The Opening Celebration of the 2014 Susquehanna Conference, held June 12-14 at Messiah College in Grantham, Pa., was “alive.” Hitchcock Arena decorated with window boxes, a greenhouse, and vegetation spoke to the times and seasons God gives for every activity under the heavens. Following a spirited time of worship, Bishop Jeremiah J. Park began his message by recalling how Queen Esther was called from silence to action by Mordecai, who said, “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”
Noting the recent court rulings regarding same sex marriage, Bishop Park noted the state of confusion that pervades our church. While church law remains the same, he acknowledged that the church is not of the same mind on this issue. People on both sides are hurting, Bishop Park said. Schism has been proposed. Whatever position we may take, we are to let the love of Christ arise to the other side. We are called to be a church for such a time as this.
It’s time to talk, the bishop said; silence in not an option. When our unity is threatened, it’s time to talk. Bishop Park proposed that we create a sacred space, and have a holy conversation. Time to talk is time to pray. A sacred place of trust, humility. God will take charge and God will show us the way. God is faithful. God is with us.
Bishop Park also urged the Annual Conference to not lose perspective. The mission of the church remains the same: making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
Speaking to the urgency to defining and raising transformational leaders, Bishop Park said that business as usual for the church body will not work and transformation is not optional. Without change, there is no future, he said.
After noting that transformational leaders make culture shifts, the bishop spelled out cultural shifts churches need to make.
The first is a shift from maintenance to mission priorities. We are to be vital and viable by connecting the congregations to mission, Bishop Park said. Unless people are excited about mission, it becomes difficult to raise resources for mission.
The second is a shift from inward focus to outward focus: Be tenacious in making connections in the community. A vital connection with the community makes for a vital congregation, he said.
The third is a shift from making members to making disciples: Membership is a relationship with the congregation. Membership has little to do with our journey of faith. Discipleship is a relationship with God. The primary focus of the disciple is ministry to others. The future depends on engaging identity with a movement, Bishop Park said.
The best way to make disciples for Jesus Christ is to become one, the bishop said. The best way to raise up transformational leaders is to become one.
You are the reason for the hope we have, Bishop Park said. This is our time. We are the ones.
A video of the Opening Celebration service and Bishop Park's message can be viewed at tinyurl.com/susumcAC2014