Be agents of unity and healing

2/6/2017

FROM THE BISHOP
R. LAWSON BRYAN

To the South Georgia Conference:

Thanks to all who have given so graciously – financially, prayerfully, and in service – in response to the tornadoes that struck parts of our conference Jan. 2 and Jan. 21-22. The need continues; to contribute to this special appeal please send to the conference fiscal office and designate for Advance Special #6796. To read about how our Conference has responded to these winter storms, click here.

As we continue to address the needs of our own conference, we are also aware of the larger conversation going on in our nation with respect to immigration and national security.

The recent executive order issued by President Trump – followed by the temporary block of the order – has heightened the already intense feelings held by those on various sides of these issues. In such a highly charged environment it is very easy to feel like we are getting more heat than light. And that is why, in times like these, I find myself returning to the Social Principles of The United Methodist Church for guidance that is more insightful rather than inflammatory.

Found in the Book of Discipline, the Social Principles are a prayerful and thoughtful effort on the part of the General Conference to speak to the issues of our day from a sound Biblical and theological foundation within the Wesleyan tradition. Whenever we are wrestling with one of life’s complex issues I encourage us to study the Social Principles as a resource for our prayerful consideration.

With respect to immigration and national security, I am reflecting on paragraphs 164 and 165 (The Political Community and The World Community, respectively). The United Methodist Church affirms the worth, dignity, and inherent value and rights of all persons regardless of their nationality or legal status. United Methodist churches build bridges with migrants in their local communities by providing language classes and by inclusion in church activities. Many refugees have joined United Methodist churches in response to the love of Christ demonstrated by these churches. Our mission agencies are ministering to millions of immigrants around the world. We rejoice as the words of the Bible become flesh in the lives of our church members.

Recently I have been blessed to be with members of our Hispanic congregations and I know of their concerns related to the immigration issue as a whole. I am also aware of unkind comments some of our Hispanic brothers and sisters have had to face in the last several weeks. We have a long history of ministry with our Hispanic neighbors and we hope those relationships will bring comfort and strength in the face of any worries or fears.

When it comes to national security, the Social Principles affirm our duty to abide by laws adopted by orderly and just process of government. And while individuals have a right to disagree, “We do not encourage or condone any form of violent protest as a legitimate exercise of free speech or civil disobedience.” We acknowledge the vital function of government in the ordering of society. Prayer is offered for those in rightful authority who serve the public, and we support their efforts to afford justice and equal opportunity to all people. We support and encourage comprehensive immigration reform that enables us to welcome those who want to live in freedom while protecting citizens and immigrants from those who would do us harm.

I hope the brief description found in the previous paragraphs gives a sense of how our Social Principles can provide balance for our thinking and our actions in anxious times. My experience has been that United Methodists long to be agents of unity and healing who can help our communities and our nation maintain stability and respect while wrestling with tough issues. To that end I continue encouraging us to read John Wesley’s sermon, “A Catholic Spirit.”

The Office of Connectional Ministries can provide links to additional resources from several church agencies and also a link to the executive order itself.

Let us use this current issue to make a contribution to the public conversation that is uniquely Wesleyan.

Alive Together in Christ,

R. Lawson Bryan