|Clergy and lay delegates of the Susquehanna Conference participated in the (quadrennial) 2016 Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference held in Lancaster July 11-15. The Northeastern Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church covers the nine Episcopal areas (10 annual conferences) located in the area from Maine south to West Virginia. The Northeastern Jurisdiction is one of five U.S. jurisdictions, along with seven central conferences that serve United Methodists around the globe. For a summary of the week’s events and business, you can read the summary edition of the NEJ Daily Christian Advocate at www.nejumc.org/pdf/2016-NEJ-DCA-Summary.pdf.|
Bishop Park challenges new bishops to keep UMC unitedBy Maidstone Mulenga, Editor of NEJ DCA
The newest members of the Northeastern Jurisdiction College of Bishops have been challenged to help keep The United Methodist Church alive and thriving despite the differences over human sexuality.
Harrisburg Area Resident Bishop Jeremiah Park issued the challenge during the consecration service for Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi and Bishop LaTrelle Easterling on Friday, July 15, at First United Methodist Church in Lancaster, Pa.
Bishop Moore-Koikoi and Bishop Easterling were elected on the 11th and 17th ballots, respectively, during the 2016 NEJ Conference at Lancaster Marriott Hotel.
In his sermon before he consecrated the two to the episcopacy, Bishop Park urged United Methodists to focus on what is right with the church instead of focusing on the differences and things that were not going well in the denomination.
He pointed out such success stories as raising nearly 70 million dollars to combat the killer disease malaria; feeding of thousands of hungry people and children by our churches daily; hundreds of thousands of Volunteers in Mission serving the broken and hurting lives as they repair the damaged houses and rebuild the homes of hope. “That’s what’s right with our church!”
Bishop Park also noted that the NEJ College of Bishops has taken a stance to seek justice, repentance and reconciliation in the midst of the chaos, fear, and violence so that the church can be the church. “We seek not just to love peace, but to be peacemakers.”
“And our people responded to the statement with such a spirit-filled and passionate affirmation and gave their commitment to confront injustice and violence in partnership with the bishops and one another. That’s what’s right with our church!”
He reminded the newly elected bishops all their colleagues in the College of Bishops are “your partners in the spectacular mission, ministry, and witness of our beloved church. Let’s do our best to keep the church of our dream alive and thriving.”
Urging the church to remain united as leaders discern the best way forward in regarding human sexuality, Bishop Park used the example of his homeland Korea to illustrate the importance of unity. “The divided Korea ended the Christian presence in the North. Families and loved ones have been separated for more than 70 years. It is the only country still divided since the Cold War ended. Korea represents the pain and suffering of the tragedy of division and separation in the most heart-breaking way.”
He emphasized that United Methodists have a rich opportunity now to show and lead the broken world on the best way of overcoming fear of differences and all kinds of isms and phobias that continue to build walls of division, hostility and disunity. “Will the church show the way? Will The United Methodist Church represent healing to our broken world? Will people look at United Methodists and see a sign of hope?”
If United Methodists remain united, it would reflect the commitment of God’s people to oneness as is represented in the prayer at the Lord’s Table: “Make us one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world.” At the same time, it is a witness to healing and hope in our broken and divided and hurting world, he said.
Turning to the new bishops, Bishop Park encouraged them not to have fear but to remember Isaiah 41:10 shows that God is with them and that prayers are being offered for them and their loved ones.
“May the grace of God surround you as you lead our beloved United Methodist Church to a way forward in unity for such a time as this,” he said.
Bishop Moore-Koikoi has been assigned to the Pittsburgh Area where she will lead the Western Pennsylvania Conference while Bishop Easterling has been assigned to the Washington Area where she will lead the Baltimore-Washington Conference. Both assignments start Sept. 1, 2016.