More from Bishop Park on the recent General Conference

. 3 min read

March 8, 2019
God is our refuge and
strength, an ever-present help in trouble…

“Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
 I will be exalted in the earth.” The Lord Almighty is
with us…

(Psalm 46:1; 10-11)

Dear Sisters and Brothers on the Journey Together,

Grace to you in the name of Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace, Healer of our
Brokenness and Hope of the World!

In anticipation of the pending decisions by the Judicial Council on the
legislations adopted at the Special Session of the General Conference
2019 that will be announced at the end of April, the district meetings
that were scheduled in March and April are being moved to hold a
conference wide event on Sunday, May 5, 2019 from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm. It
will be live streamed to many locations throughout the conference. The
event is open to all clergy and laity of the Susquehanna Conference.
Please reserve the date. More detailed information will be forthcoming.
The purpose of the gathering will be to understand and clarify:

  • The
    legislations of the Special Session of the General Conference 2019
    in light of the decisions made by the Judicial Council
  • How
    we navigate through the denominational challenge
  • How
    we build up the conference vision of embodying the Beloved Community
    of disciple-making congregations
We have
heard numerous reactions to and reflections on the 2019 Special Session
of General Conference that has maintained the current language of the
Book of Discipline about homosexuality, same gender marriage, and the
ordination of practicing homosexuals with added accountability of
imposing penalties for violation. As emotions are raw and high with deep
wounds and pain, people in different communities and circles are
assessing where our church is and where it is to go from here. Many are
looking beyond the Judicial Council decisions at the end of April, beyond
January 1, 2020, the effective date of the new laws, and beyond the 2020
General Conference in May. Speculations on the denominational future are
rampant and diverse with a sense of urgency and inevitability. Nobody
knows for sure what The United Methodist Church will be like beyond the
2020 General Conference. Our church will not be the same.

Under the circumstances, I am hearing that numerous people, particularly
LGBTQ persons and their loved ones, families and friends are expressing
their hurt and despair by saying, “We no longer have a place in The
United Methodist Church. We are leaving now.” It breaks my heart. Jesus

I would like to plead with all God’s people of the Susquehanna Conference
to stay on. The mission of bringing people to Jesus and transforming the
world is alive! The ministry of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked,
healing the sick, and caring for the impoverished, underprivileged and
marginalized is ongoing. The witness of justice and peace and
reconciliation is an unfinished agenda. Even at this moment, countless
lives are being served and impacted in our communities and around the
world with God’s love and in the name of Jesus Christ through The United
Methodist Church each day. Many people in hurting and broken places of
oppression and abuse find hope through the ministry of our connectional
church. The United Methodist Church is not a perfect church. Far from it
in many aspects. However, in spite of its limitations, God is using our
church as God’s instrument for God’s redeeming work in the world.

At the Bishop’s Retreat held in January, our guest speaker, Rev. Fred
Day, General Secretary of the General Commission on Archives and History,
shared with us some historical perspectives on the journey of The United
Methodist Church. For him, the most significant word in the journey of God’s
people was not faith or hope or love; it was “through”.  He talked
about “the power of through”.  God was with God’s people and enabled
them to go “through” the wilderness to reach the promised land. Jesus the
Christ went “through” the cross to the resurrection. The United Methodist
Church represents the former denominations which demonstrated the “power
of through” during the most challenging wilderness time in the past. It
is in the DNA of our church. Why not this time? I hope and pray that the
spirit of “through” prevails for such a time as this.

While our church as a denomination has been in a long and fierce struggle
over the question of human sexuality, you have been faithful all along in
fulfilling the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the
transformation of the world. By God’s grace, you manifested and
demonstrated the spirit and power of through in such remarkable ways.

I remember my first Susquehanna Annual Conference about six and a half
years ago met under the theme: “Alive in Christ Together…On a Journey of
Faith.” God’s people, keep the faith. Please stay on. The journey
continues. “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” throughout the journey of God’s
people. God will never ever leave us alone. God has a plan and a future
for our church.

Before us, not behind us, is the most critical task in our life time as a
denomination. This is the time for our church to stand still to know who
our God is. I know that The United Methodist Church is in a labor pain.
With a sense of dawn breaking, I plead with you to stay on. Our God is up
to something new.

With You On the Journey,

Jeremiah Park