our prayers have the power to call upon the Holy Spirit to be present in the hearts of our brothers and sisters and in the corporate activities that will determine the next steps for our denomination.
Here at Trinity, we are beginning to plan for some discussions later this year and early next year to help us all understand the issues and to prepare us for an uncertain    future. In the meantime, we can all pray that God’s work be done and that we at Trinity continue to be faithful in our Jubilee Year practices of prayer, reading the Bible, and honoring our history, as we seek God’s desire for how we can best serve Jesus, here at the corner of Carpenter Avenue and E Street in Iron Mountain, Michigan. God bless us all.
 
New Wigwam at Camp Michigamme
      After many years of prayerful dreaming, plans are being finalized for a new building that will serve both the needs of our summer programs, as well as group gatherings beyond the camping season. The Camp Michigamme Trustees, with assistance from the Superiorland Emmaus Community, have agreed upon a design to be named the Agape Wigwam, located in the area of the former structure.
      In 1925, congregations from across the Marquette District joined together in making the dream of a then-needed dormitory at Camp Michigamme possible. Through its years of service, the Wigwam was used for a variety of purposes as the needs of ministry changed. Though removed in 2011, its place in the memories of camp remains.
      The new structure will be accessible directly across the drive from Grace Hall and have both restrooms and a kitchenette on its main floor. A lower level will be accessible from grade, offering space for activities during inclement weather. A wooden deck will surround the three exposed sides of the structure.
      Fundraising efforts are currently underway with more than 65% of the nearly $110,000 cost already committed. This is where your help is needed! Churches of the Northern Skies District, I am asking us to once again take part in building the Wigwam. Plan a dinner, have a car wash, take up a special offering, make individuals in your congregation aware of what is happening and the difference they can make. Do you have groups that love kids? Love the life-changing ministry Camp Michigamme represents? Does your VBS need a project close to home to support? Every gift matters as we come together in this effort.
      Camp Michigamme continues to be the spiritual heart of our district, and as we seek to engage a culture growing more distant from the good news of Jesus Christ, vital places of transformation, dedication, and renewal are ever more greatly needed.
Rev. Scott Harmon, Northern Skies Dist. Superintendent
Tom Brown, Camp Michigamme Trustees Chair
 

Books Bless Many…The goal was 1,000 new books. The order was placed for 2,631. Well done, Michigan Conference! (http://news.michiganumc.org/2018/07/book-campaign-blesses/) by Kathy Pittenger, Coordinator Children’s Initiatives, Michigan Conference

      Thank you to all who donated books and financial gifts to support childhood literacy advocacy in Michigan. Michigan Deacons, Diaconal Ministers, and Julie Bard sponsored the book collection during the 2018 Michigan Annual Conference in Traverse City. Their goal was to collect money to purchase 1,000 brand new books from Scholastic.

      With your support, we met and exceeded that goal with a total of $7,889.11, which equals 2,631 brand new books that have been ordered from Scholastic and sent to 16 churches, schools, and organizations around Michigan to be given away for free (including God’s Country Cooperative Parish in the Northern Skies, formerly Marquette, District.)

      The books were purchased through the Scholastic Literacy Partnership program. If you would like more information about how to partner with Scholastic to provide affordable, brand-new books to children in your community, contact Gayle Thompson at gathompson@scholastic.com.

You may also contact Rev. Kathy Pittenger at kpittenger@michiganumc.org for more information about Scholastic or starting a partnership with a local school.

 
Words of Encouragement from Bishop Bard   
 (Taken from http://news.michiganumc.org/2018/07/joyful-journey-july)
      The final report from the Council of Bishops, rooted in the work of the Commission on a Way Forward, was released early in July. While there are many who do not know much about this work of the Church, there are also those who have taken positions, positive and negative, on this work. There is tension and anxiety, and we can expect those to increase as the special session of General Conference, February 23-26, 2019, draws nearer. This is a significant moment and a ‘hot-topic’ issue in the life of all of us who call ourselves Methodists and followers of Jesus. Please read the words of Bishop Bard from a letter he wrote in advance of the report being issued:
      “We United Methodists are asking what unity is possible, giving our significant differences on LGBT inclusion, rooted in differences in how we read our shared authoritative Scriptures, and our theological understandings. We United Methodists are asking what it might mean to bear with one another in love at this time in our history. As we struggle together, may we do so with humility, gentleness, and patience….
“In acknowledging the inevitable increase in tension and anxiety, however, I also want to remind us that we are always more than our fears and anxieties. How often the biblical writers encouraged us to ‘be not afraid.’ I have long appreciated Parker Palmer’s reflection on that phrase. ‘Be not afraid’ does not mean we cannot have fear. Everyone has fear, and people who embrace the call to leadership often find fear abounding. Instead, the words say we do not need to be the fear we have. (Let Your Life Speak). We don’t have to be our fear and anxiety, and we certainly don’t have to let our fears and anxieties lead us toward increasing anger, over-heated rhetoric, or nastiness….
      “I would invite you, then, as this report is released, to read it carefully. Reflect on it thoughtfully and prayerfully. I think that reflective, thoughtful reading of the report will help us all see that the plans discussed are not simply recycled ideas from the past. The One Church Model is not simply the ‘local option’ that we have seen before. For one, it is crucial to remember that all this work has been done through a 32-member commission comprised of United Methodists of very different perspectives from around the world. The One Church Model also contains elements that have never been proposed before.
      “The Traditionalist Model is more than the status quo. While it retains the current language of The Book of Discipline LGBT persons, it would both offer more stringent enforcement of those provisions and a path out of The United Methodist Church for pastors, churches, or perhaps conferences that find those statements and provisions not in keeping with their understanding of the gospel.
      “While complex, the Connectional Conferences Model deserves a careful review simply because of its complexity.  I invite and encourage us to reflect on the text from the first few verses of Ephesians 4. Lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love. The decisions we make in 2019 and at the next session of General Conference in 2020 matter. So, too, will the way we conduct ourselves. Will those watching how we are together in these sessions be able to find humility, gentleness, patience, and bearing with one another in love? The writer of Ephesians goes on to say that we should be ‘making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.’
      “Allow me to mention here that I will be traveling throughout the conference in the fall to discuss this report. Here is the current schedule, with more information to follow: September 25: Hope UMC Connections Campus, Marquette, 7 p.m. EST
      “Finally, while this report and the upcoming General Conference deserve your careful attention, they should not demand all your attention. Do not lose focus on the ministry to which we are called by God through Jesus Christ – sharing the good news of the gospel, inviting people to faith in Jesus Christ, feeding the hungry, caring about those who are poor, offering healing to a hurting world, doing justice, fostering peace and reconciliation. We cannot put a pause on our ministry. The world needs the good news we have to share, the lonely need a friend, the hungry need some food, those on the margins need to be included, unjust systems and practices need to be called into account and changed all in the name and spirit of Jesus. Even in this time of uncertainty and anxiety, may we work together to help each other live lives worthy of the calling to which we have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.”       Bishop Bard

 

History of Methodists in America and Michigan

May and June have been history months for us as we continue through our Jubilee Year. Knowing and honoring our past helps us to move more bravely into the future. Here are some tidbits of information about Methodists around the world, in America, in the UP, and in Iron Mountain!

l1861-65 Even Abraham Lincoln, who frequently spoke of Christian principles, but had no specific church ties, was touched by Methodism. His parents were married by a Methodist minister in Washington County, Kentucky. Later, at Lincoln’s White House, a frequent visitor was Methodist Bishop Matthew Simpson. After Lincoln’s assassination in 1865, Simpson traveled with the president’s body back to Springfield, Illinois & delivered the eulogy.

The presence of a Methodist bishop for Lincoln’s funeral was no surprise, given his respect for the Methodist Church. In 1864, shortly before his death, Lincoln offered this praise for the young denomination: “It is no fault in others that the Methodist Church sends more soldiers to the field, more nurses to the hospitals, & more prayers to Heaven than any. God bless the Methodist Church. Bless all the churches & blessed be God, who in this our trial, giveth us the churches.”

lActs 2 Like all Christian churches, our beginning is described in Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit of God, as promised by Jesus, came from heaven like the wind, with tongues of fire.

lUpper Peninsula—1832: Methodism came to the UP in 1832 through the New York Conference, as a mission to the Native peoples.

l1887: The Central (English) Methodist Episcopal Church began. A year later, the Church building on B St. was built in Iron Mountain.

l1890: The Swedish Methodist Episcopal Church was started in the schoolhouse at 108 Fifth St.

l1907: Construction for Swedish Methodist Episcopal Church began at the corner of Brown St. & Carpenter Ave.

l1908: The Swedish Methodist Episcopal Church was renamed: Wesley Methodist Church

l1944: Central (English) Methodist Church burned down. Wesley Church invited Central to worship with them at their Church building on Brown St.

Rising from the Ashes

lSeptember 1944: A new church was born, Trinity Methodist Church, through the merging of Wesley and Central Churches.

l1952: Construction of a new church was discussed, debated, & voted on: 47 in favor, 7 opposed. Cornerstone was laid in 1953.

lFebruary 7, 1954: The opening worship service was held on the corner Carpenter Ave. & E St.


2018 Michigan Conference Information

History just waiting to happen January 1, 2019, New structure is in place:    
Numbers at the 2018 Conference
· The Detroit Annual Conference and the West Michigan Conference will dissolve while the New Michigan Conference begins.   
· The Marquette District will dissolve, while the new Northern Skies District begins.

  • 1,795 clergy and laity attended
  • $14,825,633 Budget for 2019 ($222,242 less than 2018)
  • $22,240 Haiti Hot Lunch offerings received
  • $21,530 Bishop Craig Children’s Village offerings received
  • $4,706 for Puerto Rico Disaster Relief received
  • 1,774 books, Literacy Program. The goal was 1,000 books to be distributed throughout all the Districts in Michigan.

Church Growth Goals in Michigan   In recent years, there has been an emphasis in Michigan for starting new churches to spread the Good News of Jesus. Goals have been set in the Michigan Conference to further this work that Jesus calls us to.

FFrom 2016 to 2020—
· establish 13 new churches with average weekly worship greater than 100
· establish 130 new faith communities with 50 to 100 average weekly worship
· establish 1,300 small groups specifically designed for people who do not currently go to church. Five to 20 people
   Seems super ambitious, doesn’t it? But with God…all things are possible. The Office of Congregational Vibrancy has a plan. The whole Vital Church Initiative project emerged out of that office. See page two of this Tower to learn more about Healthy Congregations workshops that are being offered here in Iron Mountain in September. We/Trinity are already included in the Conference project to grow disciples for Jesus Christ and to share God’s love in our own neighborhoods. You are part of that bigger picture!

5K Run/Walk at 2018 Conference UP Victory! Rev. Ryan Edwardson of Escanaba First UMC and Menominee UMC won first place. Go, Ryan!

Finance Information from Annual Conference

  • Apportionments are now going to be called Ministry Shares
  • Trinity is part of the 63% of DAC churches who paid 100% of apportionments in 2017
  • For the entire state of Michigan—71 churches paid $0 (9% of all churches)
  • Starting January 1, 2019, Districts are going to be separately incorporated.
  • New software for Church Treasurers is being developed so they can pay Ministry shares electronically
  • New formula for Ministry Shares will have a greater impact on the western side of the state. Ministry Shares will be monitored so as to avoid excessive swings one way or another.
  • Health insurance premiums will be tentative by July 1…increases for single people will be mitigated over four or five years so as to avoid the sticker shock. (Bridge Grant)
  • Pension apportionments/ministry shares are not expected to vary more than 5% up or down
Key Themes in Worship/Sermons/Prayers. As we considered: ‘Who is my neighbor?’
· Love creates neighbors.
· God has a mission in the world, and love is at the heart of that mission.
· God will never run out of love…
· We are the recipients and the bearers of God’s great love
· Trust that God will do something special…because you are here.
· Be ready for God to show up.
· Love means being deeply committed to the well-being of others.
· Even when the worst possible tragedy happens…God will still be calling us to love each other and our neighbors
· No matter where you are from or what you do or how you practice your religion…we all love alike and we all care alike.
· Your comfort zone just might be a problem for God’s mission in the world. 
 
*About the Commission on a Way Forward    from the Council of Bishops    Feb. 2018 article

The 32-member Commission on a Way Forward was appointed by the Council of Bishops to assist the bishops in their charge from the 2016 General Conference to lead the church forward amid the present impasse related to LGBTQ inclusion and resulting questions about the unity of the church.

For more information on the Commission on a Way Forward, visit umc.org/wayforward

DALLAS - What is Christ’s way forward for doing mission and ministry in the worldwide United Methodist Church? That is the question bishops pondered during their February meeting in Dallas as they received an updated report from the Commission on a Way Forward.

In the report given to the Council, the Commission shared with the bishops two sketches that carry forward many of the values and principles of the three sketches that were presented to the bishops at their meeting in November .

“The sketches of these two models represent the values, concerns, and feedback we have received since we reported to the Council in November. The two sketches provide avenues for unity, contextualization, and mission,” said Bishop Ken Carter, one of the moderators of the Commission.

The bishops offered feedback, but did not vote on the two revised sketches, instead asking the Commission to continue working to prepare a final report to be presented to the bishops at their April/May meeting.

Summary of the sketches of the models

Here is a summary of the two sketches in process. Details may change based on the work of the Commission at its next meeting.

ONE CHURCH MODEL   The One Church Model gives churches the room they need to maximize the presence of United Methodist witness in as many places in the world as possible. The One Church Model provides a generous unity that gives conferences, churches, and pastors the flexibility to uniquely reach their missional context in relation to human sexuality without changing the connectional nature of The United Methodist Church.

MULTI-BRANCH: ONE CHURCH MODEL   This model is grounded in a unified core that includes shared doctrine and services and one Council of Bishops, while also creating different branches that have clearly-defined values such as accountability, contextualization, and justice. The five U.S. jurisdictions would be replaced by three connectional conferences, each covering the whole country, based on theology and perspective on LGBTQ ministry (i.e. progressive, contextual, traditional branches). Annual conferences would decide which connectional conference to affiliate with; only local churches who choose a branch other than the one chosen by their annual conference would vote to join another conference.

During the meeting in Dallas, the bishops also heard reports on the impact of both models on pension benefits, the connection, central conferences, and fiscal responsibilities.

Council President Bishop Bruce Ough noted that the process of seeking a way forward was grounded in three major values:
1. A renewed attention to our public mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, especially with those who are not yet a part of our churches.

2. A focus on contextuality in a global church, and our continuing call to learn from each other, listen to each other.
3. Continuing to work with traditional, contextual, and progressive values that are present in two models, one that is more aligned with a contextual church with the removed language about human sexuality, a second which differentiates between these values as different branches of one church.

At the close of the meeting, the Council of Bishops offered condolences to the family of the Rev. Dr. Billy Graham, the noted evangelist, who passed away recently.

The Commission on a Way Forward will meet in Los Angeles in a few weeks and then give its final report to the Council of Bishops at the April/May meeting in Chicago.

 
 

World Wide UMC News:    New United Methodist hymnal to be offered.

The United Methodist Publishing House and Discipleship Ministries (the General Board of Discipleship) announced that their respective boards have endorsed legislation that was submitted to the 2016 General Conference of The United Methodist Church that, if approved, would begin the process of developing a new official hymnal and provide for ongoing revision of the hymnal in the future. A new hymnal collection will be offered to the 2020 General Conference for approval and be available to congregations and communities of faith upon final approval.

“The hymnal has been a vital tool in carrying the theology of The United Methodist Church for generations,” said the Rev. Tim Bias, General Secretary of Discipleship Ministries. “That function remains important for a new, relevant, and widely-used version of The United Methodist Hymnal.”

As proposed, this revision of The United Methodist Hymnal would use the latest digital technology to resource faith communities and individuals who seek to worship God in ways that transform lives and change the world.

“The proposal will enable The United Methodist Church to use cloud technology to periodically curate a very large collection of music and worship resources in ways that can be customized to meet the needs of different contexts,” according to the Rev. Brian K. Milford, Book Editor of The United Methodist Church and Chief Content Officer of The United Methodist Publishing House.

Part of the collection would be uniform across all versions. Another part would contain additional hymns, songs, and worship resources that could be selected based on the preferences of the congregation or user. The official hymnal collection requires General Conference approval.

“This is a new way forward,” says Milford. “We are excited about delivering new formats in new ways that help congregations engage their people in vibrant worship.”

Discipleship Ministries will have primary responsibility for the content of the new resource through the Hymnal Revision Committee, and The United Methodist Publishing House will oversee the development, production, and distribution of the resources.  
 
 

‘A Joyful Journey’    February, 2018     Bishop David Bard shares a Lenten love story

       Let me begin by thanking so many of you who have written me about my invitation to pray this week for our United Methodist Church and the work of the Commission on the Way Forward. Thank you for your encouraging words and for your commitment to be in prayer.

       A funny thing is happening this year. Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent in the Church, falls this year on February 14, Valentine’s Day, our cultural celebration of love. Will there be romantic candle light dinners, followed by worship where we are reminded that we are dust and to dust we shall return? If you are giving up chocolate for Lent, what do you do with the heart-shaped box that arrives February 14? Do you imagine two people, ashen crosses on their foreheads, exchanging brightly colored cards?

Digging a bit more deeply, though, the coinciding celebration of Lent and of love could be seen as a wonderful serendipity. Lent, after all, is not simply a reminder of our mortality or of our penchant for messing life up, or of our tendency to sin. Lent is meant to be a time to re-focus on what is most important. It is meant to be a time of reflection and renewal, a time to re-energize our lives through a deeper connection with the God we know in Jesus Christ. It is to seek to have our lives more fully transformed by the grace of God in Jesus.

What does that look like? John Wesley thought it looked like love. Wesley defined the heart of Christian faith as love of God and neighbor. Wesley’s notion of Christian perfection was being made perfect in love. Let me share a love story that has a lot to do with Lent.

A few weeks ago, my wife Julie and I drove to Mount Pleasant for their first morning worship service. As a bishop, one of my joys is sharing worship with you in many different places. It was a sunny, but cold morning. As we came into the entry way of the church, I could not help but notice a woman and her two young children, a boy and a girl, sitting there. I also could not help but notice that she had a wire cart filled with a number of possessions. I wondered briefly if she had shown up waiting to talk to someone about getting help. I wondered briefly if I might be asked for money. My brief wondering was quickly interrupted when the little girl, bundled in her warm hat and coat, came up to me and gave me a big hug. I was deeply touched and I thanked her for her kind greeting. Others arrived in the entry way, and we moved forward into the church.

During the morning worship I heard that the church had been home that weekend for some homeless persons and families. A number of congregations in the community take turns providing shelter for people without places. These guests had stayed the night at the church, and were being transported that morning to another location where they could spend the day. I am sure the little girl who hugged me had spent the night at the church and she and her mother and brother were waiting in that entry way for their ride to a day shelter.

Perhaps the little girl was able to share love in a hug because love had been shared with her through the church. Loving others in the name of Jesus, loving because we know we are loved wildly and deeply by God – Lent is a time to know that love of God more profoundly and to grow in sharing that love more widely and wildly. I invite you to a holy, and wholly loving, Lent.                            Bishop David Bard

 

‘The Joyful Journey’—from our Bishop   December

As I write this, the office is officially closed, but I am here finishing up some of the work that I want to get done before the New Year begins. In the quiet, I pause for a few moments, tracing the path on my desktop labyrinth. I take time to reflect, the peacefulness feeling a bit like the quiet at the center of a storm.

2017 has been quite a year, a whirlwind in so many ways. It has been my first full year as your bishop. I presided at my first annual conference with you, ordained and commissioned the first persons I will ever ordain or commission. I preached at licensing school graduation. I worked with others to make staffing decisions, decisions that challenged me not because we lacked good candidates but because we are blessed with so many good leaders, and not all could be offered the positions being considered. I have met with committees, groups, and design teams. I have preached at churches across the state, spoken to groups of clergy and laity in locations far and near, celebrated with you, pondered, and prayed with you. It has been a whirlwind, and I am grateful for every moment. I have experienced this whirlwind often as the creative winds of the Spirit. I also appreciate moments such as these of finding the quiet center, also a gift of the Spirit.
 
In this moment of reflection, I think of words that crossed my desk earlier in the week. Love is the soul of leadership. Love is what sustains people along the arduous journey to the summit of any mountain. Love is the source of the leader’s courage. Leaders are in love: in love with leading, in love with their organization’s products and services, and in love with people. (James Kouzes and Barry Posner, The Truth About Leadership, 138-139) This past year has been a year of deepening love – love for the Michigan Area, our churches, and our people; love for our identified vision as a conference: to be Christ-centered, engaging in mission and ministry, developing and encouraging bold and effective leaders, and nurturing and growing vibrant congregations. I love that our vision serves an even larger vision, the vision God has for a newer world.
 
God’s creating, redeeming, and sustaining work, as we understand it in Jesus Christ, is the transformation of human lives and the world in love. The Psalmist glimpsed this newer world when he wrote, “Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other”(Psalm 85:10). The word for righteousness includes, and could even be translated, “justice,” and the word translated “peace” is “shalom,” that wonderfully encompassing word with its deep echoes of well-being, joy, and delight.
 
John Wesley glimpsed this newer world in his sermon “Scriptural Christianity.” What will the world look like when God’s transformative work is complete? All is peace…. Here is no din of arms… wars are ceased from the earth… Civil discord is at an end forever…. Here is no oppression… no extortion to grind the face of the poor; no robbery or wrong… or injustice…. No unkind word can ever be heard among them, no strife of tongues, no contention of any kind.
 
Such a world seems so distant, yet in God’s grace we in our work contribute to this newer world. The theologian Nicholas Wolterstorff put it beautifully: In the eschatological image of the city, we have the assurance that our efforts to make these present cities of ours humane places in which to live – efforts which are so often frustrated, efforts which so often lead to despair – will, by way of the mysterious patterns of history, eventually provide tiles and timbers for a city of delight. (Until Justice and Peace Embrace, 140)
 
What we are about together here in the Michigan Area is this transforming work of God, this work of new lives and a new world. It is the work of love, and I love it, and I am privileged to do it with people I love.
Thank you for the year gone by. Thank you for the work ahead.


With You on an Amazing Adventure and This Joyful Journey,

David Alan Bard
Michigan Area Bishop