Bishops say God is calling church to a new future
April 27, 2004 GC04-004
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
(UMNS) — The bishops of the United Methodist Church believe God is
calling the people of the church to a new future and a new creation.
promise of a new creation provides the foundation and vision for the
church’s mission in this new millennium,” said Bishop Kenneth L. Carder
of the Mississippi Area, speaking on behalf of the Council of Bishops.
Kenneth L. Carder answers questions during a press conference following
the Episcopal Address at General Conference. UMNS photo by John C.
God wants to expand our horizons, he said. “Just look at this magnificent, vast universe!”
God’s domain extends to yet uncharted planets in unexplored galaxies,
innumerable light years away, God cares about and is present with the
DNA in every one of the 60 trillion cells in every one of the 6.3
billion people on earth!”
his head and smiling, Carder reminded the assembly that God “numbers
the hairs of our heads and marks even a sparrow’s fall.”
presented the traditional Episcopal Address on April 27, the opening
day of the denomination’s General Conference. The denomination’s top
legislative assembly is meeting through May 7.
God is calling the church to be a sign and an instrument of a new creation, Carder said.
is the mission of the church to point out God’s compassion, justice,
peace and joy. “This is why we make disciples of Jesus Christ.
This is why we as Wesleyans are committed to personal salvation and
Nissen of United Methodist Communications introduces Bishop Kenneth L.
Carder during a press conference. A UMNS photo by John C. Goodwin.|
Every person needs to know what it feels like to be treated with “infinite worth and dignity and unconditional love.”
a press conference after his address, Carder again emphasized that
every person must be treated with dignity and worth. “It is indisputable
in the Gospel,” he said.
asked about some of issues before General Conference, including
homosexuality, he said, “How we deal with the issue may be as important
as what we decide.”
“The prophetic word for the church today is civility.”
the Bishops’ Initiative on Children and Poverty, the council has called
the church to “be a visible sign of God’s justice and compassion,” he
documents that whenever the church has turned its face toward the poor,
there is revival, and justice springs forth as a flowing fountain in a
Kenneth L. Carder delivers the episcopal address during the opening day
of the 2004 General Conference. A UMNS photo by John C. Goodwin.|
church must evaluate all its actions and ask, “Do our practices reflect
the One who, though he was rich, yet for our sakes became poor, the One
who ‘emptied himself’ on behalf of the whole world?”
Fear and despair dominate the old world, he said. “Fear, however, is not the only force at work in the world.
“We are an Easter people, living toward God’s new creation in Christ!”
the church enters the third millennium, there are extraordinary
opportunities and resources to live into God’s vision of a healed
creation, he said.
the first time in human history, we have the means of preventing most
of the 10 million deaths each year from poverty-related causes.”
What is lacking is vision, will and financial commitment, he said.
is calling us to be a community in which all know their identity as
beloved children of God, where all barriers are removed, and where
justice enables the lowly to be exalted and the least and the last and
the lost to be welcomed with joy at the table in God’s cosmic home.”
said John Wesley’s goal for the first Methodist conference in 1744 was
“how we should proceed to save our own souls and those that heard us.”
The challenges faced by that first Methodist conference are still the challenges for the 2004 General Conference, he said.
shall we teach? How shall we teach? What shall we do to affirm and live
our doctrine, discipline and practice? If we approach these questions
as people of faith with ‘open hearts, open minds and open doors,’ we
live out the spirit of Wesley, who saw ‘the world as our parish’ and the
whole creation as the realm of God’s reign.”
the conclusion of his address, Carder said the bishops invite the
church to join in a quadrennium of Methodist conferencing around the
The bishops propose focusing on the following themes during the 2005-08 quadrennium:
· The new creation and the church’s mission.
· Sound doctrine and Catholic spirit.
· Personal and social holiness.
· Watching over one another in love.
Conference is convened every four years. It is meeting at the David L.
Lawrence Convention Center, with 998 delegates and about 1,000 other
guests and visitors from around the world.
Episcopal Address is the only point during General Conference in which
the Council of Bishops addresses the assembly. While they preside over
plenary sessions and participate in worship services, the bishops have
*Gilbert is a staff writer for the United Methodist News Service
News media contact: (412) 325-6080 during General Conference, April 27-May 7.
After May 10: (615) 742-5470.