Closing Statement by Bishop Cynthia Harvey before the United Methodist Judicial Council on October 23, 2018 in Zurich Switzerland.
You have now heard all three plans. I remind us again that our work today is to help the delegates do their best work. We do not want a repeat of Tampa 2012!
I believe I can safely say that we are all asking you to help make these plans better. To throw any of them out in total would be deciding for the delegates – who are the ones to whom the legislative work is delegated. The delegates need to have legislative authority in order to do their best work.
And our best work must answer the question WHY? The WHY of the Council’s support of the One Church Plan is about the mission of the church. In Louisiana we say that we hold nothing sacred but the mission.
We have said that the One Church Plan is the best instrument we have for the church to make a way forward that is most in harmony with what the 2016 delegates asked us to do which is true.
I have said that what’s at stake are those who are yet to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ – which is true.
What I have not said and I wish not to be lost is that our support of mission around the world is at stake. As parts of the church begin to fracture, I believe our mission will also begin to fracture.
I have witnessed miles of women in Africa with babies strapped to their back waiting in the hot sun for a mosquito net or a measles vaccine. That’s at risk.
I have watched young women and men pumping fresh water out of wells in Kamina, Lumumbashi and many other places. That’s at risk.
I have witnessed children’s lives saved at Ganta Hosptial in Liberia. That’s at risk.
I have seen the work of tireless nurses and doctors at Dabou Hospital in Cote d’Ivoire making sure babies are born alive. That’s at risk!
I have rocked babies at the orphanage in Old Mutare in Zimbabwe. That’s at risk!
I have witnessed the flood waters from Monsoons in the Philippines and families fleeing for their lives.
I have experienced flood waters rise in my own town of Baton Rouge in 2016 when 6 trillion gallons of waters filled our bayous and streets in a matter of hours and in my hometown of Houston last year after Hurricane Harvey.
I have been to the Sager Brown Depot where 18 wheelers of supplies pull out of the parking lot almost every day.
Friends, this is at risk in a fractured body.
Often, I am asked, “why the One Church Plan?” and yes, it is for all the reasons having to do with human sexuality and as important as that is – there is more!
A fracture to the unity of this body will fracture the mission of the church.
We must decide – do we hold nothing sacred but the mission? Do we risk the unity of the body – the fracturing of the church we love?
I close with a reminder from our 1944 Book of Discipline from the Episcopal Greeting. To put this into a timetable for us – there is a war going on in the world. This General Conference comes before D-Day. It is after the establishment of The Methodist Church from the Methodist Episcopal Church, Methodist Episcopal Church South and the Methodist Protestant Church. The Southern church only agreed to the union after a
compromise that created a jurisdiction based exclusively on race not geography. So, things were not perfect! The episcopal greeting is significant, I believe for us today.
Episcopal Greetings – 1944
“In such a process of adjustment, the Discipline became not a book of definite rules, nor yet a formal code, but rather a record of the successive stages of spiritual insight attained by Methodists under the grace of Christ. We have therefore expected that the Discipline would be administered, not merely as a legal document, but as a revelation of the Holy Spirit working in and through our people. We reverently insist that a fundamental aim of Methodism is to make her organization an instrument for the development of spiritual life. We do not regard the machinery as sacred in life itself, but we do regard as very sacred the souls for whom the church lives and works. We do now express the faith and hope that the prayerful observance of the spiritual intent of the Discipline may be to the people called Methodists a veritable means of grace.”
May it be so. Amen.