District Superintendent’s Reflections on GC 2019

Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when Jesus is revealed, we will be like Christ, for we will see Jesus as he is. And all who have this hope in Jesus purify themselves, just as Christ is pure…  We know love by this, that Jesus laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?  1 John 3:2-3, 16-17  NRSV

General Conference 2019 will go down in history- unfortunately not for what we want to be known for and not for what our local churches and ministries are known for around the Globe.  As the Body of Christ known as the United Methodist Church we are clergy and lay; liberal, centrist and conservative; black, brown, and white; living on many continents; seeking to walk and to live as Jesus walked.

We are made up of humans seeking to witness to our faith formed by our understanding of scripture and empowered by our relationship with God.  We don’t agree on all of our interpretations, but that doesn’t make some of us evil, or open targets of another’s anger.   

Jesus knew very well the challenges that we would face when he prayed for us before he was crucified.  Today, our hearts break because we want to love and care for everyone!  Instead, we have caused harm and wounded each other.  We have forgotten in the words that we have chosen that we are all, no matter our understanding of scripture, children of God.    

Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.  1 John 3:18 NRSV

As General Conference 2019, came to a close, there were no shouts of joy or exclamations of a great win. An overwhelming hush overcame us all—the one who wanted to rejoice knew that his/her brothers and sisters were weeping-  We are a compassionate people.  Then the LGBTQIA community, relatives, friends and supporters began singing.  We took a break and allowed time for the pain of loss to be expressed. The delegates attended to their final business. Then my daughter, Lisa, showed me a live video feed of what was happening outside the dome, in the gathering space.  Persons who had attended to support the LGBTQIA community were in the lobby- still singing and worshipping God! 

What is your reaction when tough stuff comes your way?  Once the Conference came to a close, Lisa and I went to see what was happening in the lobby.  We had the honor of watching Bishop Karen Oliveto share these words in a chant with her hurting brothers and sisters of faith, “…We must go, where the people are most hurting, aware of our own privilege, so that, we might let rivers of justice flow! So, let them flow.  Remember your baptism! You are God’s beloved! You are never beyond the grace of God…”

I promised the District that I would share the places where I saw hope at General Conference 2019.  This was my highlight and a piece that we can use to guide our lives.  When we feel that the challenges of this world have beaten us, we can hide, cry, rebel or we can worship the amazing God who has called us, baptized us and redeemed us through the blood of Jesus.

I don’t know what the coming years will bring for the United Methodist Church that we have grown up with and love.  Must we divide our energies so that we walk with likeminded people?  Or will God lead us into a place where we can agree to disagree while still allowing all of God’s children to use the gifts they were created to use in the place of ministry that has been prepared for them to serve?  Only time will tell-

For the moment, I pray that you can hear the words of Bishop Karen Oliveto being shared with you, “Remember your baptism!  You are God’s beloved!  You are never beyond the grace of God.”  I don’t know about you, but more than once in my life I have felt that lost- sometimes because of my own words of imperfection that sound in my head and at other times because of hurtful words or expectations of others that I did not live up to.  Where ever you find yourself, know that you are loved and as the Church, the Body of Christ in the World, there is still much work to be done.  Because of the ways we seek to live, today, may the river of justice move through our lives and into our community and world.

23 And this is God’s commandment, that we should believe in the name of God’s Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as Jesus has commanded us.24All who obey Jesus’s commandments abide in Christ, and Christ abides in them. And by this we know that Christ abides in us, by the Spirit that God has given us.  1 John 3:23-24

Remember your baptism and be faithful!

Grace and Peace,
Anita K. Hahn