By Bishop Tracy S. Malone
“Therefore, as a prisoner for the Lord, I encourage you to live as people worthy of the call you received from God. 2 Conduct yourselves with all humility, gentleness, and patience. Accept each other with love, 3 and make an effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties you together. 4 You are one body and one spirit, just as God also called you in one hope. 5 There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 and one God and Father of all, who is over all, through all, and in all.” Ephesians 4:1-6 (CEB)
This passage of scripture really resonates with me as I consider the faithful work we are all being called to do as United Methodists across the connection … to find our way forward through the present impasse related to human sexuality. This monumental task of maintaining and strengthening the unity of the church is all of our work to do.
One of the marks of the Christian calling is to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. The unity of the Spirit is created through our baptism and our common faith in Jesus Christ. Our unity in Christ does not exist in the absence of diversity (experience, perspective, theology or culture) but because of it. For we are all uniquely created in the image of God.
We are one body, and one spirit, just as God called us in one hope. When we “live as people worthy of the call we received from God and when we conduct ourselves with all humility, gentleness, patience and accept each other in love” … we will find our way forward and create God’s beloved community.
I encourage you to continue to pray for the work of the Commission on a Way Forward that has been named by the Council of Bishops. These persons have committed to work together on our behalf to propose a way forward toward maintaining and strengthening the unity of the Church.
I invite you to pray for our A Way Forward design team here in East Ohio as we begin our work later this month to develop a plan and process for engaging clergy and laity in meaningful dialogue across the conference. The design team is comprised of a diverse group of laity and clergy from all 10 districts:
- Bishop Tracy S. Malone
EOC A Way Forward Design Team:
- Dr. Gloria Brown, North Coast District
- Rev. Jim Cooper, Southern Hills District
- Rev. Steve Stultz Costello, Tuscarawas District
- Ms. Sandra Hodge, Firelands District
- Rev. Jared Littleton, North Coast District
- Rev. Cindy Patterson, Canal District
- Rev. Keith Peachey, Three Rivers District
- Dr. Josh Reichard, Mahoning Valley District
- Rev. Dr. Ivy Smith, Tuscarawas District
- Rev. Ashley Steele, Ohio Valley District
- Rev. Dr. Valerie Stultz, Mid-Ohio District
- Rev. Scott Wilson, Western Reserve District
- Rev. Gail Angel, Southern Hills District Superintendent
- Rev. Dr. Steve Bailey, North Coast District Superintendent
- Rev. Steve Court, Director of Connectional Ministries
- Rev. Dr. Gary George, Assistant to the Bishop
The conference-wide conversations will begin in the Fall of 2017. Together we will reflect on:
- Our diverse and global existence and our shared mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
- Proactive ways to live together in our differences without presuming that we will resolve our differences.
- Discerning a form of unity that would empower us living together and claiming what is our witness and what can be our witness to the world in relation to our differences.
Together we will find our way forward … and build God’s beloved community. We grow in our relationship with Christ and in deeper relationships with each other when we sit at the table together and engage in meaningful dialogue. We discover that when we share our different perspectives and our unique experiences we learn to see each other for who we are, and not for what we think.
Together, let us continue to focus on our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world; let us give time for the Commission on a Way Forward to do its work; and let us commit to doing our work by engaging in meaningful dialogue.