“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many.” -1 Corinthians 12:12-14 (NRSV)
United Methodists are all over the world, and many of us call Indiana our home. We are “Living as those who are sent to share the life-changing love of Jesus Christ in our mission field.” We are liturgical, contemporary, charismatic, traditional. We are urban, rural, suburban, young, and old. We care deeply for the lost, the least, the lonely, the hungry, and the hurting.
We are a holy communion of different races, ethnicities, cultures, and perspectives united by the Holy Spirit, called and driven by the mission of Christ, bearing the good news of an unmerited grace that changes lives and transforms communities.
These are the words of John Wesley from the Character of a Methodist. “A Methodist is one who loves the Lord with all their heart, with all their soul, with all their mind, and with all their strength. God is the joy of the Methodist heart and the desire of his or her soul, which is continually crying, whom have I in heaven but you? You are the strength of my heart…and my portion forever.” The heart of United Methodism is love of God and neighbor.
Our mission is the main thing: To make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
Christ’s prayer in John 17:11 for our unity is an invitation for us to be one in mission and ministry and share love for one another. “We need not all think alike to love alike.” (John Wesley)
Rooted in scripture, centered in Christ, The United Methodist Church while united in essentials is not fearful of change nor the ministry of reconciliation or the challenge to adapt to a new season. COVID-19 has taught us that a pandemic cannot stop the mission, and we celebrate reaching people who previously had not come to our church buildings.
All of our members, clergy, and local churches will continue to have a home in the future United Methodist Church, whether they consider themselves centrist, liberal, evangelical, progressive, conservative, or just plain old people-loving, Bible-loving Christians. Some of us are relatively new to the Church, and some of us are lifelong United Methodists too busy singing “Lord I want to be a Christian in my heart” to sign up for a promised “Global Methodist Church” or another newly-organized church where human sexuality and local church independence is no longer a matter of disagreement.
At some point in the future, local churches will decide their desired allegiance. I pray all will be led by prayer and honest discernment, not charts and narratives about a new church that grants more independence and less connectional mission.
In this protracted season of uncertainty, I am not uncertain as to how we should treat one another. We treat one another with dignity and respect as reflected in our Christian Guidelines #10 “Allow the fruit of the Spirit to permeate our way of interacting with others: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Generosity, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control.”
Yes, we are clear about the main thing, and our vision is not clouded. We want to support and grow fruitful leaders, vibrant congregations, faithful disciples of Jesus, who are transforming the world. The United Methodist Church in Indiana will continue to be part of the UMC movement that is a Church confident in what God has done in Christ Jesus for all humankind and committed to personal and social salvation/transformation.
As we pay attention to our mission as the “main thing,” we realize it gives direction to other missional commitments:
- Helping persons grow in their Christian discipleship as we mature and multiply disciples
- Investing in Children Matter Most
- Dismantling the powers of fear, racism, and scarcity
- Living with Holy Spirit power as missional, accountable, called, baptized community connected in shared mission and ministry
May we be ever mindful that the Church exists for others. In our state of Indiana, nearly 4 million have no church home. Let us live out our mission by making disciples for Jesus Christ. The harvest is plentiful, friends. “God put everything under Christ’s feet and made him head of everything in the church, which is his body. His body, the church, is the fullness of Christ, who fills everything in every way.” -Ephesians 1:22-23 (CEB)
Bishop Julius C. Trimble
Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church